Ruthless AB and Amla bash Aussies
South Africa dominated play on Sunday with a ruthless batting assault on the Australian attack as they scored 569 and set the hosts a winning target of 632 in the third test at the WACA in Perth.
The Australians survived a potentially tricky period of 14 overs by moving steadily to 40 without loss at stumps on Sunday after South Africa were dismissed for 569 an hour and a half after tea.
The day belonged to the batting pair of Hashim Amla, who scored 196, the best ever by a South African in a test at the WACA, and AB de Villiers.
De Villiers celebrated his first century as a wicketkeeper-batsman by smashing a stylish 169 after a relatively lean trot in England and during the first two tests against Australia.
David Warner and Ed Cowan defied the SA attack in the final hour. Warner moved to 29 with five fours, while Cowan was in survival mould as he scored nine.
Both Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander bowled well, with Steyn operating with pace and excellent rhythm.
Morne Morkel went down when he attempted to bowl around the wicket, as his left foot slipped in the foot holes and he did not look comfortable bowling over the wicket.
Cowan had some close shaves against Philander and was beaten three times in an over as Philander found the rhythm with his out-swinger.
South Africa have some work to do on Monday as the pitch is flat and there is not much swing on offer.
But Australia must win the third test to replace South Africa at the summit of the test rankings, and will be under pressure to perform a batting miracle.
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South Africa started the Sunday morning session on 230 for two.
Amla and De Villiers dominated proceedings for most of the day with phenomenal batting displays as they put the Australian attack to the sword.
Amla and Jacques Kallis dominated the first hour by scoring 56 runs.
Kallis perished shortly after the drinks break when he attempted a pull shot off Mitchell Starc and was expertly caught by Mitchell Johnson at fine leg for 37, leaving South Africa on 287 for three.
Amla had earlier reached his 18th century off only 87 balls with a flick off Johnson in the first over on Sunday.
The partnership between De Villiers and Amla started off circumspectly as the first 31 runs came off only 71 balls.
They flourished after lunch though as they scored 100 runs in only 75 minutes.
There have been concerns about De Villiers’s lack of foot movement and a possible technical deficiency, as he has failed to score a test half-century since taking over the big gloves from the retired Mark Boucher.
De Villiers, however, answered the critics and his detractors in style by hitting a magnificent ton off only 131 balls, with 17 fours and a six.
Amla used the full crease to manipulate the ball through the gaps and was equally destructive on both sides of the wicket.
He was dismissed with the second new ball when Johnson pulled off a magnificent return catch with his right hand off a checked drive by Amla. He was dismissed on the brink of a double ton. His 196 came off 221 balls, with 21 boundaries.
Amla added 149 with De Villiers for the fourth wicket off only 36.2 overs.
Johnson dismissed the debutant Dean Elgar by roughing him up with a short-pitched ball and then producing a fuller delivery which trapped him in front for a duck. Elgar bagged a pair in his debut test and that left South Africa on 436 for five.
Johnson bowled a fine spell before and after tea by moving the ball both ways off the seam at pace.
But his introduction did little to stop the rot for the hosts as Faf du Plessis and De Villiers flayed the attack by scoring 102 runs off 85 deliveries for the sixth wicket in a run spree after tea.
Du Plessis’s cameo ended when another swinging and bouncing Johnson delivery found the edge and he was gone for 27 with the score on 538 for seven.
De Villiers pulled and cut with ease, and he used his feet excellently with drives through the covers.
When he eventually perished -- deceived by a slower Starc delivery -- he had entertained the crowd by hitting 169 off 184 balls, with 21 fours and three sixes.
Starc finished with a double-strike to move his tally to 6-154 in 28.5 overs as he dismissed both Steyn and Morkel in one over.
But Johnson was arguably the pick of the attack with his 4-110 in 25 overs.
If South Africa win the test match, they will become the first team since the West Indies in the 1980s and early 1990s to win consecutive series in Australia.
De Villiers, though, said the Proteas were taking nothing for granted.
"We know we have a lot of hard work to do tomorrow, it's a good wicket. If the test match goes the full length, they will come close," he told reporters.
"We are not arrogant in any way whatsoever. It won't be easy. We know the Australian batsmen are dangerous players and won't be giving it away."
Australia face a mammoth task to win the match and clinch the series. The 418 scored by West Indies against Australia in 2003 was the highest successful fourth innings run chase in test cricket, while South Africa scored 414 to win the corresponding test at the WACA four years ago.
Although the odds are stacked against his team, Australian coach Mickey Arthur hasn't given up hope that Australia could yet still pull a rabbit out of the hat.
"It's just batting session by session. We've got to believe we can do it," said Arthur, who was in charge of South Africa in the 2008 Perth test.
"We've got to believe we can bat for two days. It's a new ball wicket. If we get through the new ball, you never know what might happen."
Report Day 1
Report Day 2
SOUTH AFRICA: Graeme Smith (capt), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (w/k), Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Vernon Philander, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Morné Morkel.
AUSTRALIA: Michael Clarke (capt), Ed Cowan, David Warner, Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Johnson, John Hastings, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon.