Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Double-Ton Amla Gives England a Painful Reality Check; after Glory in Durban and Stokes' Early Heroics in Second Test, Gritty Knock from South Africa Captain Gives Hosts Foothold in the Series

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Double-Ton Amla Gives England a Painful Reality Check; after Glory in Durban and Stokes' Early Heroics in Second Test, Gritty Knock from South Africa Captain Gives Hosts Foothold in the Series

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Stocks in Cape Town

AFTER England's 241-run win in Durban all the talk was about the potential of this young side to climb to the top of the world Test rankings. That talk was inevitable after such a convincing victory against the world's No1 side in their own backyard but they were handed a reality check on a frustrating third day of this Second Test at Newlands.

It got worse today, too, when Hashim Amla reached 200 for the fourth time in Tests, the South Africa captain having started the day on 157 after compiling his first Test century in 13 months yesterday.

To compound England's misery, they should have caught Amla on 197 when he went aerial but Joe Root and captain Alastair Cook both failed to get the chance in the outfield.

At lunch, this Test appeared dead set for a draw, the hosts just two runs shy of avoiding the follow on.

The contrast from 48 hours earlier -- when Ben Stokes thrilled the watching world with the second-fastest double hundred in Test history -- was stark.

It all started to fall flat yesterday, when just one wicket fell, Steven Finn prising out AB De Villiers. And whereas Stokes and Jonny Bairstow had smashed 196 during their orgy of runscoring on the second morning, South Africa managed just 212 in the entire third day.

England plugged away manfully without reward. Today saw more of the same. This is another reminder of how hard it is to win away from home in modern Test cricket.

The victory in Durban was only England's second in 16 overseas Tests stretching back more than three years. As brilliant as the win at Kingsmead in the first match of this series was, the hard-fought 2-0 defeat against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates late last year was a fairer reflection of where this developing England side, ranked fifth in the world, are right now.

After showing flashes of brilliance to revive what had looked a dead opening Test of the series at Abu Dhabi, Cook's team fell 6.3 overs shy of securing a defiant draw in Dubai and were in the Third Test right up until late on day four in Sharjah. With more luck, and better judgement at critical moments, England might have at least drawn that series 1-1. …

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