Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Perth, 3rd day December 2, 2012

Amla performs in one-day gear

Hashim Amla has scored several different centuries this year. His latest at the WACA was compiled in one-day mode

Hashim Amla may not like it but he is quickly becoming the Madonna of cricket, because of his ability to reinvent himself with every hundred he scores.

There have been four of them in Tests this year. There was the epic 311 at The Oval. South Africa's best Test score. There was the century at Lord's, to ensure Amla left his mark on the mace. There was the 104 in Brisbane, which was more about risk than rhythm. Now, there's the 196 at the WACA, where Amla brought his one-day game to Test cricket.

The 50-over game is played in vastly different conditions and to implement short-form batting strategy in long-form cricket can be, in the words of one journalist, "unsettling." Amla and Graeme Smith did just that.

Amla arrived at the crease in South Africa's second innings when Australia's bowlers had begun to relax. He was offered width and he saw no point in wasting it. Both Amla and Smith walked a long way across their stumps to play into the on-side, which Australia had left unprotected because they did not expect such tactics.

"They were a few loose balls that we managed to get away and that gave us bit of momentum," Amla said. "We managed to manipulate the field a little bit, wherever there are gaps to try and hit the ball, so that's why there were a few one-day shots coming in. If the team is in a good position, it gives you the freedom to look for those shots because if you do make a mistake, it's not a train smash."

As the top-ranked ODI batsman, Amla's limited-overs game is no longer a target of inquisition. His ability to pace an innings without looking rushed has become his most admired trait and, in a Test, it's all in his placement and angles.

Amla played the ball to fine leg or third man acutely enough to beat any fielder, and regularly eluded point and cover. He appeared in total control, deciding whether to go left or right of the fielder and usually managing to avoid them. Amla's timing is a less obvious asset because some of his shots don't make the final cut of a highlights package. It's the nifty cover drive to run three, the flick to fine leg for a couple and the tuck for a single.

He also has no problem with changing pace and mindset, as he did three times in this innings. On the second day, with Smith, the scoring-rate was close to seven runs an over and that dropped considerably later on. With Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers, the rate was 4.1 in both partnerships but the runs came in a different fashion. The adjustment was easy each time because of the "unique chemistry" with each of his partners.

"With Jacques, because of his hamstring problem, we had to be a bit careful with running. We tried to pick up a quick three and he pulled up short so I kind of got the message," Amla said. "When AB comes to the crease, it's a lot more intense. We are always looking for quick ones. Jacques and I bat at a similar tempo and we like to walk our singles if we hit the sweepers."

With Amla at his side, Kallis has scored almost double the number of centuries he had before there was a stable No.3 in South Africa's line-up. De Villiers has been able to bat in situations where a platform has already been laid. He began four of his last five centuries before today with South Africa already having scored 250, and he has been able to build on that.

Amla has fed off Kallis' experience and de Villiers' exuberance. As a result, his innings have covered the spectrum, and even though he will probably end the year with fewer runs than Michael Clarke, Amla is probably the most in vogue batsman of 2012.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • mir on December 3, 2012, 5:31 GMT

    What a fine cricketer. Amla for cricket is a new star. He has in him Richards, Lara, Clarke, Bradman, Greenidge, Loyd, etc., but still he is different. most of all he is a true believer and a real religious person- that which stands him out from others. May Allah reward him more Ameen.

  • Dummy4 on December 3, 2012, 4:03 GMT

    Hashim is the new Inzaman and bats with absolute assurance and conviction. Also seems to be a very sober guy, no theatrics, no sledging. A great addition to the game. Along with Alastair Cook, AB De Villiers will be one to challenge Sachin's records but even if they stay, who cares? South Africa and Australia are the best teams and their rivalry is like La Liga between Real and Barca.

  • Amanda on December 2, 2012, 20:38 GMT

    @Chris_P kudos to you for your well balance comments. Always a pleasure to read.

  • Stephen on December 2, 2012, 20:23 GMT

    @behice. To early to include puajra in that list. he needs to score runs away from home on different pitches. it's easy scoring runs in india, where the pitches are mostly concrete like. pujara like most indian batsman's will get hammered once they go overseas, just wait and see. Cook and KP are great batters though. waiting for the lads to nail the indian 3-1 in this series. go hard.

  • Srinivas on December 2, 2012, 19:59 GMT

    Come on Punter! Stage is set up for your one final hurrah!!! Come on man!! You can do it. For us, the die hard fans of test cricket, we know you can do it, since you proved that time and time again. The bigger the stage, the bigger the batsman you are. Please, please, please!!! Roll down the years and bring out one final knock for the ages. I promise that I will buy the highlights DVD just for that, no matter the cost.

  • Dummy4 on December 2, 2012, 19:23 GMT

    I'm an ENG fan so of course am relishing KP's sometimes-brilliance and Cap'n Cook's hard-rock consistency in India right now. Oh and Matt Prior is not Gilchrist but as close as anyone today ... but Spelele is spot on, TOP batsmen right now: 1) Amla 2) Clarke 3) .. Cook, Pujara, Sanga, Samuels, several others ... name your pick.

    And please, can someone explain "Amla out" ? We English are not familiar with this concept :-)

  • Peter on December 2, 2012, 19:19 GMT

    @Spelele. Odd that you mention about bashing for I was at both the Gabba & Adelaide grounds & he got a marvellous response from the fans. And reading a few posts here, I have also noted nothing mentioned so am totally unclear where you pulled up this "Amla bashing" synopsis? That aside, I, along with many others have enjoyed the sight of his batmanship & class. Kudos to him for his attitude as well.

  • Owen on December 2, 2012, 19:07 GMT

    # will go down as one of the greats - superb player, great temperament, and seems like a fine gent. I just wish he was allowed to bowl a little more, what an action!

  • Vineet on December 2, 2012, 18:31 GMT

    Amla is an underrated modern-day great. No doubt about that--he's played incredibly well all over the world. With him, SA have another Kallis, and that's terrific for SA.

  • Altaf on December 2, 2012, 18:20 GMT

    It was Viv like batting. Ausie got all-out in second day while Amla batted at RR of 7 on same day with 50 in 36 balls and 100 in 85. That shows how freshness and class was there in his batting.

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