Cape Town - While no home Test this summer has gone to a fifth day, Proteas batsman Hashim Amla says their latest match against Pakistan was South Africa’s toughest challenge since their away series in Australia last year.
“Pakistan took us to our limits in certain respects,” Amla said in Cape Town on Tuesday.
“We were under pressure in our first innings and then chasing 180, in the second, was never going to be an easy total.”
The top-order batsman said Robin Peterson’s 84 in the first innings had provided the difference between the two sides, and he heaped praise on the left-arm spinner.
“We all know the kind of work Robbie puts in behind the scenes so it was wonderful to watch him oozing with confidence while he was batting,” Amla said.
“He also made a significant contribution with the ball and he has become a recognised player in his own right now.”
Amla was unconcerned about the side’s batting performance at Newlands and believed, in the context of the game, they had done well.
“It was not an easy wicket to bat on in the first innings - for both teams - and, with one more game to go, I wouldn’t read too much into it.”
The team had not been overly intimidated by seven-foot paceman Mohammad Irfan, and Amla said they would look at the Centurion wicket before they worried about the damage he could do in the next Test starting on Friday.
“If Irfan had played at the Wanderers, where there was a lot of bounce, we’d have been able to judge him better. If Centurion has a bit of pace and bounce, then all the seamers will come into play more.
“Irfan bowled quite well at Newlands and it’s not often you face someone so tall. He got a lot of bounce but, fortunately for us, we face Morne Morkel in the nets, so we have an inkling of what he’s like."
Morkel was ruled out of the third and final Test - after picking up a hamstring injury - and Cricket South Africa confirmed on Tuesday that Rory Kleinveldt would replace him in Centurion, with uncapped seamer Kyle Abbott called up as cover.
“Rory has become an integral part of the team, filling in whenever someone has been injured. Against New Zealand, he bowled really well and he’s a quality performer,” Amla said.
“The series is already sealed so there is less pressure on getting Morne ready and playing him half-fit. It’s a lovely opportunity for Rory to cement his position as one of the leading bowlers in the country.”
Despite the unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, Amla said every game was important to the team, and to their winning culture, and some of the players still had something to prove.
“A lot of us in the top order have got in, but haven’t made massive contributions, so we’re hungry to do that.
"The bowlers have enjoyed their wickets and will want to keep on in that vein, so there is a lot to play for still.
“This country is a very proud nation so we have a duty to uphold in that regard.”