South Africa v India, 5th ODI, Centurion January 23, 2011

Measured approach pays off for Amla

In Centurion the South African opener learnt how to combine Amla the one-day aggressor with Amla the anchor to set up a strong total

Hashim Amla took 30 consecutive singles to reach his half-century. It was a much more measured approach to the one he employed when he reached his two other half-centuries in the one-day series against India, and it was deliberate.

"I think I was drifting a bit in the first few games and I was playing too extravagantly," Amla said at the post-match press conference.

In the first ODI in Durban, Amla may well have still been on the sugar rush that he claimed possessed him during the Cape Town Test match. Even though both Graeme Smith and Colin Ingram went cheaply in that match, Amla was determined to attack. He laid in to Ashish Nehra in the sixth over, pulling him once and creaming him through the covers twice. He was scoring boundaries as often and as easily as he could and often going the aerial route to do so. His fifty came up off 35 balls and then he tried another smack, only to be caught by an agile Harbhajan Singh. South Africa went on to win the game by a bruising 135 runs.

In the fourth ODI in Port Elizabeth, it must have been something stronger than sugar. He hit Zaheer Khan for back-to-back boundaries and then sunk his teeth into Munaf Patel's bowling. Amla was hitting the boundaries in flashily, bending down on one knee and pulling, and rocking on his back foot to smash to midwicket. His fifty came with a slash to third man. In the end, he was run-out for 64, in a bizarre call for a second run that the usually cautious Amla would never take. South Africa won the match by 48 runs on the D/L method.

This time it was different, although he started with a carbon copy of his lethal cover drive. Smith was out early again and Amla decided that instead of a fireworks display, he would be a masterpiece. After racing to 20 off 22 balls, he reverted back to the Amla we once knew. The carefully, calculating batsman that didn't see the need to take risk and that didn't explode every few balls in bubbling-over madness. Together with Morne van Wyk, he turned the strike, over and over and over until the count had taken him past fifty. He was dropped on 71, but it didn't affect his mindset and he soldiered on.

This was the Amla most were accustomed to, punishing only occasionally and playing the spinners with style. The shot that got him to his 100 was a classic example of this. He ran the delivery from Sureh Raina fine, through third man. It was one more four for him and one more hundred for everyone. Even after the rain delay, when South Africa's batsmen were falling like flies in attempted blazes of glory, Amla stood firm. He added the singles he could and ended up unbeaten on 116. South Africa, again on the D/L method, won the match by 33 runs.

That all three of South Africa's victories in the series have come on days that Amla has had success says volumes. In the absence of Jacques Kallis, he is the glue that sticks the batting line-up together. Even when he is hyperactive mode, he is their anchor. There have been times in the series when Amla has looked "wild" as Kepler Wessels put it, but even then he was the top performer in the South African line-up.

"He is batting really well and he is really good nick. When you are on form like that, you have to lead the team and take them through and he has done that," MS Dhoni said, after admitting that his plans, to bowl around the wicket to Amla, often failed despite his bowler's best efforts.

Amla is truly the leader of the batting line-up and ended the series with 250 runs, was the only batsman from South Africa to score a century and his average of 62.50 towered above anyone else's. His series strike-rate was an astounding 94.69. In this innings he learnt how to combine Amla the one-day aggressor with Amla the anchor. "I had a good reminder of my role in the team," he said. What a role that is.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 25, 2011, 14:31 GMT

    @MAN007: and NZ does not exactly have a formidable bowling line up, does it? It didn't require much adjusting to, I would imagine. I never said anything about gambhir. He is a good player and his footwork is spot on. And please don't bring sehwag's innings in melbourne. Brad Hodge was not selected (5 years ago) because he scored most of his runs in melbourne and the sellectors thought he couldnt play the short ball. Article in "sydney morning herald". SO i stand by my comments, sehwag cant play the swinging/bouncing ball against good bowlers. Same as Gilchrist couldn't face Flintoff in England.

  • Dummy4 on January 25, 2011, 14:28 GMT

    @Asis Rout: The umpires ( or a good umpire) should give a decision when a single player appeals and if the batsman is out. By your logic, the umpire should not give a batsman out if the whole team appeals as well(because of excessive appealing). So then, the umpires were right in not giving Symonds out in the scg test..NOT.

  • Dummy4 on January 25, 2011, 14:26 GMT

    @Asis Rout: mate, the only reason i bring the Durban Test into every discussion is when people like yourself do not give credit to the team who has played better. And also because i 'cribbed' about the scg test as well. You dont see me cribbing about matches when the team that plays better deservedly wins. By your logic, Dravid and ganguly should have been out the very next ball in that scg test, so the decisions didn't matter, rite?

  • Dummy4 on January 25, 2011, 14:23 GMT

    @Asis Rout: mate, i said "greatest odi player in the _making_". I never said he was the finished article yet. And yes, I do believe that he will be as good as either of your aforementioned players 10 years later. Plus , you cannot really compare people from different eras. Is Kallis better than SObers? On stats alone, yes. Is kallis better than Imran? again, on stats, yes. Is sachin better than Bradman? on stats bradman is better. But considering sachin played continuously for 20 years, different story. None of these comparisons use adaptive testing, i.e. test as per the difficulty and intelligence of the innings and the match situation. Stats will say Clarke and Dhoni are better players than Cam white and Kohli respectively. But you also have to look at the class of innings played rather than just the stats. Scoring a century to guide your team to a close win is very different to scoring 75* in a total of 350 odd.

  • Ajay on January 25, 2011, 12:49 GMT

    These SA bowlers "green track bullies" wud be carted in indian pitches which happened last time they toured india. they can only bowl threateningly in their bouncy and green pitches.

  • Dummy4 on January 25, 2011, 11:08 GMT

    @Paramjit Das Well I have followed your comments this summer and you sound a bit paranoid and claustrophobic for an Indian name.Well who are you to decide which decisions would have affected the course or outcome of the match?The decisions almost evened out in the end.Thats it.Not many of the Indian fans cribbed about the decisions in the third,fourth,fifth matches of the series and you brought the decisions of the Durban test in every discussion.Don't crib about Sachin's catch in the Capetown test.Umpires are not entitled to give a batsman out when bowlers give a stifled or feeble appeal.So you talk of your cricketing acumen by saying Amla is better than the likes of Richards or Gilly?The only points I agree on with you is the UDRS and South Africa being the better team in ODIs.BCCI should embrace the UDRS.

  • Manesh on January 25, 2011, 9:34 GMT

    @Paramjit Das. So Praveen Kumar is a batsman????. As far as I know he was one of the leading wiket takers for India in 2009 and 2010. And regarding Sachin. there is no need to get certificate for him from you. He proved his class already. If you have doubts, check the test match scores. And I am not mentioning Viru here because he is out of form. If you have doubts about his ability on boucy pitch, check the NZ tour where he was the only player to score 100 and won the match. But you cannot forget Gauti. He is a class act. Check how he adjusted to the bounce of the wicket and got runs in test. And reagrding WC, with this team SA not going to reach semis. They do not know how to play part timers like Yuvi and Rohit. There are lot of spinners in even BD line up. So , once again WC will be a dream for SA.

  • Ajay on January 25, 2011, 8:57 GMT

    klobania wants to satisfy himself by simply bad mouthing indian team ,he does it to deflect his attention from his pathetic Pak team.

  • Dummy4 on January 25, 2011, 8:04 GMT

    @maddy20: But those decisions did _not affect the consequences of the game_. India still would have lost anyways by almost the same margin. Whereas, the decisions in DUrban definitely caused SA to lose the test as well as botha's Bat before wicket dismissal in 2nd ODI caused SA to lose that match. IMO, SA should have won the ODI series 4-1 and tests 2-0 , and that too I am being charitable

  • Dummy4 on January 25, 2011, 8:02 GMT

    @MAN007: even though you may think this was india's B team in odi's, i wasn't. The bowlers are pretty much what India have and no bowler was injured. The batting, well, did you really7 expect sachin and sehwag to make a difference in the ODI's in SA? Sehwag cant play the swinging/bouncing ball and well Sachin's record in SA is still pathetic to say the least. Just give credit where its due. I dont think India will win the WC and neither will aus/eng/sl. I think SA (should) win it if they dont choke but...

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