South Africa v Zimbabwe, 1st ODI, Bloemfontein October 15, 2010

Ingram revels in familiar surroundings

Bloemfontein likes to claim Colin Ingram as its own. He was born in, schooled in and discovered cricket in the Eastern Cape but he actually became a cricketer in the City of Roses. Ingram moved up country to the Free State academy when he was starting university, six years ago. He stayed in Bloemfontein to complete his studies and blossomed as a young cricketer.

"It's my second home," said Ingram with a nostalgic smile. Many cricket-lovers in this part of the world were wishing he would make it his permanent home after the abundant promise he showcased in his academy days, but Ingram returned to his roots. After graduating, he went back to Port Elizabeth to play for the Warriors.

He knew that there would always be the occasional trip back to the Free State. One of those visits was Ingram's twenty-over debut. He was out for a third-ball duck. Subsequent journeys have been more successful, such as the 80 not out he hammered off 65 balls in the MTN40 in January this year. In fact, the whole of the 2009-10 season was a success for Ingram, who was the highest run-scorer in the MTN40 with 600 runs at 60.00 and the Standard Bank Pro20 with 282 at 47.16.

Ingram is not a numbers man though and admits he "wasn't aware of any of the statistics" involved in his performance in the opening ODI of the series against Zimbabwe. His eyes grew wider as he was told of the landmarks he had passed in this match. First, he surpassed Shaun Pollock's 66 as the highest ODI score by a South African on debut, then, he became just the sixth player in history to score a century on ODI debut and the only South African.

What he was concerned about was making an impression. "I haven't does as well as I would have liked in the recent months, especially coming off the back of the Champions League," he said. Ingram scored 122 runs in six matches in that competition. He started off trying to rectify that scratchily and only 16 runs came from his first 28 balls. "I was actually a bit nervous when I was on about 20 and started thinking that I should score quicker."

Who better than to help him get his confidence back than a man who is overflowing with it? "Batting with Hashim Amla was absolutely wonderful. He is one of the guys that I have basically grown my game around. He told me to just bat with him, get my feet moving and enjoy my time at the crease." While following the instructions of a man who had raced to his third ODI century of the year, Ingram found that he got his groove back and was able to maintain it even after Amla departed.

He shared a 76-run fifth-wicket stand with David Miller, a sign that the new-look South African middle order is developing into a formidable force and answering the captain's calls for the younger team members to take on major roles. Graeme Smith said he hoped performances like these would allow the players to "answer the question themselves" about who will be picked in the next year's World Cup squad.

Ingram will face an enormous challenge for the No. 3 spot from Jacques Kallis but he is happy for it to remain that way for now. "I am still a relative junior and if the situation demands that Jacques comes straight back in, I am happy with that. I am here to learn, grow my game and take any opportunities I get with both hands."

In this match, he grabbed full hold of that opportunity and throttled it for all it was worth. "He remained calm and stuck to his game plan throughout, he had a good training week and a lot of belief in himself," said Smith. There won't be the luxury of that much time for preparation before Sunday's match in Potchefstroom. But he'll have happy memories of the place having made an unbeaten 125 in the MTN40 the last time he was there.

Firdose Moonda is a freelance writer based in Johannesburg

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  • Qdzy on October 17, 2010, 19:51 GMT

    Hashim Amla has this very loose shot, driving off the back foot, away from his body outside off stump, ball goes uppish through gully / behind square on the offside, no foot movement at all. He sort of just swipes at it.

    He has played this shot several times this series. Has anyone noticed it?

  • Vinay on October 16, 2010, 15:45 GMT

    @sachinkhairnar5983 England has one of the best ODI bowling line ups in the world, agreed? That being the case, how did Amla manage to rack up runs against them too? India and Australia series, he scored runs yet again. Amla has improved vastly over the years and has proved he is not just a quality Test match player but an ODI one too. While Amla has scored heaps of runs against minnow teams, some of his fellow colleagues, notably Smith (certainly a great ODI player), has failed. This goes to show that life isn't as rosy against them as you're making out. To conclude really, you don't get to 4th in the ODI rankings by scoring runs solely against minnow teams. Along the way, he has been forced to bat against quality bowling line ups and delivered then too.

  • Dummy4 on October 16, 2010, 11:26 GMT

    Dear sachinkhairnar5983, i think u never played cricket yourself. At least ur comment reflects that. A century in international cricket can not be undermined even if that comes against the weakest of the teams. Please collect the videos of his innings in all the formats and watch. I am sure u urself will apologize for ur statement. Cheers.

  • Sachin on October 16, 2010, 8:58 GMT

    No i still think amla didnt deserves his place in ODI side, as D.Jacobs will be the best batsmen to open with G.smith by seeing his ability. amala has hit 4 centuries in odi and that also v/s team like bangladesh, zimbabwe and west indies (2) and out of 30 matches he have played his half matches are vs minnows and a depleted west indies side so from that we cant draw any conclusion that he is the best in odis and on other side he has scored only 556 runs out of 1481 vs rest of the potential better teams. and yes again replying to @muzmeister before thinking amla as a captain think about potentia contenders like devilliers and duminy in the team. but still i hope smith continues for next five years. and last dont ever compare him with sachin tendulkar after playing just one good test series against the indians.

  • muz on October 16, 2010, 6:38 GMT

    Agreed! I have enjoyed watching Hashim bat in all versions of the game this last 12 months. What a brilliant year he has had. A special player is he. If G Smith ever resigns the captaincy what a brilliant ready replacement they have in Hashim. Hard to believe SA actually left him out of their ODI team earlier this year. I'm not a SA supporter but thanks for the memories this year Hasham, its been special

  • Dummy4 on October 16, 2010, 0:41 GMT

    Hashim Amla i amazing!!!!!!! I consider him to be in better form than Tendulkar in is now. He definetly desreved the TEst Cricketer of the year award. The innings he played against India in India is unforgetable!!!!!!!11

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