ICC World Twenty20

Amla: What’s the alternative?

2014-03-26 23:08
Hashim Amla (AFP)

Cape Town – It is just a little strange that strengthening numbers of people seem to believe Hashim Amla, one of South Africa’s long-time bedrock batsmen across the formats, isn’t suited enough to Twenty20 and should be shelved with some haste.

Yes, it is almost certainly the landscape to which his very cultured skills are the least geared, but to suggest that he play no further part in the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh would be short-sighted in the extreme.

There is one particularly powerful reason: the very composition of the 15-strong Proteas squad at the event.

In short, there is no other genuinely specialist, trustworthy frontline batsman to replace him, and the SA tail as presently constituted is uncomfortably long anyway with Dale Steyn the No 8 in both group matches (one win, one loss) so far.

As indicated at the outset of the tournament, the South African “reserves” thus far are overwhelmingly made up of bowlers, one or two of whom can hold a bat: Wayne Parnell (the closest to an all-rounder), Aaron Phangiso and Beuran Hendricks.

The only batsman among the spare options is Farhaan Behardien, but he has not yet registered a heavy score in 12 T20 internationals – his best is 31 not out – and he has been tried in every slot between Nos 4 and 7, which is not suggesting massive confidence in his ability to be a meaningful factor.

Perhaps the 30-year-old from the Titans will eventually surprise everyone, but with few of the established senior batsmen in truly good touch right now, dropping a heavyweight like Amla, for all his T20 imperfections, would be a big call.

No, a very big call.

Besides, it would also be crazy to under-value the role he played in the thrilling two-run victory over New Zealand earlier this week to inject fresh life into the Proteas’ challenge.

He looked scratchy and uncomfortable for some time in his knock of 41 (it seemed slow, yet was still above run-a-ball), but he was just as influential as JP Duminy during their seven-over alliance in rebuilding a wobbling SA innings.

The Proteas, remember, had slipped to a dangerous 42 for three -- in what would develop into a high-scoring clash -- when key character AB de Villiers lost his balance against Nathan McCullum to be bowled for just five.

So the partnership for the fourth wicket of 55 between Amla and Duminy, at just under eight runs to the over even if the latter was main aggressor, became a vital device in South Africa’s eventual triumph.

I do not believe Amla can be “hidden” anywhere else in the Proteas’ order – that might be a more feasible plan if they boasted better batting security right down to the bowels – and my recommendation for remaining matches is the status quo: Amla and Quinton de Kock to open.

If someone like De Villiers suddenly finds his known, magical touch to complement the inspired form being exhibited by Duminy, the entire SA innings ought to look greatly more cohesive and zestful.

With arguably better-than-par totals of 160 for eight against Sri Lanka and then 170 for six against the Black Caps, it is not the batting that needs wholesale remedial attention in this Proteas side: certain seamers are skating on thin ice.

No, as you were, Hash ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  world twenty20  |  hashim amla  |  cape town  |  cricket

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