SA v Zimbabwe, World T20 2012, Group C, Hambantota September 19, 2012

Amla keen to master Twenty20 cricket

Hashim Amla is yet to translate his success in Tests and ODIs to T20s. But in current form, that may not be far away

Given Hashim Amla's colossal recent form, finding a weakness in his game seems a frivolous exercise. Beyond the mountain of runs, a Test average breaching 65 over the last three years and an ODI average touching 60, he has a gift for playing innings notable as much for their impact as their heft. Amla's reputation as classy, but slow delayed his introduction to limited-overs cricket, but when he arrived in ODIs, his success was almost immediate.

The only format in which he can't claim to be among the best in the world is Twenty20. He has played 10 innings, all as an opener, to score 198 runs at an average of 22 and is yet to record a half-century.

It is not that his cricket is unsuited to the shortest format - he has developed a mindset and ability to score off almost any ball, and few errant deliveries escape the swing of his blade - but for the moment, there is something preventing his success in Twenty20s.

Perhaps he has not yet warmed to the format; a problem not helped by the infrequency of matches. He was less than prolific in his first 34 Tests too, averaging in the low 40s before three centuries in two Tests against India in 2010 burst the dam and heralded the torrent. There has been a concerted effort to tune his game to the ODI format as well, and that has brought spectacular results. Maybe that mental switch has not yet been flipped in Twenty20, and those technical adjustments remain unmade.

Others of his ilk have adapted and thrived in Twenty20. Kumar Sangakkara is more straight lines and precision than Amla's artistry, but Sri Lanka's middle order would seem a shell without him in it. As he showed during his innings against Zimbabwe on Tuesday evening, Sangakkara has developed new modes of scoring, and assumed a more aggressive disposition, even if he can sometimes seem uncomfortable wearing it. Ian Bell has been another who has introduced innovation to remain relevant in the 20-over game. Despite Amla's success in limited-overs cricket, he has not strayed far from convention.

"I'm relatively inexperienced in the Twenty20 format," Amla said on the eve of South Africa's first match of the World Twenty20. "Fortunately I managed to get some runs in England, which helped with the confidence. I am playing in a very good team, and that really helps as well. Batting with guys like Jacques Kallis who have been involved for some time, I'm taking every game as a learning experience."

Amla comes into the tournament in supreme form, and an international reputation that is the best it's ever been. South Africa pack plenty of power in their batting, and with stiff competition for spots in the top four, Amla will need to translate that momentum into telling performances, just to keep his place. If he can provide a calming influence to a side not renowned for keeping their heads in major tournaments, then all the better.

"Every cricketer goes through times in their career where they excel, and I've been very fortunate to fit into that category over the last couple of months," he says. "I don't look too much at the spotlight that comes when you are scoring runs, I just try to keep things simple and hopefully get the team off to a good start."

Amla's impressive run in ODIs has already revealed his hunger to improve and impress at every opportunity. That his Twenty20 numbers have not caught up to the rest of his game will irk him. He will look to make drastic improvements to that record, and South Africa's big-tournament fortunes in general, in the weeks to come.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on September 20, 2012, 16:44 GMT

    Amla, soon to be a legend. Watch and Like.

  • Muttee on September 20, 2012, 13:39 GMT

    best bowler Zak and Ashwin? lol you are funny. the only one thing going for you is Kohli and that is it. You can't win the tournament on the back of four club level bowlers. You really need to wake up, or go see the highlights of Afghan match.

  • smd on September 20, 2012, 13:33 GMT

    amla is the best in all formats wishing him all the best

  • TANZEEM on September 20, 2012, 13:27 GMT

    I love to watch Amla betting soon he will be mastered in this format also, since he has been bestowed by Allah, he is the one who refused to play if on his Shirt Caslte Lager logo is not removed (beer co Alcohal), Allah will bless him !!!!!

  • Subash on September 20, 2012, 13:13 GMT

    SA will win this. But what i can say is INDIA going to win whole tournment. Best batting lineup, Kohli god in form of his life!!! Ashwin, Zak best bowler. Best middle order of team INDIA captain Dhoni Raina Yuvi comeback from injury super form with hitting sixes!!! INDIA all the way!!! SA choke like before soon.

  • greig on September 20, 2012, 12:14 GMT

    All bow and acknowledge our master Hashim Amla. All hail !!!

  • MASOOD on September 20, 2012, 11:41 GMT

    Mr.Amla - NOBODY has been able to master T20 cricket yet ,CORRECTION - NO country has been able to master T20 cricket yet, NOT yet even INDIA (THOUGH they PLAY more T20 Cricket in the form of IPL than any other country). I am aware that some, if not all players from other countries also play in the IPL. However there is NO way of any predictions available for the cricket pundits before the beginning of a match to pinpoint a clear winner.No favorites prior to the match as anybody could be a winner. When I say anybody it means the competition is only among the top 8 (AUS,ENG,IND,PAK,NZ,SA,SL,WI).Any of the above mentioned team can win a game any given day as the format is too short as the actions/ reactions are limited. I am very impatient at the same time keen to see what a master batsman like you can bring to the table as this is the first time you are taking part in a T20 WC. Whatever be the result you are a class apart and T20 is not the platform to judge a player of your caliber.

  • Dummy4 on September 20, 2012, 11:13 GMT

    good luck for Amla.i hope he will score big run.

  • Basil on September 20, 2012, 11:04 GMT

    SA got quality players ; with good quality management that displays good leadership under pressure; no team can beat SA when they are performing at their best. They have to under-perform in order to give other teams a change of beating them. Everyone must remember SA is still in the developing phase of building a world class squad; so loosing against Zim ( which is highly unlikely to happen) won't be a big issue.

  • MASOOD on September 20, 2012, 10:33 GMT

    Hello to all!Right from the time Gary Kirsten joined SA he is able to harness the full potential of almost all the players to perform to their maximum.This has become an ongoing process right from the time they took off to Switzerland to spend time and group themselves into a side of reckoning. In England they have proved it,Yes Sir, they did it, when they took the poms & beat them all ends up. Remember the poms were unbeatable at that time. SA lead by AMLA in particular dominated the TEST SERIES leveled the ODI & T20. AMLA rose to the grand occasion and has played to his full potential and is seen discovering a class which is fast reclining among the new breed of cricketers besides Kohli (I will comment later). Amla's batting techniques will have to be studied minutely by the Batting coaches/ Cricket Institutions around the world to create better cricketers. Amla I Salute & Thank you for the wonderful entertainment you have provided in England & also for making cricket much richer.:-)

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