The best hit back

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JOHN PYE

Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith clobbered Australia's bowling attack on Saturday in one of the quickest century stands ever in Test cricket to seize control for South Africa after two days of a match that will settle the No.1 ranking for 2012.

The 178-run second-wicket partnership in the third Test made a mockery of the seemingly hostile conditions for batsmen on a WACA pitch that had delivered 20 wickets in the first five sessions. South Africa was dismissed for 225 on Day One and skittled Australia for 163 before tea on Day Two, with Dale Steyn making a belated impact on the series with a return of 4 for 40.

The record for the fastest century stand in terms of run-rate was Sri Lankan pair Marvan Atapattu and Sanath Jayasuriya's 7.32 per over in a 144-run opening stand against Bangladesh at Colombo in 2001.

The Amla-Smith stand eclipsed the South African record of 6.22 per over during Smith and AB de Villiers' 217-run stand against Zimbabwe at Cape Town in 2005.

Smith and Amla combined after Alviro Petersen (23) was out in the first over after tea and scored at 6.98 an over before Smith was out for 84.

Amla remained unbeaten on 99, one short of his 18th Test century, and Jacques Kallis was not out 17 when South Africa reached 230 for 2 at stumps, an overall lead of 292, after adding 206 runs in 32 overs in the day's last session.

"Dale started well with the ball. We started well with the bat as well," South Africa paceman Vernon Philander said. "The way Graeme and Hashim batted was unbelievable, just taking the attack to them. So momentum is on our side."

Matthew Wade, who scored a belligerent 68 to bolter Australia's innings after it collapsed to 45 for 6, said his team would chase any target South Africa set, regardless of how imposing it could be.

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