Hashim to bring up a cen­tury of Test matches for South Africa when he takes the field against Sri Lanka

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - ASHFAK MO­HAMED Cape Town

TWENTY-FIVE Test hun­dreds, 31 half-cen­turies. The only South African with a triple ton in Test cricket and the na­tional record of 311 not out.

That is a short but sharp look at Hashim Amla’s num­bers ahead of his 100th ap­pear­ance in the five-day arena for South Africa to­day, when they face Sri Lanka in Joburg.

What those sta­tis­tics may not tell you is the sto­ried jour­ney it took for the bearded mas­ter to reach this point. But it does de­stroy the in­creas­ing chat­ter that Amla is “un­der pres­sure”.

Yes, the 33-year-old has had a lean run in his last 10 in­nings, where he has failed to bring up a half-cen­tury. His scores dur­ing that pe­riod, since his last 50 against New Zealand in Cen­tu­rion last Au­gust, are 1-0-1-47-5-4520-48-29-0 – a to­tal of 196 runs at an av­er­age of 19.60.

Amla once scored 196 in one glo­ri­ous in­nings against Aus­tralia at the Waca in Perth in Novem­ber 2012, off just 221 balls (21x4).

But his might­ily im­pres­sive over­all record means he is “al­lowed” to have a slump. He has earned it. Af­ter 99 Tests, Amla av­er­ages 49.45 and is the rock around which the Proteas are built.

Even when the more flam­boy­ant AB de Vil­liers is around, he usu­ally ac­knowl­edges Amla’s calm de­meanour that al­most gives him li­cence to play the out­ra­geous shots he does.

Amla also had to take on the cap­taincy fol­low­ing the re­tire­ment of Graeme Smith, and, while the re­sults and scores weren’t al­ways forth­com­ing, be­com­ing the Proteas’ first per­ma­nent Test cap­tain of colour – Ash­well Prince was in charge for two games pre­vi­ously – was an in­spi­ra­tional mo­ment in the che­quered his­tory of the game in this coun­try.

The cir­cum­stances that led to his res­ig­na­tion were rather un­for­tu­nate, as he an­swered his crit­ics in style with a dou­ble hun­dred against Eng­land at New­lands in early 2016.

It is de­bat­able whether he made the right de­ci­sion to stand down at the time, which saw De Vil­liers take over for what turned out to be two Tests be­fore Faf du Plessis se­cured the gig.

But he emerged from that episode with dig­nity and re­spect, and con­tin­ued on his merry way un­til re­cently.

A lot has been said about Amla’s “trig­ger move­ments” in re­cent weeks, and we all know that he works hard on his game all the time to try to get it right.

There may be some is­sue just out­side off-stump, which is where Josh Ha­zle­wood seemed to dis­miss him most times on the Aussie tour. That trend has con­tin­ued against Sri Lanka, with Su­ranga Lak­mal send­ing down a “jaffa” that pitched on off and moved just enough away to find Amla’s out­side edge for him to be caught be­hind for a duck at New­lands last week.

What is of greater con­cern is the fact that young­ster Lahiru Ku­mara breached Amla’s de­fence in the first in­nings with a pacy de­liv­ery that jagged back and got through the de­fences as the right-han­der went for a boom­ing drive. No bats­man would want to be beaten on the in­side and out.

Amla will have to con­tend with an­other pitch that will of­fer con­sid­er­able as­sis­tance to the quick bowlers for the fi­nal Sri Lankan Test, with bad weather af­fect­ing the cu­ra­tor’s pitch prepa­ra­tion.

He has played with a re­fresh­ing ef­fer­ves­cence in re­cent years, with good rea­son, as he has been in im­pe­ri­ous form. But a tight­en­ing of his tech­nique may be in or­der to get his eye in be­fore he looks for the more ex­trav­a­gant shots at the Wan­der­ers. But there’s no doubt Hashim Amla is one of the greats of world cricket. Other sports stars such as Michael Clarke, Kevin Pi­etersen, even Sonny Bill Wil­liams, have paid trib­ute to Amla this week in the build-up to the 100th Test.

Fol­low­ing poor crowd at­ten­dances at the Port El­iz­a­beth Test, let’s hope the peo­ple of Gaut­eng fol­low New­lands’ ex­am­ple and come out in their droves this week­end to salute a truly South African hero.­ @ash­fak­mo­hamed


TONS OF FUN: It has not been an easy road for Hashim Amla to get to 100 Test matches, but the wristy bats­man has proved all his early doubters wrong with an ex­em­plary ca­reer as the rock of South Africa’s bat­ting or­der.

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