Amla shows all his class

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - ZAAHIER ADAMS

“AMLA doesn’t ever seem to de­liver in the big games for South Africa.”

These were the com­ments that re­ver­ber­ated through the Eden Park Me­dia Cen­tre af­ter Hashim Amla’s dis­missal in the 2015 World Cup semi-fi­nal.

At first glance it seemed a damn­ing state­ment con­sid­er­ing Amla has nearly al­ways been at the top of the ICC ODI bat­ting rank­ings. He’s also been the fastest to 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000 and now 7000 ODI runs, and av­er­ages 50.6 across 154 ODI’s.

How­ever, the em­pha­sis was on “big” with par­tic­u­lar ref­er­ence to ICC global tour­na­ments. In­clud­ing the mo­ment when Trent Boult’s full in-swing­ing de­liv­ery took Amla’s in­side edge be­fore crash­ing into the mid­dle stump, Amla’s av­er­age nose­dives to 38.38 in four ODI jam­borees (two Champions Tro­phies and two World Cups) prior to this lat­est ICC Champions Tro­phy ad­ven­ture.

There have been fleet­ing mem­o­rable moments along the way. The 113 struck in the epic chase against even­tual-champions In­dia at Nag­pur in the 2011 World Cup be­ing the high­light on a reel that also in­cludes a 159 against Ire­land at the 2015 World Cup in Can­berra.

But the con­sis­tency and “sense of oc­ca­sion” has been lack­ing though. That mo­ment the greats of the game seize to leave their in­deli­ble mark.

It is ar­guably why re­gard­less of Amla’s in­cred­i­ble statis­tics many don’t au­to­mat­i­cally re­serve South Africa’s for­mer Test cap­tain an au­to­matic place at the exclusive din­ing ta­ble along­side the ODI leg­ends.

Such worldly matters hardly raise an eye-brow with Amla, but even he ad­mit­ted in a re­cent in­ter­view that “I prob­a­bly haven’t scored as much runs as I would have liked at big tour­na­ments”.

The re­al­i­sa­tion that op­por­tu­ni­ties to leave a legacy are di­min­ish­ing rapidly as time moves on, Amla set off to the IPL to ease the pres­sures of an in­dif­fer­ent Test sea­son. Two barn­storm­ing cen­turies later and the shack­les were com­pletely off.

With con­fi­dence re­stored the signs were ev­i­dent in the Eng­land se­ries prior to the start of this Champions Tro­phy that all the me­chan­ics were be­ing put in place.

And on Satur­day, on a stage such as grand as The Oval on a glo­ri­ous sun­lit day in South Africa’s Champions Tro­phy opener, it all came to fruition with Amla’s splen­did 103.

Amla’s pow­ers lay not in those silky wrists that al­low him to weave the wil­low like a magic wand. Nei­ther is it the abil­ity to hit the ball on the top of its bounce like only the cho­sen few can.

In­stead it is his as­tute judg­ment of con­di­tions that sets Amla apart from the rest. The pitch on Satur­day was not the M1.

This strip and a dis­ci­plined Sri Lankan at­tack re­quired the in­tel­li­gence to know that a flash­ing blade would lead to an early demise.

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