There seems to be no stopping Hashim Amla at the moment. He was the standout in the second ODI between England and South Africa on Tuesday – as he has been so often in the last few months. He was instrumental in bumping South Africa to the top of the world rankings (again!) and it’s a privilege to witness him in his glory years, writes ANT SIMS.
There seems to be no stopping Hashim Amla at the moment: he hit England with another record-breaking hundred as South Africa won the second one-day international by 80 runs. England was dismissed for 207, with more than nine overs to go. As a result, South Africa is standing at 1-0 in the five-match series and is now at the top of the world rankings in all three formats.
There are currently few players in better form in world cricket than Amla. No matter which format he plays in, he simply cannot stop scoring runs – he added another 100 to his one-day international tally on Tuesday, becoming the fastest batsman to 3,000 runs in one-day cricket in the process and getting there faster than the great Sir Vivian Richards.
After winning the toss and choosing to bat, Graeme Smith and Amla set a solid foundation with an 89-run partnership, and while the cage was slightly rattled around him, Amla rarely looked fazed as he ploughed his way to a tremendous 150. In his last ODIs, Amla has scored 52, 112, 55, 8, 92 and 76 – imposing scores for a player who was touted as someone who couldn’t really play one-day cricket at the start of his career. He had something of a scrappy start in the first few months of his career, but since he notched up an unbeaten 80 against Australia in Adelaide back in January 2009, Amla has been relentless and ruthless. He’s scored nine hundreds since May 2010, and with the form he finds himself in, it looks unlikely that he’s going to stop any time soon.
Amla has made a habit of muscling himself into standout performances in the last few months, and while most sportsmen do transact in modesty, Amla takes it to a new level – something which sets him apart from his contemporaries. There is a serenity about Amla which not only translates to his batting, but also makes him one of the most likable players in world cricket. Often when players achieve great success, they can indulge in brashness and arrogance, yet Amla seems to take success on his bearded chin.
His technique has evolved since that fateful day in Adelaide, and from a player who often looked nervous, scratchy and uncertain, Amla now radiates a quiet confidence. His wristy flicks and picturesque drives are enough to make him one of the most aesthetically pleasing to watch, even for those who prefer the clattering of stumps. England will live to rue dropping Amla, again. If they learnt one lesson this summer, it is that no matter what, Amla is not the man to put down – ever.
There were a couple of concerns for South Africa, though, despite their crushing victory. Their fielding was perhaps not as sharp as they would like it to be – Ryan McLaren struggled to harness his domestic and A Team performances and transform them into something valuable on the international stage, and AB de Villiers had a few shaky moments with the gloves. It could simply be a little bit of rustiness for a side that is still trying to find its feet as unit with so many new faces entering the fray. Beating England by 80 runs on home turf is by no means anything to scoff at, but bigger challenges lie ahead for the team whose goal is to become and remain the best team in world cricket in all formats.
They now head to The Oval on Friday for the second one-day international, having displaced England from the number one ranking for the second time this summer. In order to remain at the pinnacle, South Africa has to win the series. Southampton turned out to be a fairly easy win in the end, but the Proteas’ real test will come when they are batting second under lights, after being set a total. It’s a hurdle they have often stumbled at in the past, and if the Gary Kirsten era has truly ended full-swing, the real acid test will come in those conditions.
Scores in brief:
South Africa 287-5, 50 overs (Amla 150, Smith 52)
England 207, 40.4 overs DM
Photo: South Africa's Hashim Amla hits out during the second one-day international cricket match against England at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, England August 28, 2012. REUTERS/Philip Brown