YET ANOTHER TON UP FOR BRILLIANT AMLA
Hashim to bring up a century of Test matches for South Africa when he takes the field against Sri Lanka
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 Centur- ion 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 perma- nent 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.
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.