Former coach happy with Amla's progress

Hylton Ackerman, the former Western Province captain who first spotted Hashim Amla's talent, has said he is happy with the progress his former charge has been making. Amla had a slow start to his Test career but has had a great 2008, making 1012 including three centuries.

"People used to make a big fuss about his backlift and say he'd never crack it as a top player," Ackerman, who also coached him at the Under-19 and A levels, told news24. "He's proved them wrong - it has barely changed since he was a kid."

Amla's average was a poor 22 at the end of 2006, it jumped to 32 by the end of the next year and is now a respectable 40, and the constant improvement came in for praise from Ackerman. "He's not static, and it's to his credit that he's lifted his standards both as a batsman playing all around the wicket and as a fielder too - he used to be pretty poor in that department but he's excellent now."

Amla started the Australian tour with an unbeaten century in a one-day warm-up game against Western Australia and Ackerman felt the series would be a big challenge. "He is still finding his way against the short ball from genuinely fast bowlers, and I will be glued to my TV to see how he handles the Brett Lee barrage in the Tests.

"England certainly tested Amla against the bouncer as well this year, and he bobbed and weaved and dropped his wrists rather well - but those pitches are also slower than Australian ones.

"I think if Hashim gets through the Lee trial he will be up and away in Oz. I have no problem with his decision not to attempt the hook shot, and rather to concentrate on his (evasive tactics)."

The first Test starts on Wednesday in Perth, on what is expected to be the fastest surface of the series.