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Proteas close in on series leveler

Hashim Amla finished the third day within seven runs of his 21st Test century.

South Africa are closing in on a series leveler in the second test against Australia following a good performance with both bat and ball at Axxess St. George’s on Saturday. Picture: Facebook.com.

JOHANNESBURG - Hashim Amla's return to his best form was the cherry on top of another outstanding day for the Castle Lager Proteas on the third day of the second Sunfoil Test match against Australia at Axxess St. George's on Saturday.

Amla finished the day within seven runs of his 21st Test century and his fifth against Australia which would equal the mark jointly held by Eddie Barlow, Graeme Pollock, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers.

It meant that the Proteas were able to close the day on 192/4 off only 48 overs for an overall lead of 369 runs going into the last two days.

The ball is very much in Graeme Smith's hands to decide how much time he needs to bowl Australia out a second time to level the series.

Although captains cannot base their match decisions on it, he will no doubt take account of the fact that some rain is predicted for Monday's final day.

He will also be without the bowling services of Wayne Parnell who strained a groin muscle early in his spell this morning which is another important factor.

What Smith does know is that Morne Morkel has been the decisive factor between the two attacks.

On a pitch that has been slow and lacked a great deal of bounce he has been the one bowler who has managed to send down regular 'throat' deliveries and he deserved a lot better than the three wickets he took in the first innings.

He has bowled memorable spells before, notably to Kevin Pietersen at The Oval in London in 2012 on the fourth evening that played an important role in the final victory but now he is putting together sustained spells of venom and aggression one after another.

His popularity around the country would certainly have soared when he gave Mitchell Johnson a working over including one delivery that smacked straight into the badge on his helmet and even David Warner has not been totally at ease against him.

Vernon Philander backed Morkel up with three wickets as well while Dale Steyn produced one of the deliveries of the match with late reverse swing to castle Brad Haddin and JP Duminy chimed in with the scalp of Johnson.

The only disappointment for the Proteas has been the four dropped catches plus the inaccurate use of the DRS which makes the fact that they bowled Australia out in 57 overs all the more impressive with Steyn, Morkel and Philander bowling 43 of those overs between them.

The value of that rapid hatchet job became evident when the Proteas batted a second time.

The Australians had had to bowl 152 overs in the Proteas first innings and their bowlers had hardly any respite before having to take the field again.

And it showed with all of their seamers looking slightly down on pace.