1st Test: Amla, Van Zyl punish West Indies before rain spots play
South African captain Hashim Amla hit his third Test double century and Stiaan van Zyl made a hundred on debut before rain brought a premature end to the second day of the first Test on Thursday
Centurion: South African captain Hashim Amla hit his third Test double century and Stiaan van Zyl made a hundred on debut before rain brought a premature end to the second day of the first Test on Thursday.
Stiaan van Zyl celebrates his ton yesterday. Pic:AP/PTI
Amla made 208 and the left-handed Van Zyl hit an unbeaten 101 as South Africa piled up 552 for five declared. But rain swept across SuperSport Park soon after the declaration, preventing a start to the West Indies first innings and denying Amla the chance to make inroads into the tourists' batting. "I wanted to get in 35 or 36 overs (to bowl) before the close," said Amla.
"When the declaration came, there were a possible 38 overs left in the day, but the weather had the final say. "We've done our bit to try and get as much time as possible to bowl. For us it's been a lovely two days. When we come out tomorrow we will have three days to try to get 20 wickets." It was another day of suffering for a depleted West Indian bowling attack.
Left-arm spinner Suleiman Benn took the only two wickets to fall on Thursday, dismissing AB de Villiers for 152 and having Amla caught on the long-on boundary. In between, Amla and Van Zyl put on 155 off 37 overs for the fifth wicket, while Benn was forced to toil for 46 overs and conceded a total of 148 runs.
The West Indies were without fast bowler Kemar Roach, who left the field on Monday afternoon after injuring his right ankle. A team spokesman said scans had revealed no significant damage but it was hoped he would be able to bowl later in the match. Roach's injury left the tourists with only three front-line bowlers, with Jerome Taylor and Sheldon Cottrell providing pace and Benn needing to tie up one end with spin.
And the West Indies were unable to prevent the total from mounting steadily, despite captain Denesh Ramdin setting defensive fields. There was early success when De Villiers sliced a flighted delivery from Benn to Jerome Blackwood at point, ending a South African Test fourth-wicket record partnership of 308 with Amla.
The pair had come together at 57 for three after all three wickets fell without a run being added. Van Zyl started cautiously and was troubled by the tall Benn early on, giving a sharp, low chance to Kraigg Brathwaite at leg gully when he had two. But he quickly settled in and played some handsome drives on the off side as he reached a maiden Test half-century off 74 balls with eight fours.
He went to his century off 129 balls, adding seven more boundaries, becoming only the fifth South African to make a hundred on Test debut. It was an impressive innings but the quality of the bowling and fielding was at times some way short of international standard.
Van Zyl admitted to mixed emotions as he strapped on his pads at the fall of the third wicket and then sat through the Amla-De Villiers stand. When he finally got out to the middle almost a day later, he said he reminded himself: "It's a big stage but it's still a cricket ball that's coming to me. The platform built by Hashim and AB took the pressure off me and enabled me to play my game."
Amla, who had a remarkable escape on Wednesday when a ball from Roach brushed his off stump but did not dislodge a bail when his score was on 25, was content to let Van Zyl play the dominant role. He had a let-off on 180 when he flicked Taylor to midwicket, where Blackwood leapt high and got both hands to the ball but could not hold on.
Amla's two previous Test double centuries, including a South African record 311 not out against England at The Oval in 2012, were made overseas. His first home double century -- in his first Test as captain in South Africa -- was a Test record for Centurion, beating the 201 not out by Jacques Kallis against India in 2010/11.