Proteas in England

Hash, Viv: Eng heartbreakers

2012-09-07 14:27
Hashim Amla (Gallo)
Cape Town – Considering the difference of 36 years, and the much-altered general cricketing landscape, it is not exactly an apples-with-apples comparison.

But I believe it is worthwhile, nevertheless, to weigh up the hugely impactful effects two batsmen – Sir Vivian Richards and Hashim Amla – had in seminal English summer tours for their respective international teams, West Indies and South Africa.

Of course Amla’s 2012 visit to the Green and Pleasant Land isn’t quite over yet: there is still the matter of three lingering Twenty20 internationals, starting at Durham on Saturday, before the Proteas pack their bags for the ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka.

Just how much of a role the bearded batting assassin plays in the series remains to be seen, because there is probably a sound case for offering him at least some rest and refreshment opportunity after his plundering performances in the Tests and one-day internationals.

Richards, of course, never got to play T20 cricket as he retired in 1991, but it is possible to measure the individual impacts he and Amla made in the other two codes to English seasons where the main goal of the overall raid –duly achieved by both the Windies and Proteas – was to clinch the Test series.

Back in the unusually sweltering summer of ’76, the West Indies won the five-match Test portion 3-0 and the three-game ODIs by the same score-line.

In 2012, of course, the Test series was scandalously restricted to three contests and there was an inevitably greater tally of ODIs – five, although the first was abandoned due to rain.

South Africa inspiringly grabbed the Test series 2-0 and came from 2-1 down to split the ODIs 2-2.

In 1976, the year that heralded the true arrival of the “Master Blaster” from Antigua, a famously incendiary note was sounded in the lead-up by England’s South African-born captain Tony Greig, who announced: “I intend to make them grovel.”

It was in the thick of the apartheid era back in these parts, of course, so the imagery Greig’s brazen statement evoked was obvious.

The cudgels were keenly taken up in response by a West Indies side only considered as “emerging” at the time.

But in the form of fearsome pacemen like Andy Roberts and Michael Holding but primarily by the virtually non-stop brilliance of Richards at the crease, the Caribbean marauders instead sparked a new era of iconic dominance. 

The dashing right-hander was 24 then, and only some 18 months into his Test career, but it was undoubtedly the tour that established his legend and would remain his best personal series by some distance.

Richards amassed 829 runs in four Tests (he missed one through injury) and only seven innings, at an average of 118.42, his series culminating in a career-best 291 in the fifth encounter at The Oval.

So maybe it is fitting that, in 2012, Amla launched his own assault and battery on English bowling at the very same venue (unusually staging an opening Test), with that withering 311 not out that bettered Richards’ score and now stands as his and South Africa’s most productive ever knock.

Like the West Indian all those years before him, Amla never really let up as the weeks went by, not only sharing man-of-the-Test-series with Matt Prior but then being top scorer for the Proteas in all four completed ODIs.

Across the two series, the KwaZulu-Natalian compiled 817 runs in nine innings at an average of 116. Yes, decidedly Richards-like.

The ever-unassuming Amla is much more of a caresser than Richards, brasher in personality and more inclined toward “clobbering” when he was in a particularly bellicose mood, but what is clear is that regardless of how their styles have differed, they have indelibly stamped themselves as season-specific dominators in the country that first brought us cricket.

Just as Richards was generously lauded for his exploits there in ’76, Amla has been able to bask in the rightful glow of effusive English applause whenever he has headed back for the pavilion, job so beautifully done.

For the record, Richards scored 8,540 runs in 121 Tests at 50.23; Amla has thus far achieved 4,946 in 62 at 49.95, so they could be said to be pretty much level-pegging. Amla’s ODI average, meanwhile, stands at a particularly swollen 59.55, to Richards’ 47.00, though the latter’s admittedly in an era where conditions were not nearly as tailor-made for batting carnage.

Perhaps the major point of this article is to suggest just how nearby Hashim Mahomed Amla lurks to the illustrious company of Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, named one of five Cricketers of the Century in 2000, let’s not forget ...

England 2012

Amla in Tests

1st Test, The Oval: 311 not out

2nd Test, Leeds: 9 and 28

3rd Test, Lord’s: 13 and 121

Amla in ODIs

2nd ODI, Southampton: 150

3rd ODI, The Oval: 43

4th ODI, Lord’s: 45

5th ODI, Nottingham: 97 not out

England 1976

Richards in Tests


1st Test, Nottingham: 232 and 63

3rd Test, Manchester: 4 and 135

4th Test, Leeds: 66 and 38

5th Test, The Oval: 291

Richards in ODIs

1st ODI, Scarborough: 119 not out

2nd ODI, Lord’s: 97

3rd ODI, Birmingham: 0

Read more on:    sa in england  |  hashim amla  |  cricket
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