CENTURION, South Africa (CMC) – Captain Hashim Amla lashed a third career double-century and Stiaan van Zyl stroked a hundred on debut, to propel South Africa to an imposing total but rain prevented the hosts from ramming home the advantage on the second day of the opening Test against West Indies here yesterday.
Revelling in good conditions and a muted Windies attack, South Africa rattled up 552 for five before declaring just before tea, with the prolific Amla leading the way with 208 and van Zyl unfurling a breezy, unbeaten 101.
However, any hopes of getting at the chronically brittle West Indies top order were quickly scuppered as heavy rain swept across SuperSport Park, erasing any chance of play for the remainder of the day.
After five sessions in the field and with little to show for their efforts, the wash-out would have come as a relief for the Windies but a massive disappointment to the Proteas who took command of the contest with another emphatic batting display.
Resuming on 340 for three, Amla and van Zyl proved the catalysts of South Africa’s healthy progress after AB de Villiers fell inside the first hour of the morning after adding just ten to his overnight 141.
de Villiers consumed 235 deliveries in a shade over 5-1/4 hours and counted 16 fours and two sixes, posting a record 308 for the fourth wicket with Amla.
He punched left-arm seamer Sheldon Cottrell down the ground for a couple in the day’s fifth over to raise the 300-run partnership and then celebrated with a back-foot drive to the cover boundary two balls later.
A single in the next over from Sulieman Benn saw him reach 150 for the ninth time in his career but he perished in the left-arm spinner’s next over, taken at backward point by Jermaine Blackwood, trying to punch a flighted delivery through the off-side.
Again, the breakthrough only served to raise false hopes for the Windies as Amla and van Zyl then combined in a 155-run, fifth-wicket partnership to further extend the Windies sorrows, and take their side to lunch at 449 for four.
The right-handed Amla, resuming on 133, moved to 178 at the first interval, playing with complete assurance against an attack missing fast bowler Kemar Roach who failed to recover from an ankle injury sustained late on the opening day.
He signalled his intent with two back-to-back boundaries on either side of the wicket in the second over of the day sent down by seamer Jerome Taylor, and reached his 150 in the final one before the first drinks break.
In cruise mode by now, Amla survived a dropped chance by Blackwood at mid-wicket off Taylor on 180 to complete his double century on the stroke of the first hour after lunch, when he clipped Cottrell to mid-wicket for a couple.
The knock followed his monumental unbeaten 311 against England at The Oval two years ago and an unbeaten 253 against India in Nagpur in 2010.
His knock was the highest by a South African against West Indies and also the highest by a Proteas skipper at home.
Amla was dismissed in the first over after the water break, however, dragging Benn to Taylor to long on, at 520 for five. Overall, he faced 371 balls and struck 22 fours, in just under eight hours at the crease.
van Zyl, on 51 at lunch, made his way to three figures with aplomb, requiring only 130 balls in just under three hours, and striking 15 fours.
His innings, however, almost never was. On two, he turned Benn to leg only for Kraigg Brathwaite at backward short leg to muff a sharp chance.
Unfazed, the 27-year-old Western Province left-hander played with gay abandon, picking off boundaries at will to make the Windies pay for their indiscretion.
He teed off in the first over after lunch, pulling the ineffective Taylor to the mid-wicket boundary before clearing mid-off with off-spinner Marlon Samuels and then sweeping the next ball for four, to rush into the 70s.
van Zyl arrived in the 90s with an airy, full-blooded cover drive for four off Cottrell, moved to 99 by dissecting extra cover with a beautiful drive for another boundary off Benn, before steering the same bowler behind point for a single two balls later, to reach three figures.
He is the fifth South African to score a hundred on debut.
Quinton de Kock, unbeaten on 18 at the end, then added more misery for West Indies by clearing the ropes on either side of the wicket with the last two balls of Benn’s over, with the declaration in sight.
Roach remains the best bowler with two for 52 but in his absence on Thursday, Benn led the attack with two for 148 from 46 overs.