Cricket: Hashim Amla, the Smooth Warrior

Cricket: Hashim Amla, the Smooth Warrior

Hashim Amla is now jointly has the most one-day international centuries. Not bad for a bloke who was considered a “Test specialist” once upon a time. Despite batting in an era in which brute force is often favoured, Amla’s mild approach has brought him great success and it’s a breath of fresh air. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

When Hashim Amla made his international debut, not only did some believe he does not belong in the format, many believed that he was more suited to Test cricket than one-day cricket. While there certainly is room for “Test specialists” in this day and age, Amla has proven time and time again that he is not one of those.

On Wednesday, on a dry pitch in Centurion, Amla brought up his 21st one-day international hundred. The landmark means he is now level for most one-day centuries with Herschelle Gibbs, but here’s the kicker: it took Amla nearly half the amount of one-day internationals to get to 21 centuries. It took Gibbs 243 games to reach the milestone, it’s taken Amla just 119. The era Amla is playing in is slightly more batsman friendly than the era Gibbs played in, but it’s still a notable statistic. Equally notable is how consistent Amla’s strike-rate has been throughout his career.

Since 2010, it has never dipped below 80.00 and in one-day cricket this year, it’s sitting at 97.77. These stats matter because we find ourselves in a bewildering era of frenetic batting where centuries scored off less than a run a ball are considered slow. Yet, somehow, Amla has managed to rack up the records. Fastest to 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 and 5,000 runs are all records Amla have broken without even breaking a sweat. He is a way off from breaching the 6,000-run mark, but could be the fastest to that milestone, too. Virat Kohli currently leads the pack in 144 matches. Amla currently sits on 5867 runs in 119 matches.

Amla seems to have found the perfect mix of killing you softly and going at it all guns blazing. Of his 21 centuries, just nine have come at a run-a-ball or better. Just thrice has his strike-rate surpassed 120 and on two of those occasions, he went on to score 150.

The current era of one-day batting, influenced by Twenty20, has taken everything we thought we knew about one-day cricket and thrown it out the window. Think one boundary an over is good? Think again.  New shots are constantly being invented and batsmen are outsmarting bowlers time and again. Every single degree of the field is there for the taking and actively practicing hitting sixes has become the norm for most modern day teams. The sheer brutality of batting is enough to make great bowlers of yore turn in their graves and aggression is something we have come to immediately associate with success in one-day cricket. Amla, however, has proven that the more steady approach can also work. He rarely plays any of the more modern shots that bring showers of runs for players like AB de Villiers, yet he seems to be able to accelerate past milestones at the same rate.

While most modern day batsmen undergo some sort of evolution at some point in their career that accelerates their success, Amla has managed to achieve success by keeping things simple, the Occam’s Razor of cricket if you will. That South Africa have him in their midst, and will probably still have him for a good few years, is something they will cherish.

His century on Wednesday night was the difference between the two sides. He was well supported by Rilee Rossouw and while South Africa’s lower order stuttered towards the end, the bowlers did enough to squeeze themselves out of trouble.

While the absence of context for this series is a sticking point, at least South Africa have managed to carve some value out of it. With all the hilarity of Dale Steyn’s bowling instructions being slipped under the wrong hotel room door (and being entirely predictable), South Africa actually managed to execute those plans relatively well. The series might lack context, but for South Africa it serves some purpose.  The Test players have some time to get into the groove ahead of what is going to be a long and gruelling few months which will see South Africa play four Tests against India in India and four Tests against England on South African soil.  The two sides now travel to Potchefstroom for the second one-day international on Sunday and, who knows, perhaps another Amla record. DM

Scorecard summary: South Africa won by 20 runs

New Zealand won the toss and chose to bowl

South Africa 304-7: Hashim Amla 124 (126), Rilee Rossouw 89 (112); Adam Milne 10-0-51-2, Mitchell McClenaghan 10-1-72-2

New Zealand: Tom Latham 60 (80), Kane Williamson 47 (69); Imran Tahir 10-0-40-2, Vernon Philander 10-1-51-2

Photo: South Africa’s Hashim Amla celebrates scoring his century during their first One-Day International (ODI) cricket match against New Zealand in Centurion, August 19, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko.


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