Amla aware of SA balance issues
The absence of a genuine allrounder continues to haunt South Africa as they try to balance a long enough batting line-up with a sufficiently complete bowling pack. So far, they are shortchanging themselves in both departments.
With seven specialist batsmen, South Africa can only accommodate a four-person attack, which has left JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien to share the rest of the bowling duties. In two matches, they have cost South Africa 155 runs and claimed one wicket, and only contributed 86 runs with the bat, leaving South Africa to contemplate a change of personnel, especially with Chris Morris and David Wiese in the squad as well.
"There has been a lot of chat about having five frontline bowlers. JP and Fudgie have tried their best to contain as many runs as they can but England are a team that bats very deep," Hashim Amla said. "That allows the them to attack right through the game. If they do lose a wicket here and there and even though they do have a few players who they bat around, because they bat until No.10 at least they have a bit of cushion to keep going and that makes it a well-balanced team. Maybe in that respect, they've edged us a little bit."
While England have ten batsmen and six bowlers, South Africa seem under-resourced but Amla is not quite sure how they can fix that. "You have to have the personnel to put into the team. You can't just load it with 11 batters, it doesn't make sense," he said. "If you have the personnel then you can do it, but our best bowlers are playing and our best batters are playing. I know guys have spoken about trying to lengthen our batting but with the wickets you do come across in one-day cricket, you can't sacrifice quality of bowling. If you have the personnel to bat deep and have a good bowling attack like England do, then we would love to do that."
A possible solution is to ride out the current tough times and hope that someone like Kagiso Rabada develops into an allrounder. "He takes his batting very seriously. We joke when he bats that he looks a bit like Chris Gayle so if he develops into that, that would be great," Amla said. "He is a talented youngster and in the right environment with the right people encouraging him, why not?"
But until that happens, the rest of the South Africa team needs to perform to potential and that includes Amla. He has managed just 10 runs in the series so far, he last scored an ODI half-century 10 innings ago against New Zealand in August 2015 and it seems as though the poor run of form he shook off in Tests has returned. With the series on the line, he understands the role he needs to play in trying to save it.
"It's important that I get runs every game. We are a team that has had seven batters for a long time and it's been very important for those seven batters to take responsibility and score the runs for the team and not leave it for No.8, 9, 10 and 11," Amla said. "That's been our job for the last couple of years so we're hoping like to get back to that to make it easier for the bowlers if we do bat first and if we bowl first, to make it easier for everyone else."
Should South Africa lose in Centurion, it will be the first time since 2001-02 that they have conceded a home Test and ODI series to the same opposition on the same tour and will only open up more questions about the state of the game in a country where the spotlight is on development. "It would be a blow to lose to the series but we are not thinking about that," Amla said. "If we win this, we get some momentum for the next one and then hopefully win the one in Cape Town. That's how we are visioning our progress from here. Everything starts tomorrow."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent