Amla 'happy and surprised' after reaching milestone as South Africa home in on series lead

Hashim Amla said he felt ‘overwhelmed’ after becoming the first South African to score a triple century in a Test as the tourists moved to within touching distance of a first win at The Oval.

A strict Muslim, Amla is allowed to defer the period of fasting demanded by the holy month of Ramadan until the end of the tour, and duly gorged on England’s bowlers, batting for more than 13 hours for an unbeaten 311.

That surpassed AB de Villiers’s South African record of 278 not out and Amla — described by fast bowler Dale Steyn as the side’s ‘silent warrior’ — gently hugged each of his team-mates as they left the field last night before speaking humbly of his new place in cricket’s record books.

Unforgettable: Hashim Amla celebrates reaching his triple century

Unforgettable: Hashim Amla celebrates reaching his triple century

‘I’m happy and surprised,’ he said. ‘It’s really exciting to do something that has not been done before by a South African. The wicket was batter-friendly, and I’m grateful for the opportunity, but I’ve never dreamed of scoring 300. It’s overwhelming really.

‘But the biggest pleasure is putting the side in a really good position. We need six more wickets to win the Test. I’d rather be in our changing room.’

The first South African Test cricketer of Indian descent — his grandparents hail from Gujarat — Amla scored more by himself than the country of his forebears managed in either innings here last year.

Magic moment: Amla became the first South African to reach 300

Magic moment: Amla became the first South African to reach 300

And England’s batting coach Graham Gooch — the last man to make a Test triple hundred in this country, 22 years ago — was full of praise for his innings.

‘It was a wonderful effort,’ said Gooch. ‘To score runs you need a great attitude, good belief, good knowledge and spot-on concentration. He showed all four things. He’s a solid player with a good range of shots and a good temperament.’

Despite England — with only six second-innings wickets in hand — still being 150 runs short of avoiding a humiliating innings defeat, Gooch insisted that they could arrive at Headingley for next week’s second Test with the series all square.

‘The game’s not over yet,’ he said. ‘You have to believe you can still get out of it with a draw.’