Johannesburg – They came together with the score at 45/2, but Hashim Amla and JP Duminy’s monster stand of 292 for the third wicket has left South Africa firmly in the control of the third Test against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers.
They batted for more over 72 overs, and at the end of day one South Africa were sitting pretty on 338/3.
Duminy was out in the second last over of the day when he edged Lahiru Kamara to Kusal Mendis at slip.
It brought to an end a special partnership that makes it difficult to see a way back into the game for the visitors.
As good as Duminy (155) was, the day belonged to Amla (125*), who became the eighth player in the history of the game to score a century in his 100th Test.
Amla, struggling for form coming into the match, had not scored a Test 50 in any of his last 10 innings.
But what followed was an innings of high concentration and application – traits which have become such familiar components of his game.
It is his 26th Test hundred, and one of the more special ones given the circumstances.
Sri Lanka will be ruing the over before lunch, when Amla was put down in the slips when he was on just 5.
But with every boundary, Amla’s confidence appeared to grow and he was in full flight by the time he had reached his ton.
It came with a confident loft over mid-off off the bowling off Rangana Herath, and the small but vocal Johannesburg crowd erupted.
The stage was set, and Amla did not disappoint.
While that knock will live long in the memory of Amla and all South Africans who love their cricket, Thursday was also a big day for Duminy.
His Test average had dipped to 32.62 before the match, and he desperately needed an innings of substance to show that he has the ability to bat at No 4 for this side.
He was fluent from the very beginning, taking on the Sri Lankan attack when anything was full or wide.
When he is playing as well as he did on Thursday, it is hard to make sense of that Test average.
Duminy had raced ahead of Amla, but by the end of the day Amla had ‘caught up’ somewhat, with Duminy batting cautiously as the day came to a close.
He couldn’t see out the day, though, and there was an unlikely number five spot for debutant Duanne Olivier (0*), who came in as a nightwatchman.
The Proteas were slow out of the blocks in the first session as a calculated Dean Elgar and Stephen Cook left what they could and got through the first danger period unscathed.
Then, after having done the hard yards, Cook was gone.
He had faced 40 balls for his 10 when he was rapped on the pads by Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews. It looked out, and was given out, but Cook reviewed.
Replays showed that Mathews had come extremely close to a no-ball, but once the delivery was deemed legal, Cook stood no chance and was sent on his way.
The crowd may have been underwhelming, but it rose together as Amla walked to the wicket to a rousing reception.
Then, in the next over, Elgar was out for 27 when he edged youngster Lahiru Kumara to Dimuth Karunaratne at first slip.