India v South Africa, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 5th day February 18, 2010

The last man standing

N Hunter
Hashim Amla was the last South African standing after his vigil lasted a minute short of 500, but he was not playing for time and grinding it out. Instead, it is his bloody-mindedness, an antithesis to the fast-paced approach of the Twenty20 age

After 1402 minutes and faced 1032 deliveries, Hashim Amla finished with 490 runs in the series - the second-best ever in a two-match series. In Nagpur his253, compiled over 675 minutes, set up the match for South Africa and in Kolkata he refused to be intimidated by either the imposing Eden Gardens or the match situation. He remained the last South African standing after a vigil that spanned one minute short of 500; it's the sort of timespan that causes dehydration, cramps, fatigue and spasms in other batsmen but Amla complained of nothing, maintaining his focus and his beatific smile throughout.

"I have learnt, after passing that stage of thirst and mental fatigue, that the limits we put on the body and mind can, and at times must, be challenged," Amla had once said while talking on the gains he derives from fasting in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It is an interesting statement that provides an insight to this most intriguing batsman.

It proves, and the evidence was there during his three centuries in the last two weeks, that Amla is not going to stop at anything - and will not be stopped by much either. He was more sure and secure about himself and his gameplans. Also, taking responsibility has never been an issue, considering he has been the captain at the school (Durban Boys Highs School), Under-19 (2002 World Cup) and the franchise (Dolphins) levels.

He entered the Nagpur Test as the top-scorer in the two-day warm-up match against the Indian Board President's XI, where he had scored a fluent 72. A few days later he walked into the first Test at 5 for 1 and returned only when South Africa declared at 558 for 6, the highlight of which was his 340-run partnership with Jacques Kallis.

In Kolkata last Sunday, when Graeme Smith departed even before South Africa's score could reach double digits (9 for 1) Amla settled easily into the groove and came up with an assured 209-run partnership. He returned to the crease three days later and remained till Harbhajan Singh broke the stubborn resistance of Morne Morkel.

All this is not to say Amla was playing for time and grinding it out. Instead, his bloody-mindedness, an antithesis to the fast-paced approach of the Twenty20 age, harked back to a time before Australia made aggressive batting a prerequisite of Test cricket. Though that change has led to an increase in results in Test cricket, the flipside is that batsmen have not shown the grit to hand in there when the situation demands.

When they do occur, such situations stand out, as does Gautam Gambhir's 11-hour knock that allowed India to draw the Napier Test after being asked to follow on by New Zealand. Just like Gambhir played the ball with an open face of the bat, Amla too, came out confident and never refused to take advantage of the loose deliveries.

Importantly, he planned his approach according to the situation and the batsman at the other end. Today, he was left to marshall the tail for the final two sessions but the expression and body language remained unchanged. He broke the sessions into hours, hours into minutes, overs into balls, making the opposition change their plans along the way.

Surprisingly, MS Dhoni never set attacking fields to Amla in the first session today, especially when Harbhajan Singh was on. Even against Amit Mishra the patrolling was not suffocating and Amla enjoyed his freedom.

"When you know at the back of your mind that you have to bat the whole the day but to break it down is the key," Amla said in the post-match media conference. "In the change room we always talk about breaking it down hour by hour, over by over, ball by ball and there are no overs left in the day."

His confidence rubbed off on even inexperienced partners like Wayne Parnell and Mornel Morkel, as they gave him able support and reinvigorated South African hopes which seemed virtually over an hour after lunch.

"Our emotions when myself and Morne were out there were enjoying it more than anything," Amla said. "I took a lot of confidence from Morne and Parnell who told (me) they were more comfortable at certain ends so that made my job easier to farm the strike. It just was a lovely experience."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sabbir on February 20, 2010, 8:00 GMT

    for the last 2 weeks we saw some awesome performances by this supremely talented batsman.he will rule the south african cricket for the next 10 years.

  • Pras on February 19, 2010, 15:58 GMT

    I saw several posting with reference to the Muslim religion... Its funny that when we talk about great batsmen like Dravid or Border or Gavaskar, there is no reference to Hindusim or Christianity... and then we have Hashim, who has all the potential to be one of the greats, and people start bringing in religion.

    Guys, Hashim is awesome... but not because of his religion, it is because of his batting abilities. Lets not bring religion in here....!!!

  • Dummy4 on February 19, 2010, 14:22 GMT

    this guy is southafrican dravid... seriously he was the difference between india winning the series n drawing it....looking forward to seeing him in action in opnedayers.. though i dont expext much from him in the limited overs......

  • raghuraman on February 19, 2010, 14:07 GMT

    Fabulous efforts from painstaking Amla to stave off a defeat against great odds. So reminiscent of Kennny Barrington in early 60s. against India.But let me come back to my all time favorite. Viru Sehwag. He did set up the match with his pacy 165 in 179 balls or so. Didn't he?Imagine a plodder in his place and scoring only 70-80 and not securing for India adequate time in this rain truncated match. Sehwag's batting for me is sight for gods. He also knows when to use his footwork and when his hand-eye coordination.See his footwork when he defends impeccably.Without that footwork he cannot last at the crease much. See his footwork when he comes down the wicket to loft the ball.I do hope critics and commentators stop their repetitive comments about his lack of footwork.Veeru has worked out in his mind when to use his footwork or not, to score his runs at that furious pace which is not possible with Boycott like approach.Mind you I like Boycott the commentator and do miss him in that roll.

  • Samuel on February 19, 2010, 13:46 GMT

    The conclusion of the first sentence is incorrect. Looking down the list provided shows that Hammond, A Flower & Hayden have all scored more than 500 runs in a two Test series. What the list does show though is that Amla has just achieved the second best batting AVERAGE in any Test match series, highlighting what an immense performance he has just accomplished. This series has really raised Amla's standing on the world stage, demonstrating he really has matured into a World class batsman.

  • Abdullah on February 19, 2010, 12:37 GMT

    Whle appreciating Amla's great feat,I feel disappointed that he did not shield Morkel and take upon himself the responsibility to see through the last 2 overs.He was entitled to feel exhausted but having come so far,he should have ensured that all his toils and tears did not go waste.Compared to the mountains he had moved over the days,he should not have left just 2 stones unturned.

  • Dummy4 on February 19, 2010, 12:27 GMT

    i dont know why gambhir's Napier innings is brought into picture very often..agreed india had to bat 180 overs but india did not struggle! gambhir 137 dravid 62 sachin 64 laxman 124* Yuvraj 54*..agreed he batted for 11 hrs but is it a stand out innings?the fellow batsmen scores and the partnerships don;t suggest..if u see in this innings amla scored 123* and the next highest score is 35 and its Gambhir's case the next highest socre is 124* for pete's sake.. pls stop bringing in gambhir's innings when talking about single-player-outscoring innings..thnks

  • vickey on February 19, 2010, 12:24 GMT

    hasim amla is at his zenith............but credit should go to indians for dropping him regularly,which led to birth of another wall for south africa.. lets see if this wall can last in front of australian attack..

  • TIMOTHY on February 19, 2010, 11:34 GMT

    h amla.. that was a superhuman effort.....he almost, almost saved it for south affrica..... hope he has loads to offer for southafrican cricket

  • TIMOTHY on February 19, 2010, 11:26 GMT

    Man of the match= HASHIM AMLA

    Man of the series =HASHIM AMLA

    Highest run getter=HASHIM AMLA

    thats says it all,HATS off to h a die hard sa supporter.....i always had doubts over his ability to bat at no 3 . i was never A Fan of his batting style................but ,this series he was simply unbelievable .... 1042 mins at the crease nd 1032 deliveries nd dismissed just once-thats a superhuman effort................ hope he can carry on to grter heights ....that will b grt for south african cricket.he almost saved it for the proteas. i dnt remember any batsmen scoring 3 centuries in 3consecutive innings in india against india.... is there any?


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