Amla boosts South Africa with double ton

NAGPUR: Hashim Amla smashed his maiden double-century to put South Africa in the driver's seat on the second day of the first Test against India on Sunday.

Amla hit 22 fours in his unbeaten 253-run knock as the tourists posted an imposing 558-6 before declaring their first innings 26 minutes before scheduled close of play.

At stumps, India were 25-0 with Gautam Gambhir batting on 12 and Virender Sehwag on nine on a slow track at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium in Nagpur.

It was Amla who stole the show with his remarkable innings which came off 473 balls during a more than 11-hour stay at the wicket.

The right-hander shared 340 runs for the third wicket with Jacques Kallis (173) and another 108 runs for the fourth with AB de Villiers (53) to put India's bowling attack to the sword.

Amla, 26, reached the 200-run mark in his 42nd Test in style, driving part-time spinner Virender Sehwag (1-55) for a scorching four through the covers.

"A double century is always special, be it any opposition," said Amla.

"But obviously it feels great that it came on Indian soil. My game plan was to stay at the wicket for as long as possible and put the team in a strong position."

De Villiers completed his 21st Test half-century before edging Sehwag to backward point where debutant Subramaniam Badrinath took a simple catch. He hit five fours in his 88-ball knock.

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh (2-166) earned India the second success in the post-lunch session when he trapped Jean-Paul Duminy plumb in front of the wicket for nine.

Left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan (3-96) picked his first wicket of the day when he had Mark Boucher (39) caught by Amit Mishra at cover after he had added 78 runs for the sixth wicket with Amla.

After toiling without success for two sessions on Saturday, India finally got the key wicket of Kallis in the morning when Harbhajan had him caught by Murali Vijay.

Kallis, eyeing his first Test double century, got a thick inside edge on to the pad which popped up to Vijay at short-leg. He was able to add only 14 runs to his overnight score of 159.

Amla was lucky to survive at the other end after Vijay dropped a sitter off Harbhajan when the batsman was on 149.

"Our bowlers bowled their hearts out," said India coach Gary Kirsten. "You have days when you do not really get the results that you want, but from my point of view, I am very happy with the effort that we put in.

"If the batting from the other side is really good, then you must acknowledge that. Amla played a superb innings. Both Kallis and he batted exceptionally well.

"Full credit to them, they did a fantastic job considering they came in to bat when they were two down for six."

The second and final Test between the world's top two teams begins in Kolkata on February 14.

South Africa can snatch back the number one Test ranking from India if they win the series while the hosts need just a draw to remain on top.