Yesterday saw a masterclass from Graeme Smith and in particular Hashim Amla. I cannot remember a more chance-less innings, if you’ll excuse the paradox. Strong off his legs and the backfoot, he remains unbeaten on 183* overnight as England’s bowlers were made to look really rather blunt.
The thing I like about Amla is how unhurried he is. His beard is magnificent, an unfussy yet formidable affair which mirrors his batting. He is not flash, but he times the ball well and makes you bowl to his strengths. Whilst Smith never looks particularly comfortable within himself, Amla is a cool sort and his calmness was the platform upon which a great day for the willow was built. In particular, there were a couple of sumptious back-foot drives from Broad which would have made even my dog purr.
From an English point of view, I’m not sure that Strauss could have done much more. Perhaps Swann was over-used; I’d have liked to have seen more of Anderson at the key moments (straight after breaks, etc), and in general I’d prefer them to attack the stumps more than they did. Smith gets across his stumps which seemed to completely confuse everyone bar Bresnan, but no-one bowled that poorly – it really was simply a display of good batting on a slow pitch. The day was almost reminiscent of Day One, so perhaps it is the lifeless pitch which has seen the world’s top bowlers on both teams look at times toothless – the venom of Steyn’s second morning assault the exception thus far.
With South Africa set to build a big lead on Day Four, there were even a couple of isolated yet ominous signs of variable bounce, which one would assume is most likely to trouble England as they will have to bat to stay in the game on Day 5. Swann got some turn but it tended to be slow and obvious, though there will be enough there for Imran Tahir to be interested on the final day.
The good news is that I stuck a fiver on 10/1 that there would be a double century in the game when Trott and Cook were going well on the first day. Only 17 runs to go!