South Africa, Sport

Champions Trophy 2017: Understated Amla steals the show in convincing opening win

Champions Trophy 2017: Understated Amla steals the show in convincing opening win
Hashim Amla . (Photo: Supplied)

Hashim Amla’s ode to the art of rotating the strike was the perfect antidote to the high-scoring floods of the modern-day game. That he is one of the record setters in the format is a sweet relief for those who still cherish the fine battle between bat and ball. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

At times on Saturday it felt as if South Africa was launching a lone protest to the high-scoring malarkey that has come to dominate limited-overs cricket in recent years.

Not scoring over 300 and going at under 4.00 runs an over in the first 10 overs is almost unheard of in the modern era. But yet, that was all South Africa needed to script a 96-run win over Sri Lanka in their opening Champions Trophy fixture at The Oval on Saturday.

While South Africa’s batting innings might have lacked the razzmatazz that most fans expect these days, it was more than made up for by Hashim Amla, masterful as he is, paying the perfect ode to the forgotten art of rotating the strike. Fifty-four of his runs came in singles and even if his moderate strike-rate of 89.56 sometimes felt much slower than that, it was exactly what the Proteas needed to get their campaign off to a solid start.

Had Quinton de Kock managed to stick around for longer than his 23 runs, we might have seen some fireworks. But sometimes, a chip off the old block does wonders for the cynicism that cricket is no longer a balancing act between bat and ball.

Sri Lanka deserve credit for their efforts in keeping South Africa – particularly their danger men – so restricted. They weren’t exactly threatening, but they were irksome. But, considering that this is a team South Africa beat 5-0 a few months ago, the result should never really have been in doubt, despite some nerves early on when the Sri Lankan batsmen just weren’t budging.

At times, it looked as if South Africa’s bowlers, though, had not quite found their rhythm yet. Prodigal son, Kagiso Rabada, had the dubious honour of conceding the first free hit of the tournament. And despite managing to take 10 wickets between them, the South African bowlers, at times, just looked like they had not quite figured out what their best approach in English conditions is, despite captain AB de Villiers saying afterwards that the “plans were really good”.

At the start of the Sri Lankan innings they were, at times, just a bit too short on their lengths, seemingly sticking with the old-fashioned thinking that all players from the subcontinent are weaker against these deliveries. On a track that was slightly slower and lower, perhaps Andile Phehlukwayo’s medium fast bowling would not have gone amiss, but at least South Africa had Imran Tahir. Despite being displaced as the number one-ranked ODI bowler by Radada recently, Tahir remains the most cunning white ball bowler in world cricket and earned himself a man-of-the-match award with his four for 27 against Sri Lanka on Saturday.

Overall, though, it is Hashim Amla who stole the show, even if he wasn’t really lauded for it. Such is the nature of Amla and his achievements.

In a parallel universe, he might unearth a groundbreaking scientific discovery, but nobody would ever associate the invention with him. In an era where flash, reinvention and aggression epitomise the modern game, Amla’s often understated and slightly ordinary approach is rarely mentioned in the same breath as other more effervescent batsmen.

And yet, last week Amla became the fastest player to 7,000 ODI runs, beating Virat Koli’s effort by 16 games. He was also the fastest to 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 and 6,000 runs in the format. On Saturday, he also became the quickest to 25 centuries in one-dayers.

His ability to carve out an innings, starting slowly, accelerating, setting the pace and keeping the scoreboard ticking over is under-appreciated in the era of gimme-gimme showmen. But Amla has never needed to be rated.

His calm, composed modesty has not hindered his greatness. In fact, it’s enhanced it. If anyone was still wondering just how central Amla would be to South Africa’s quest for silverware glory in this tournament, those questions should now have been answered. DM

Scorecard summary:

South Africa 299 for 6 (Hashim Amla 103, Faf du Plessis 75; Nuwan Pradeep 2-54) beat Sri Lanka 203 all out (Upul Tharanga 57, Kusal Perera 44*, Imran Tahir 4-27) by 96 runs.

South Africa’s next Champions Trophy fixture is against Pakistan in Birmingham on 7 June, starting at 11:30 SAST.

Photo: Hashim Amla. One Day International Cricket. New Zealand Black Caps v South Africa Proteas. Eden Park, Auckland. New Zealand. Saturday 4 March 2017 © Copyright photo: Andrew Cornaga /


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