Australia v South Africa, 1st Test, Brisbane, 1st day November 9, 2012

Amla makes Australia pay for errors

Hashim Amla's innings wasn't flawless, but what sets him apart is that he is not affected when his weaknesses are exposed. When handed a life, the opposition usually regrets it

Australia will sleep uneasy knowing that tomorrow's return to the Gabba is set up as another day of toil. They will return to bowl to Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis, South Africa's most successful pairing who, on day one, overtook a record that had previously stood between Kallis and Gary Kirsten, now the coach.

Together, Amla and Kallis have scored 3607 runs, average 66.79 and have combined for 11 century and eight half-century stands. Their power as a duo was at its best against England at The Oval, where they put on an unbeaten 377.

Although they do not even have half that many runs at the moment, they are complementing each other with the same push and pull as they did then. Kallis has scored at an uncharacteristically quick rate to put Australia off their lines while Amla has continued exactly from where he left off against them a year ago.

Last year this time, Amla posted back to back centuries against Australia and is well poised to notch up a third. Even if he doesn't, it will not detract from the achievements of the last 12 months. His run since this day in 2011 has been a remarkable and highly profitable one which has set up much of South Africa's success.

Not counting today's 90, Amla has accumulated 1049 runs since November 9, 2011. In 18 innings, he has four centuries, including his record-breaking 311 at The Oval. Two of those were against Australia and the other two came during South Africa's successful campaign to take the No.1 world ranking off England two months ago.

That's not all, of course. Amla has also scored three half-centuries since in that time, against Sri Lanka and New Zealand which speaks about his consistency against all opposition. His lowest average in the last four series is 34.75 against Sri Lanka at home but he has averaged over 45.00 in all the rest.

Only Michael Clarke has scored more runs in the last 12 months than Amla. In the process he has also become the second fastest South African to 5,000 Test runs. After a year of form, which looks as though it will become a lifetime of runs, what else is left to say about Hashim Amla?

At least this time his stint in the middle wasn't all pretty. When Amla rolls out the cover drive, decorated as a Turkish rug and every bit as smooth, it's easy to forget any other shot he plays. But today those unforgettables were interspersed with plays and misses, false strokes and the odd glimpse of vulnerability.

Before he had scored a run, Amla survived an lbw shout from James Pattinson which was a touch too high and the umpire's not-out call stood. When he was on 30 he prodded softly at a Ben Hilfenhaus ball and the resulting edge fell just short of Ricky Ponting at second slip. Even after Amla had brought up his half-century, he still offered chances.

As he moved back to cut Nathan Lyon, Amla got an edge which flew between Matthew Wade and Clarke at first slip, who was not even able to react. On 74, he misread a Peter Siddle slower ball and offered a fairly simply return catch at waist height. Siddle spilt it.

This innings proved that Amla is not invincible. What sets him apart from other batsmen is that he is not affected when his weaknesses are exposed and that can only be because he is comfortable with himself and his batting. Instead of distraction or doubt, Amla only shows determination when a flaw is let out.

His ability to be unruffled is so well known that Australia's supposed 'dossier' of plans for the South Africans could come up with nothing technical to beat Amla. Instead, they hoped to sledge him out of the game, a tactic Johan Botha was certain would not work

It's a difficult thing to do - to steel oneself after being almost pushed over - but Alviro Petersen explained that it is possible. And Amla is able to do it better than others. "It's important to put it behind you. For however long the ball is in there, your heart does tend to leave your body but after that, you have to put it behind you," Petersen said. "Hashim really forgets about it and makes sure that the next ball is the important ball."

In the shower of accolades that have rained down on Amla in the last year, there hasn't been too much of a need to examine how he got there. But the reality is that in three of his last four hundreds, Amla has been dropped. Australia were the first guilty party when Michael Hussey put him down in Cape Town last year off the final ball of the day. Amla had a rare rush of blood to the head and drove in the air but got lucky and went on to usher South Africa to victory with Graeme Smith the next day.

Amla's offering of chances did not stop there. On his way to his triple-century, he offered a chance when he was on 40 when an edge went the way of Andrew Strauss in the slips. At Lord's two matches later, Amla gloved a short ball down the leg side when he was on 2 and Matt Prior could not hold on.

The lesson in all of that is simple: don't drop Amla, and it was one Australia learned the hard way. "You don't like giving class batsman like that a chance," James Pattinson admitted. "Because against a good batsman chances don't come very often but come tomorrow if we get our chances we will be snapping them up as quickly as possible."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • AHMAD on November 10, 2012, 8:42 GMT

    Sometimes Batsmen get lucky, but they also can have really unlucky dismissals as well.

    take for example Hashims dismissal in last years world cup. whats the chances of hitting the ball into the ground only for it to bounce of a fielders shoe & get caught?

  • raghavan on November 10, 2012, 8:22 GMT

    Australia should pick Ben Cutting for the next 2 games.He is in great form and can contribute as an all-rounder.

  • Terry on November 10, 2012, 6:03 GMT

    The key is concentration and the patience to endure slow periods of play without letting it get to you. Many batsmen have too much of an ego for that. The other skill as mentioned that Amla has in spades is to genuinely forget any errors and turn his concentration on the next ball.

  • Dummy4 on November 10, 2012, 5:07 GMT

    Good to see the sledging worked so well against Amla yesterday...

  • disco on November 10, 2012, 2:52 GMT

    "...but come tomorrow if we get our chances we will be snapping them up..." Could there be a more irritating comment than this gem from Pattinson. Sort of like "I'm going on a diet, starting tomorrow"

  • Sean on November 10, 2012, 2:39 GMT

    Rain. A good result for the aussies. If they get back on i reckon SA will get about 750 & declare

  • Kieron on November 9, 2012, 21:39 GMT

    People can talk about Amla having had some luck, but the same goes for all the other great batsman who have scored many runs! i bet that if you look at all the hundreds Kallis, Lara, Ponting, Tendulkar, Sangakarra have scored, there have innings where they also have been dropped! It's part and Parcel of the game!

  • Helmut on November 9, 2012, 21:35 GMT

    I think we all have to reserve judgment on this pitch untill after SA had their turn to bowl. WIll leaving Imran out come back to haunt Smith? And Duminy out injured too now.

  • Steven on November 9, 2012, 21:26 GMT

    These comments regarding a purple patch.. Lasted almost 3 years now... Least he doesn't get bowled by pie chuckers like Tendulkar does.

  • Prinesh on November 9, 2012, 20:16 GMT

    @Posted by Harmony111 on (November 09 2012, 16:30 PM GMT).

    As a Saffer, i would dare say say that Amla is a better ODI batsman than he is a test batsman. Have a look at his stats in ODI cricket. Averaging in the very high 50's, striking in the 90's, all while opening the batting. He scores runs for fun in pyjamas.

    His test record is great. His ODI record is a statistical anomaly.

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