PROTEAS CHASE WHITEWASH
What better way to celebrate Amla’s 100th Test than with another win?
THE weather in Johannesburg this past weekend has matched the mood of many cricket supporters these past few days – grim.
It shouldn’t be, not in a season when the South African cricket side has bounced back so magnificently following all the trials and tribulations of the 2015/16 summer. There is much to celebrate – a Test series win against New Zealand, a whitewash of the World Cup holders Australia in a One-Day series, a Test series win in Australia and another Test series win against Sri Lanka. And yet, less than a week on from what Faf du Plessis described as a “pretty perfect performance”, in the New Year’s Test, the mood in local cricket circles is a dark one, the damage done and still to be done to the local game as a Kolpak exodus seemingly gathers steam leaving many glum.
So the onus shifts to those who will take to the Wanderers on Thursday to turn attention back onto what the Proteas have done well so far this season and in the case of one individual it’s an opportunity to celebrate a milestone in the career of one of best to don the dark green cap.
Hashim Amla will become the eighth South African to play 100 Tests and that landmark arrives at interesting point in his career.
Amla’s form lately has, by comparison with the rest of his illustrious career, been poor. It’s been 10 innings since he last reached 50, while his last Test hundred was against England a year ago. To be fair to Amla, it’s not as if his run of low scores has been down to any rash shots, just that in Josh Hazlewood – who dismissed him in all five innings in Australia – and Sri Lanka’s Suranga Lakmal he’s come up against a pair of seamers that have bowled in the right channel every time. And then of course the ball he got in the first innings at Newlands from Sri Lankan rookie Lahiru Kumara was a peach.
As various teammates and one former colleague in the shape of Jacques Kallis have mentioned, a big one is just around the corner for Amla and many will be hoping he can mark the occasion of his 100th match with something special.
The other major talking point in the build up to the final Test is who will replace Kyle Abbott in the starting XI. If the Proteas’ recent history is to be followed, it should be Wayne Parnell, who has got some game time under his belt having participated in the Cape Cobras’s Sunfoil Series match against the Lions that finished in Oudtshoorn yesterday. Parnell bowled 48.3 overs and picked up six wickets.
Meanwhile Duanne Olivier, called up to the squad last week, didn’t get onto the field at all in Bloemfontein where the Knights’ match against the Titans was called off after two days owing to inclement weather. Nevertheless he has a season of excellent work behind him and as the Sunfoil Series’ leading wicket taker his call-up is certainly justified. Olivier, and Parnell for that matter, will find the Wanderers to their liking.
Despite the inclement weather groundsman Bethuel Buthelezi is sure to have the pitch in good shape to favour the seamers as has been the case for the first two matches in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. The Wanderers will of course probably be quicker and offer more carry than was the case at the two coastal venues.
Du Plessis spoke about the importance of South Africa “maximising home conditions,” just as many other international sides have done in recent years. And while the pitches in Cape Town and PE were hardly ‘green mambas’ they suited the Proteas more than they did the Sri Lankans.
Du Plessis is targeting a series whitewash. In nearly 130 years of Test play, South Africa has only swept a series (of three or more matches) on three occasions.
The target from Thursday will be to make it four and hopefully give the South African cricket public something else to think about besides Kolpak.
TARGET IN MIND: Faf du Plessis and his Protea team want to blank Sri Lanka at the Wanderers to secure their fourth Test series whitewash, and celebrate Hashim Amla’s 100th Test match in style.