Hashim Amla (left) and JP Duminy    Getty Images
Hashim Amla (left) and JP Duminy Getty Images

Suranga Lakmal bowled that one slightly full on off. Hashim Amla lunged forward and drove exquisitely through cover for four. The familiar smile returned, just a slightly wider one, for that shot had taken him to 47. Amla went on to bring up his 32nd fifty in his 100th Test. He had been dropped earlier in the innings. He had looked terribly scratchy. But despite all that he remained determined, which is probably what makes Amla special. The hard work in the middle paid off in the end. There was plenty of assistance for the Sri Lankan pacers in the morning. They kept probing outside off even in the second session, but Amla resisted as JP Duminy carried along breezily. In the end, South Africa won the session.

The teams took tea with South Africa on 193 for 2, JP Duminy on 87 and a 100-Test-old Amla on 50. This session saw Sri Lanka employ Rangana Herath, but there was no luck for him. South Africa did not lose another wicket. By tea, Amla and Duminy had added 148, and were definitely looking hungry for more.

Full Cricket Scorecard: South Africa vs Sri Lanka, 3rd Test at Johannesburg

While Amla is the centre of attraction for the day, the session definitely belonged to Duminy s serene strokeplay, or to be more precise, his driving. Duminy has batted at a strike rate of 68.5, and his 87 consists of 13 glorious boundaries. An outside edge through the slip cordon that brought up his ninth Test fifty was his only glitch; otherwise, it was all about delightful cuts and drives.

The 45th over, bowled by Lakmal, saw Duminy employ a terrific short-arm pull through mid-wicket, a stroke Dean Elgar has deployed to much success this series. Duminy was particularly harsh on Herath and did not hesitate to use his feet.

As Duminy waltzed away to be 13 short of his sixth Test hundred, Amla survived his early discomfort to exhibit monk-like patience, being more than happy to play the second-fiddle. He gained confidence as he spent more time at the crease. He finally got a fifty after a barren period of 11 innings. The last time he had reached the mark was against New Zealand in August last year.

Then came those silken drives. Just like Duminy, he did not hesitate to use his feet against Herath.

Amla reached 49. The 40s-barrier had probably been haunting him. He spent 10 balls on 40 before managing a single at stroke of tea.

Earlier, South Africa surprisingly elected to bat in seamer-friendly conditions. Elgar and Stephen Cook weathered the early storm to some extent before Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Kumara dismissed them. Sri Lanka could have marched to a more advantageous position had Dhananjaya de Silva held on to the catch of Amla at gully off Lakmal moments before lunch.

South Africa are in the driver s seat at the moment. As for personal records, Amla has the chance to be the eighth batsman (after Colin Cowdrey, Javed Miandad, Gordon Greenidge, Alec Stewart, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Ricky Ponting and Graeme Smith) to score a hundred on his 100th Test.

Full Cricket Scorecard and ball by ball commentary: South Africa vs Sri Lanka, 3rd Test at Johannesburg

Brief scores:

South Africa 193 for 2 (Hashim Amla 50*, JP Duminy 87*; Angelo Mathews 1 for 20) vs Sri Lanka.