So much has been written about Hashim Amla that it’s starting to be over the top to add to the list of compliments. His name is synonymous with perfect wrists, crafty cover drives, genius timing and perfect execution – sprinkled with just a touch of an unorthodox back lift.
For a man who was first thought to be incapable of adjusting to the one-day format, Amla has now become an invaluable asset to the South African side – an asset any team would give their front teeth for.
He’s averaged 71.15 in one-day internationals since October 2011, with three hundreds and five 50s in 15 matches, and has only thrice scored less than 20 in those games. One of those blips came a few days ago in Centurion, when he managed just 17 against Pakistan and South Africa went crashing to an embarrassing six-wicket loss. He more than made up for it on Sunday, though, when he managed 122 off just 113 balls in a record-breaking partnership with AB de Villiers. The 238-run stand was the highest for any third wicket in the history of the game.
The two have shared many successful partnerships before, and they’re one of the fiercest pairs in world cricket today. How does he feel about that?
Amla laughs. He doesn’t even know the statistics, and a somewhat exasperated eish will have to do for the journalists.
And how do they do it?
“We rotate the strike well. I don’t know,” he shrugs.
“I enjoy batting with AB because there is so much energy and I just try to do my thing.”
Conditions were tough for the first ten overs on Sunday, and both Graeme Smith and Colin Ingram paid the price for their impatience. But Amla managed to get through the tricky bits, holding on for a match-winning partnership.
The opener admits that it’s always a learning curve and that the side is slowly but surely coming to grips with two new balls up front – as well as seamer-friendly conditions, which can sometimes leave balls creeping up to batsmen like a vine.
“Pakistan bowled really good lengths up front. The wicket was quite tacky and it was quite tricky to score. We knew it would be difficult for the first ten and just kept on reassuring ourselves that we’d get through it,” Amla said.
“I think it was a good learning curve, for myself and Graeme (Smith). I think we’re becoming used to the tricky conditions with the two new balls up front and with the South African wickets offering something for the seamers.”
Pakistan might have bowled well, but not well enough to tame Amla. He’s a silent savage, so stealthily destructive that bowlers and teams often don’t realise the damage he’s inflicted until it’s far too late – and they’re staring another towering score from the Bearded One in the face.
The partnership that Amla has crafted with AB, not just on Sunday, but in other instance too, is the perfect scale of contrast, but it’s perhaps that contrast that works so well. At least, that’s what Amla thinks.
“AB hits sixes over cover off the back foot and I’ve got to get the ones,” Amla jokes.
He did, of course, manage one six – somewhat uncharacteristically, when he picked up a Shahid Afridi ball from outside and deposited it over long-off for six.
De Villiers, meanwhile, does what he likes.
“Maybe that’s why we’ve had such good partnerships together, because we score in different areas. We also keep each other motivated,” Amla said.
He is an astute professional who’ll give anybody the time of day and always has time for a joke. When asked about whether he liked wearing pink, he politely replied that it was for a good cause, drawing chuckles from the press.
Such is the nature of the man – as polite to his fellow men (and women) as he is in his strokeplay. Amla will turn 30 at the end of the month, and with him being one of the most well-managed players around, he could play for another five to seven years if he so wishes. If his form of the last year is anything to go by, Amla is definitely in his prime – and his purple patch will more than likely continue to overflow with successful harvests in the coming years. DM
Photo: South Africa’s batsman Hashim Amla celebrates his century during their third One Day International (ODI) cricket match against Pakistan in Johannesburg, March 17, 2013. The South Africa team is wearing pink in support of breast cancer awareness, according to Cricket South Africa. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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