Proteas in England
Proteas batsmen on song
London - Proteas captain Graeme Smith hit a century in his 100th Test and shared a record partnership with Hashim Amla as the Proteas played themselves into a strong position on the third day of the first Test match against England at the Oval here on Saturday.
South Africa were 277 for two at tea, 108 runs behind England's first innings total of 385.
Smith (131) and Amla (131 not out) put on 259 for the second wicket before Smith was bowled off an inside edge, pushing defensively at Tim Bresnan.
It was a record second wicket stand for South Africa against England, beating by two runs the mark set by Smith and current coach Gary Kirsten at Lord's in 2003.
On a dry pitch, already offering variable bounce and turn for the spinners, Smith and Amla dug in and played risk-free cricket to grind down England's bowling attack.
The pair had to work hard in the first hour against the combination of fast bowler James Anderson and off-spinner Graeme Swann.
Left-handed opener Smith in particular struggled to score against Swann and was stuck on 48 for almost half an hour before working
Swann to midwicket for three runs to raise the slowest half-century of his Test career.
It took Smith 160 balls to reach his fifty, which came in the last over before the mid-morning drinks break. But the scoring rate picked up markedly, with Swann conceding 21 runs in two overs either side of drinks.
Smith unleashed a flurry of boundaries in the next hour and needed just 41 deliveries to notch his second half-century.
He completed his 25th Test century two balls before lunch with a square cut for four off seamer Bresnan.
Smith then went back into his shell a bit after lunch, taking 71 more balls to add 28 runs, including a burst of three fours off successive balls against Stuart Broad. His dismissal came in the eighth over with the second new ball, the first ball of a new spell by Bresnan.
Amla, meanwhile, reached his 15th Test century off 199 balls with 13 fours. He had faced 261 balls by tea, hitting 17 fours.
Smith became the seventh player to score a century in his 100th Test, joining Colin Cowdrey, Javed Miandad, Gordon Greenidge, Alec Stewart, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Ricky Ponting.
It was his seventh century against England and his fifth in England.