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Firdose Moonda in East London
January 13, 2012
There comes a point in a series when there is nothing but pride to play for. That is usually when a team has disintegrated as much as is possible, or when the games are dead rubbers. Neither of those situations actually exist in the ongoing contest between South Africa and Sri Lanka, but already it feels like pride is all Sri Lanka have to lean on as they enter the second match.
Paarl is a place Sri Lanka would like to strike off the map. The number between 42 and 44 will become an unmentionable for them. Humiliation is an easy word to write or say, but a painful one to experience.
South Africa know all about being embarrassed and although they are now the ones inflicting the blushes, there is a sense of pathos about the way Hashim Amla spoke of Sri Lanka's woes. "If a similar thing had happened to us, we would be quite motivated to put in a better performance," Amla said at Boland Park, ahead of the second ODI. "So taking that into account, we know that Sri Lanka will come back firing - as they did in the Test matches. They are a proud team with a lot of heritage, so we're not going to take them lightly."
For a team to bounce back from a thrashing is to be expected, especially when there is hardly any room for them to get worse. For a team to keep the momentum going after handing out a thrashing is tricky.
Historically, this is the juncture at which South Africa tend to slack off. Only recently have they started admitting to it, and captain AB de Villiers had previously stressed that it is something they will address seriously in this series. "The most important thing will be the attitude that we bring to the game," Amla said. "With a very convincing victory, the mood in the camp is good and we hope to continue that [winning]."
Amla was central to the victory, as his century set South Africa up for a total of over 300. His three-figure knock also showed that he probably performs better without the extra burden of leadership. Amla captained in de Villiers' absence in the previous series against Australia and had scored 24, 0 and 52. "Not being captain, there is a lot less on your plate," he said. "I just tried to take things simply and when you get a partnership going, it's always easier to score."
Jacques Kallis was the dominant partner in a 144-run second-wicket stand with Amla. As Kallis accumulated with ease, Amla was allowed to take his time to build his innings. "In situations like that, it is important to put emphasis on the partnership rather than on personal runs," Amla said. "As the partnership progressed, I found my feet and started scoring more freely."
By the time Kallis was dismissed, in the Powerplay, Amla had hit a good rhythm. With de Villiers, he took 91 runs off the next 12 overs, to take the game away from a weary Sri Lankan attack. "AB is a phenomenal player, he reads the situation very well," Amla said. "He took the game to the opposition. Sometimes, it becomes a tendency not to score as quickly when you lose a wicket but his awesomeness came through."
On a pitch that had some uneven bounce and started off slow and low, South Africa batted like they were walking on a velvet carpet. Their intent did not subside with the ball and the bowlers battered the Paarl strip to create extra bounce. Amla expects the same in East London, which is also known to be a placid surface. "We'll still bowl with a lot of intent but you have to be adaptable to these kinds of games."
The team may have to do without Amla soon, as he is awaits the birth of his first child. His wife, Sumayya, is due "any day now", and he has made arrangements to take a break from the series when the baby arrives. Amla is due to play in East London but may not make it to Bloemfontein, which will leave South Africa in a tricky position at the top.
Amla is the in-form opener with Graeme Smith struggling. The former captain has not scored an ODI hundred since 2009 and has only made one half-century in his last 14 innings. Robin Peterson may be used in a makeshift role or the selectors could use the opportunity to blood a youngster like Richard Levi. The only other concern for South Africa is in the reserves.
Rory Kleinveldt, who has not played for the national team since a World T20 match in 2010, will have to wait to make his comeback. A quadricep injury has ruled him out of the rest of the series.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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