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Heroic Amla earns Proteas slightest of advantages

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Hashim Amla has played many bigger and longer innings for the Proteas but for skill, adaptability and by no means least sheer courage his latest effort was right up there with the best.

He finished on 61 off 121 balls with 7 four but, if you consider that the other five specialist batsmen in the South African top order made 27 runs between them, you would have been left wondering where the home side would have been without him.

He first kept the Proteas in the game when there was the real possibility that they would be well behind on the first innings and then guided them through the Bidvest Wanderers minefield to enable them to take a lead of 7 runs on the first innings in a match in which every run scored or saved is going to be invaluable.

India, who re-arranged their top order with Parthiv Patel opening the batting, got through the close pretty well unscathed on 49/1 for an overall lead of 42.

It leaves the final Sunfoil Freedom Series Test match balanced on a knife edge and, with 11 wickets having fallen on day one and 10 on day two, the contest is surely moving to an early conclusion.

If Amla was the Proteas hero of the day there were very good supporting roles filled by Kagiso Rabada who hung around for almost the entire morning session to help Amla put on 64 for the third wicket and then by Vernon Philander who provided the most free-flowing batting of the day in adding 44 for the seventh wicket with Amla in only 12 overs.

Many of Philander’s drives and cuts were out of the top drawer and one thing the Proteas have learned from this series is that their lower-order is getting a lot more reliable and productive.

Batting on this surface has remained an absolute lottery and the Indian pace attack generally took full advantage of the opportunity with Jasprit Bumrah returning career-best figures of 5/54 and both Buvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma providing excellent supporting roles.

Just what kind of target the Proteas will be comfortably chasing in the fourth innings remains to be seen. The obvious answer would be as few as possible.

Conditions are not going to get any easier with variable bounce being added to the seam and swing currently available. One imagines that anything north of 200 will test Faf du Plessis’ men to the limit if they want to keep their unbeaten record for the current summer.