Mighty # al­most makes a hash of it

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

THEY came to hon­our him, praise him even, but it took “The Mighty #” a lit­tle bit of time to shake off the jit­ters. He had tried very hard to ig­nore the hoopla of his 100th Test but for all his cool­ness, he’s still only hu­man and as a great stu­dent of the game he’d have un­der­stood the sig­nif­i­cance of this mile­stone.

His own form has also not been great – in terms of re­sults at least. He’s struck the ball sweetly in a num­ber of in­nings re­cently, but pretty 30s and 40s are not what make Hashim Amla “the Mighty #”.

Amla ad­mit­ted be­ing frus­trated about get­ting starts and not turn­ing them into some­thing sub­stan­tial. When he re­turned from Aus­tralia – “which wasn’t a good tour for me per­son­ally,”– he con­sulted his bat­ting coach Phil Rus­sell, who coached Natal when Amla first broke into the provin­cial team and was also head grounds­man at Kingsmead. “We did a bit of work and thank­fully there are some runs to thank him with and for all the guys who have sent me mes­sages of sup­port. I’ve given them some­thing back,” said Amla.

He took greater care yes­ter­day as he set out to make his 100th Test ap­pear­ance more than just about re­ceiv­ing a gold coin, a spe­cially em­broi­dered shirt and a framed mon­tage of his great­est mo­ments.

The Sri Lankans took ad­van­tage of the early ten­sion that Amla dis­played. They worked the area around his off­s­tump, beat the bat oc­ca­sion­ally, tested his front foot de­fence – which was for the most part solid – and built enough pres­sure that in the over be­fore lunch Amla lost con­cen­tra­tion, threw his bat at a ball he thought he could drive, but only edged it to­wards gully where Dhanan­jaya de Silva dropped a low chance.

Amla ad­mit­ted af­ter­wards that the mo­ment re­minded him of a Test at this same venue nine years ago. On that oc­ca­sion the op­po­nents were New Zealand, he was on two, he played a sim­i­lar shot to the one he did yes­ter­day, but in­stead of gully the edge went to Kiwi wick­et­keeper that day Bren­don McCul­lum, who missed the op­por­tu­nity. Amla fin­ished that in­nings un­beaten on 176. It was a plat­form of sorts from which his great ca­reer was launched.

There has sel­dom been a bats­man more adept at mak­ing the op­po­si­tion pay af­ter they’ve dropped him than Amla – in his fa­mous 311 at the Oval in 2012, Andrew Strauss missed a chance when Amla had 40 – and yes­ter­day De Silva and Sri Lanka paid a heavy price.

“The el­e­ment of for­tune is ex­tremely im­por­tant,” he quipped.

The other more sig­nif­i­cant as­sis­tance for Amla came from team­mate JP Du­miny who pro­duced a de­light­ful cen­tury, his se­cond of the sea­son. In the early stages the free­dom with which he played al­lowed Amla time to get through the lengthy dif­fi­cult pe­riod at the start of his in­nings.

“I was try­ing to stay in my zone. Whether he was get­ting runs or not was im­ma­te­rial to the way I was go­ing to play,” Amla ex­plained.

“What we’ve no­ticed with JP is that when he’s on song, he’s a beau­ti­ful player to watch. His judg­ment is great and his tim­ing im­mac­u­late. It’s al­ways a plea­sure to bat with him. He’s got a hun­dred in Aus­tralia, a 60 in this se­ries too. Find­ing that con­sis­tency is im­por­tant and he is find­ing it ex­cep­tion­ally well.”

It took Amla 15 min­utes short of three hours to reg­is­ter 50, he ad­mit­ted the Sri Lankans bowled an ex­cel­lent line to him es­pe­cially in the hour be­fore lunch. But once that mini­land­mark had been achieved, “The Mighty #” of old made the Wan­der­ers his play­ground and he and the still el­e­gantly driv­ing Du­miny flat­tened the tourists.

“On this type of wicket you’re never in. My­self and JP kept re­mind­ing our­selves about the next ball, the ball was nip­ping and swing­ing, any ball could get you out.”

Amla felt that which­ever way Faf du Plessis chose to go af­ter win­ning the toss, South Africa would have fin­ished the day on top.

Amla shaped up pretty well yes­ter­day, re­cent strug­gles have been for­got­ten, “The Mighty #” is back.

ALL HAIL the Mighty Hash! Hashim Amla be­came only the eighth player to score a hun­dred in his 100th Test when he reached three fig­ures to give South Africa a sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tage on the first day of the fi­nal Test of the se­ries against Sri Lanka.

Reach­ing his sixth cen­tury, JP Du­miny, was ini­tially in the driv­ing seat with Amla happy to tag along for the ride.

Although the spot­light fell brightly on Amla as he earned his 100th Test cap for the Proteas, the stal­wart took a back­seat al­low­ing Du­miny to take the reins.

The in­domitable Amla reached

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