Smith and Amla see South Africa to victory


Centuries from Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith saw South Africa to an eight-wicket victory in a memorable first Test against Australia at Newlands.

Centuries from Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith saw South Africa to an eight-wicket victory in a memorable first Test against Australia at Newlands on Friday.

Amla hit 112 while Smith went to three figures shortly before hitting the winning runs, as the duo decided a remarkable Test match that finished before lunch on the third day.

Although Amla fell before the victory had been secured, as he was caught in the gully off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson, the job had been done and Jacques Kallis merely had to shepherd Smith to an unbeaten 101 as the Proteas eased to 236 for two.

South Africa's target had looked a stiff one when they took to the crease for the second time on a day when 23 wickets fell, but Smith and Amla made light work of it. They resumed on 81 for one on Friday morning with the game still in the balance, but ensured the Proteas had little difficulty in knocking off the 155 runs still required for victory in an extended first session.

The partnership proved that Thursday's carnage was merely the result of poor batsmanship, rather than a dodgy pitch, as the pair scored at 4.75 runs per over in a 195-run stand.

The crucial moment in the session came in just the third over when Amla edged Ryan Harris to first slip, only for Shane Watson to put down a regulation catch. Had the chance been taken then Australia might have been able to set the jitters among the Proteas batsmen, but instead Amla progressed to his half-century without any further troubles.

There was some swing and seam on offer for the pacemen in the first hour, but not as much as on day two with the pitch flattening out under sunny skies.

Australia began the session by attacking the stumps but had to revert to a more defensive approach after five or six overs as both batsmen took easy runs through the leg side. They had two shouts for lbw against Amla, one of which they referred, but both were shown to be sliding down leg.

Both batsmen went to fifty in good time – Smith took 75 balls while Amla needed 81 – but they put their feet on the gas even harder thereafter and Amla took just 45 balls for his second fifty.

He went to three figures, and 4,000 Test runs, with a fluent cut through backward point for four off Johnson, and was given a standing ovation by a noisy Newlands crowd that had grown from its size on days one and two as Capetonians came to get their fill of Test cricket before the match's premature end.

Amla was out with just 14 runs required for victory, at which point the only question was whether Smith would be able to reach his century. He duly did so with a boundary and a single off Johnson, before clipping Peter Siddle through midwicket to seal the match in the following over.

The victory means South Africa can't lose the two-Test series, which concludes in Johannesburg, where the second Test begins on November 17.

<b>Tristan Holme at Newlands</b>