Pakistan v South Africa 2013-14 October 18, 2013

South Africa hopeful of Amla's availability


South Africa and Pakistan have five days before the second Test but Hashim Amla's next fixture starts today. The No. 3 batsman is headed back to South Africa for the birth of his second child and described the trip as being similar to a stint in the middle.

"It's a waiting game in many respects, a bit of a Test match actually," Amla said. "'I'll just have to see what happens." The baby's due date has not been revealed but he or she is expected to arrive fairly soon, according to team manager Mohammad Moosajee.

Amla will have precious little time with his new-born because he is in a race against time to be back for the second Test. "Whenever it does happen, soon after that I'll try and get back here," he confirmed. Moosajee said as long as Amla arrived in Dubai by Tuesday, he would be able to play the second Test. 

If he doesn't make it by then, South Africa will have to replace Amla, their only centurion from the first Test, with a far less experienced player. They have two choices in that regard with the most likely one being to bring in Dean Elgar for Amla. Elgar was dropped to make room for JP Duminy in the middle order after playing just six Test matches.

Although he scored a century against New Zealand in January, Elgar has been unconvincing at the highest level. That may be because he is playing out of his regular spot, higher up in the order, and a move to No.3 could help kickstart his international career. Even if Amla returns, Elgar could replace Alviro Petersen, who has not passed 30 in his last eight Test innings. 

South Africa's other option is to ask Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers to move up and to slot in the specialist wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile at No. 7. South Africa have been reluctant to play Tsolekile despite keeping him as a passenger for the last three tours, and if they go that route it would represent a significant departure from their seven batsmen strategy. 

After one defeat, it may also be too drastic a move for them to make despite the continued struggles of Faf du Plessis, who has not managed a half-century since a hundred against New Zealand in the same match Elgar scored his maiden ton. He has also looked tentative against spin. 

Still, South Africa may not want to make too many knee-jerk changes to a unit that has been successful bar the previous match because, as Amla explained, they expect they tried and trusted to perform. 

"We know where we have gone wrong and the guys take a lot of pride in their performance. We haven't been up to par," he said. "Guys will just go back, adjust where they've gone wrong and lot of hard work will be put in in the training sessions." 

Amla was the only one of the XI to have played first-class cricket in the month leading up to this series and showed temperament the rest could not muster. His efforts were put down to mindset but Amla denied he is tougher than anyone else in that department. "I don't think I am mentally strong. I am just trying to contribute in each game," he said. "Tomorrow will be somebody else's chance, the next day will be somebody else's chance." 

South Africa would want to prove him right, especially because both Amla and Graeme Smith said totals of 400 and beyond are what's needed to compete in these conditions. "I don't think it was a 250 wicket, especially in the first innings," Amla said. "400 was probably a par total." 

In batting-friendly conditions, South Africa's line-up was expected to post that and more. They were out-thought and outplayed, but Amla said they did not underestimate their opposition. "I don't think we were surprised by how well Pakistan played. We knew they are a good team, especially in these conditions. On the whole, they just played better cricket than us. The seamers bowled well and the spinners backed it up on a wicket that didn't turn a great deal but turned enough to make it difficult."

Pakistan have promised a similarly challenging pitch for the second Test which means having Amla back will be crucial. The last time paternity leave kept him out of the game, in January 2012, South Africa were playing an ODI series against Sri Lanka. Amla played the first two in the five match series, scored a century and a fifty and South Africa won both games. 

He missed the following three matches, of which South Africa lost two. Their opening partnership, a combination of Smith, Colin Ingram and Petersen managed less than 20 runs in two of those matches. That is a small example underlining Amla's worth to the team and, for South Africa, a reason to hope his Test match back home is over as quickly as possible.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Aaron Chaim on October 25, 2013, 12:39 GMT

    Well, Amla wasnt there and someone else stepped up to the plate. 1-1!!

  • suresh on October 20, 2013, 4:50 GMT

    I was fortunate to have been able to watch the First test live in Abu Dhabi. Pakistan batted and bowled with a lot of discipline and the victory was fully deserved. SA batsmen will need a lot of patience,if they want to make a come back in the series. And, without a quality spinner,it's going to be hard for them.

  • Android on October 20, 2013, 0:13 GMT

    even though I m a pak fan.... but I always enjoy watching amla and a.b bat. if I have to choose my favourite batsman without being biased these two will be my choices

  • Dummy4 on October 19, 2013, 21:26 GMT

    Abu Dhabi was a slow turner with Ajmal not at his best and still SA failed to get 300 in either innings. Dubai will turn more sharply and its very unlikely Amla will be available so I expect a 2-0 whitewash. Misbah is due to win a toss so even if SA seamers do well I expect Pak to get 300 + and SA to be bundled out for around 200 ie either way a 100 run lead for Pakistan will be enough for them to win the match. Basically the SA spinners will not be effective enough to keep their seamers fresh who will only rely on the first 10 overs of new ball to make break throughs. Pak will learn to see off Steyn and Philander and then cash in

  • Dummy4 on October 19, 2013, 17:31 GMT

    without amla south africa will have to depend on graeme smith and bring in elgar at three...with no spare batsman left they will have to play tsolekile or kleinveld in place of robin peterson...elgar and faf can take care of teh spin alongwith duminy...south africa should bowl straight with the occasional away swinger...with graeme smith getting stiffer he seems to miss teh low straight balls

  • Adnan on October 19, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    @Jithesh Babu : There is no third test in this SA-Pak series bro :). It would be really hard for Saffers to come back in 2nd test in the absence of Amla, and I see the second test also going Pakistan's way.

  • Dummy4 on October 19, 2013, 8:56 GMT

    bring in Elgar in place of Amla & for third test also let elgar replace Alviro petersen who is to be replaced urgently not passed 30 in his previous 8 tests tat is too long jus drop him.

  • Faizan on October 19, 2013, 8:41 GMT

    What about the jet lag? In those hot, humid testing condition along with the jet lag Amla would only be 50 percent of what he is. Plus his concentration would be divided between his national duty and his family. What if Amla does not get to UAE on Tuesday? Elgar or any other replacement would have very little time to get mentally prepared. Amla is a person who would never say no to his national duty over anything else but the SA think-tank (if there is any) should realize this and should ask Amla to stay with his family at this very important stage of his life. This would be good for Amla and SA, both. SA should opt for Elgar instead of Amla and should tell Elgar well in advance that he will play the next match so that he gets mentally prepared.

  • Galib on October 19, 2013, 6:25 GMT

    @Posted by Sussexx on (October 19, 2013, 0:43 GMT) I admire your confidence in yourself to believe your team SA will win the next test against Pakistan. But please give us some facts to back your predictions because your talent and vast experience alone will not help SA to score big or Pakistan to bundle out cheaply. Unless you are a bookie and you know something that we don't!!!!Are you? LOL. I will remember you after the test!!!!!!

  • Galib on October 19, 2013, 6:22 GMT

    @Posted by Sussexx on (October 19, 2013, 0:43 GMT) I admire your confidence in yourself to believe your team SA will win the next test against Pakistan. But please give us some facts to back your predictions because your talent and vast experience alone will not help SA to score big or Pakistan to bundle out cheaply. Unless you are a bookie and you know something that we don't!!!!Are you? LOL. I will remember you after the test!!!!!!

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