Sport

Hashim Amla: astute, elegant and indomitable

By Antoinette Muller 12 June 2013

Hashim Amla on Monday proved once again that he is one of the best players of the current generation. His knock against Pakistan, while ending with a brief lapse in concentration, was sublime - and after a few blips, he looks back in perfect nick. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

Hashim Amla is the kind of player people would probably pay just about anything to watch, even if he is a touch out of form. He wasn’t quite his perfect driving self on Monday, but he still stood head and shoulders above everyone else present.  While his knock looked ordinary at first, the wearing of the pitch and the rest of the scores – for both sides – put into perspective just how good it was.

Amla seems to be most effective in the most difficult conditions. His surgical precision ensures he’s never short of something magical, and Monday was no different. Ask him about his ability to perform when the pressure is on, however, and he’ll only offer a wry smile and a modest assessment of his abilities.

“I don’t know. I’m just glad I managed to contribute to the team,” Amla said, when asked how he always managed to flourish on sticky wickets.

Amla and Colin Ingram combined for a valuable partnership at the top of the order for South Africa. While Ingram still has a lot to answer for, he applied himself incredibly well, and surviving the two new balls was crucial in South Africa getting to a competitive total.

“It was a tough wicket. And upfront, I kept chatting with my partner. In hindsight, I think it was probably a vital partnership in the first 10 overs, and I think we got about 30-odd. So I’m just fortunate to have contributed a bit,” Amla mused.

That the silky-wristed player believes he contributed “a bit” reveals his modesty. Amla is quite in tune with his ability, but apparently needs no fussing about it.

Despite a very vocal crowd, with a large contingent of Pakistan supporters present, Amla seemed undeterred. The noise hardly ever let up. The crowds for the tournament have been outstanding, barring the match between Sri Lanka and New Zealand. There’s no love lost between the fans of opposing sides and for Amla, it’s something to be expected.

“We’re playing away from home, so no matter where we play, it’s always going to be loud. When we played in Cardiff, I don’t know if you were there, but it was loud as well, with a lot of Indian supporters. It doesn’t really make too much of a difference, because we’re used to that. We know it’s going to be playing away from home, so you don’t expect any love from anyone,” he said.

For some, that kind of vocal support might spur them on, but Amla simply takes it in his stride.  He does seem to like playing away from home, though, and particularly in England. His average away from home is 64.04, well above his overall average of 56.44, but in England, he averages 74.42.

In the last 12 months, Amla has scored two hundreds and two fifties and averages a touch over 56. He was particularly sublime against England last year, scoring 150, 43, 45 and an unbeaten 97 in four consecutive matches, and now he looks like he’s back for more.

His last one-day hundred came in March, against Pakistan in South Africa, and while his scores were lower for somebody of his calibre, it’s perhaps down to the change in the one-day rules which now allow two new balls up front.

The right-hander admits that it has changed the way in which teams have to approach opening the batting, but if he had any problems adjusting, he’s surely broken those shackles now.

“I think it has made a difference, especially if the wicket offers a bit of assistance. And then you can go into places like the subcontinent, where ideally you’d like two new white balls, because the wickets are a lot more batter-friendly. I think in these types of conditions, it’s proven to be quite difficult. It’s given the bowlers up front a chance, and if you see through that, hopefully you can manage to score some runs. I thought today was probably a good example for that,” Amla said.

Cricket is a fickle game, though, and while South Africa was drastically improved against Pakistan, the team still has a tough task ahead when they take on the West Indies in Cardiff on Friday. The biggest challenge will be nullifying West Indies ace spinner Sunil Narine.

Amla is an astute player of spin, and if he can once again manage to survive the new ball bursts, he has a chance to make another big impact for the Proteas. He can’t do it on his own, of course, but his experience at the top of the order is a crucial part of the Proteas’ campaign. DM

Photo: South Africa’s Hashim Amla dives into the crease to avoid being run out during the ICC Champions Trophy group B match against Pakistan at Edgbaston cricket ground in Birmingham June 10, 2013. REUTERS/Philip Brown

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