Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis piled on the runs and the misery, before the South African bowlers commenced Operation Bowl England Out.
There’s barely enough adjectives to describe an innings of 311*, but Amla continued in a similarly excellent manner to Saturday as he effortlessly reached record after landmark after milestone. This was the first ever triple century in Tests by a South African; obviously no score this high is anything less than brilliant, but his complete ease at the crease, untroubled by any of the bowlers, was mavellous to watch from a cricketing perspective, if tortuorous as an England supporter. If Graeme Smith hadn’t declared at tea, then few would have bet against Amla going on to an even greater record.
The day also saw Kallis make his first Test century in England since 1998. Unsurprisingly, his inning was overshadowed by Amla, but it’s not often that can be said for a score of 182*. Their unbeaten 377-run partnership will be talked about for many a year.
During the mauling from Amla and Kallis, there was discussion about how the pitch was flat, the overhead conditions unhelpful and the ball rarely deviating from the straight (and slightly wide). However the South Africans utilised the added pressure on the batsmen and bowled with hostility and accuracy. Both Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott fell early, but it was the walking discussion point Kevin Pietersen whose wicket will attract most column inches. Morne Morkel attacked with venom, with short balls clearly troubling Pietersen who inevitably tried to counter-attack. Although he did pull one delivery magnificently through mid-wicket, he top-edged another, before fending awkwardly to Kallis at slip who couldn’t hold on to a diving catch. Only a few balls later however, and Morkel had struck the vital blow: another quick and straight ball, this time pitched on a good length. Pietersen misjudged the line completely and the middle stump was knocked out the ground. With Imran Tahir finding bounce and spin – and taking the wicket of Andrew Strauss for good measure – it was a fine evening for the visitors and made a mockery of the previous two days.
If England can somehow avoid defeat, it will be a surprise: just six wickets in hand and a day’s play in which to survive. The deficit is currently 150 runs, so South Africa may need to bat again, but don’t count on it.