Ian Bell batted doggedly as England set out to try to save the first Test against South Africa on the fifth and final day at The Oval in London yesterday.
Needing 252 to avoid an innings defeat, England were 177 for five at lunch with Bell on 36 not out after batting for 208 minutes, facing 166 balls.
The only wicket to fall was that of Ravi Bopara, who was bowled off an inside-edge by Dale Steyn for 22 in the seventh over of the day.
Resuming at 102 for four, England added 75 runs in 28 overs during the morning.
Steyn bowled an accurate spell at the start of the day, but his wicket came off a short, wide ball, which Bopara tried to punch to the off-side, only to get a thick inside-edge which caused the ball to crash into his stumps.
Bell was dropped by stand-in wicketkeeper A.B. de Villiers off leg-spinner Imran Tahir when he was on 20, with De Villiers failing to hold a thin edge in Tahir’s first over of the day, shortly before the morning drinks break.
Bell and Bopara put on 50 for the fifth wicket and Bell found another useful partner in Matt Prior (29 not out) as the pair added an unbeaten 60 for the sixth wicket.
On Sunday, Hashim Amla emphasized the team came before personal goals when he said he was more pleased to have put South Africa in a position to win the first Test match than to score a record 311 not out.
Amla bettered the previous best score by a South African, 278 by teammate De Villiers, and became only the sixth person to score a Test triple-century in England following Don Bradman, Leonard Hutton, John Edrich, Bobby Simpson and Graham Gooch.
“I didn’t dream about getting 300, although you would love to,” Amla told reporters at the end of the fourth day. “I’ve always been a person who never sets goals and I think that helps, because you can keep going and going without being limited by having set something up.”
“With my scoring rate, 300 is usually a very long way off, so it only really crossed my mind when I got to 250. I was involved in the game when A.B. got 278, so I was aware of it, but if I had got out before that, so be it. I’m a firm believer you have just got to keep batting,” he said.
Amla, 29, is a devout Muslim and although it is the holy month of Ramadan, he said he would observe the fast when he returns home to Durban. For now, he is just enjoying the moment and he was also heartened that fellow South African Ernie Els won The Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
“I’m just really grateful that I managed to get the highest score by a South African, but what is perhaps more pleasing is that I’m the first guy to get 300. Records will be broken, there’s no doubt about that, so that comes and goes, but I think the biggest pleasure is that the team is in a really dominant position to win this Test match. I think that’s the biggest joy,” he said.