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South Africa declares on 627/7 after historic Bavuma ton

Hashim Amla’s double-century and series of missed catches help host call off its first innings two behind England total

South Africa declares on 627/7 after historic Bavuma ton - Cricket News
Faf du Plessis in action against England.
From the time that Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow came together with England 223 for 5 on the first evening to when Hashim Amla was castled by Stuart Broad for 201 on the fourth afternoon, just one wicket was taken by a bowler while 845 runs were added.

There was a little more joy for the bowlers thereafter, but only relatively. By stumps on Tuesday (January 5), South Africa had declared on 627 for 7 in response to England’s 629 for 6 declared, leaving England’s bowlers dispirited after 211 overs in the field. England’s openers negotiated the remaining six overs of the day to go to stumps on 16 without loss.

There have been some mitigating circumstances for the run fest, most notably England’s inability to hold its catches. Eight were put down in the course of South Africa’s innings while other chances have gone abegging when fielders seemingly lost concentration and failed to get to balls hit in the air.

The match itself has lacked life even as it has thrown up some incredible stories, with two more added on Tuesday.

First, Amla turned his overnight 157 into a third Test double-hundred, exactly the sort of emphatic score that was needed to quell fears about the way that captaincy has been affecting his batting. And then, Temba Bavuma became the first black man to score a century for South Africa. The two feats allowed the South Africans to gain the initiative for the first time in more than three days, and while it would still take something remarkable on the final day to get anywhere near a result, the host can head into the second half of the four-match series with its batsmen back in form and Dale Steyn on the road to recovery.

Amla and Faf du Plessis were soon up and running on the fourth morning – Amla with an elegant flick off his legs through mid-wicket and du Plessis with a majestic drive down the ground that earned applause from James Anderson, the bowler. England spurned two opportunities in the opening session, with du Plessis edging past slip off Moeen Ali when he was on 61, and Amla skying one back over Moeen’s head only for Joe Root to lose sight of it and run the wrong way. Amla moved to his double-century next ball to a warm ovation, and South Africa went to lunch on 428 for 3.

The third new ball was taken immediately after the interval, and finally things began to happen for England. Amla was bowled by a Broad incutter and, three deliveries later, du Plessis edged to slip off Anderson to depart for 86. Quinton de Kock came out all guns blazing but then hooked a Broad delivery straight to backward square-leg, before the batsmen took hold once more with Bavuma and Chris Morris sharing an entertaining 167-run stand for the seventh wicket.

Bavuma, in particular, was a delight to watch, taking on the short ball and middling it every time, but also getting forward with good reach for a short man to drive through the covers. Eleven fours flowed off his bat in no time, taking him to fifty in just 52 balls. His second fifty was slower, but his hundred came up soon after Morris had fallen for 69.

Bavuma finished with an unbeaten 102 when Amla declared. This match may end up being forgettable, but Bavuma’s moment will be remembered for some time to come.

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