| AB de Villiers, in Perth, on Sunday |
Perth: Hashim Amla scored 196 and AB de Villiers 169 in a batting exhibition that drove South Africa to a commanding lead of 631 runs before they were dismissed for 569 on the third day of the third Test, against Australia, on Sunday.
Australia were left needing to better the record for a successful fourth-innings chase by 213 runs to record an improbable win or bat for two more days to force a draw and save the series.
The hosts had eaten into their target to the tune of 40 runs without loss by the close of play with openers David Warner (29) and Ed Cowan (9) having survived a sometimes-nervous last hour.
After the first two Tests in Brisbane and Adelaide ended in draws, South Africa only needed a third in Ricky Ponting’s last Test to ensure they remained the world’s No.1 side.
They will now be expected to do considerably better than that and become the first team since the West Indies in the 1980s and early 1990s to win consecutive series in Australia.
De Villiers said the Proteas were taking nothing for granted, however.
“We know we have a lot of hard work to do, it’s a good wicket. If the Test match goes the full length, they will come close,” he told reporters.
“We are not arrogant in any way whatsoever. It won’t be easy. We know the Australian batsmen are dangerous players and won’t be giving it away.”
Amla’s brilliant innings was one for the purists, while de Villiers started slowly before accelerating after he reached his fifty to bludgeon the Australian bowlers with every shot in the book.
Picking up where he left off on Saturday when he helped the tourists plunder 206 runs in the extended third session, Amla got the single he needed to reach his 18th Test century from the third delivery of the day.
Peppering his innings with some sublime cover drives for a good few of his 21 boundaries, Amla’s comfort at the crease had echoes of his unbeaten 311 against England at the Oval in July.
Australia’s pace unit, acclaimed after ending South Africa's first innings for 225, toiled in the sunshine looking for a breakthrough but their best efforts only slowed the flow of runs.
It took a brilliant catch from Mitchell Johnson off his own bowling to dislodge Amla shortly before tea as the 29-year-old was approaching a double century after 350 minutes and 221 balls.
Johnson (4/110) found a little bit of extra pep with the new kookaburra and when the South African drove the ball back at him, he snatched it out of the air for a second superb caught and bowled of the innings.
Dean Elgar was despatched lbw by Johnson four balls later for a pair of ducks on his debut but the day already belonged to South Africa’s batsmen.
De Villiers had moved reasonably cautiously to his 50, with the exception of one huge six off spinner Nathan Lyon that hit the second deck of the stand at long on.