Cape Town – It says much about his reputation as a
consistently stellar “accumulator” that Hashim Amla’s failure to genuinely get
among the runs after five innings in his maiden tour of New Zealand will be
just starting to surprise some observers.
Conversely, you might argue that it is a triumph for a
re-emerging, confident team ethic that South Africa have won three matches on
the trot against the Black Caps (two in the Twenty20 code plus the first
one-day international) without one of their central batting pillars for several
seasons now coming to the party.
So if he posts a slightly overdue big score in the second
one-day international at Napier on Wednesday (03:00 SA time), the Proteas ought
to be in with a particularly good chance of killing off the ODI series with one
game to spare – not for nothing is Amla still comfortably the ICC top-ranked batsman
in the world at the format, with in-form colleague and captain AB de Villiers
next in the pecking order.
Amla has looked in good touch most of the time thus far, and
perhaps at least partly been undone by cricket’s penchant for dishing out doses
of pure ill luck at times.
He was run out by an inch or two for 19 after looking
smoothly set in the first T20 clash at Wellington, and in his most recent knock
at the same Westpac Stadium venue on Saturday – South Africa’s satisfying
six-wicket triumph in the first ODI – chopped on to the often mouthy Tim
Southee for eight as the top three collectively misfired.
There have also been one or two occasions in New Zealand
thus far when, like some specialist batting colleagues, he has succumbed to a
mild dose of over-eagerness in shot selection.
A traditionally well-organised and mentally composed player,
you would expect the 28-year-old, who ought to earn his 56th ODI cap
at Napier to go with the same tally in Tests, to set that right before too
Top score in his five knocks in the Land of the Long White
Cloud remains his 35 in the T20 warm-up fixture against Canterbury.
Amla certainly left South African shores in excellent fettle,
having scored 93 in a reasonably rare SuperSport Series appearance for the
Dolphins against the Lions at Kingsmead, and before he took a paternity-related
break from the last three ODIs against Sri Lanka, had belted those particular
opponents for 112 (Paarl) and 55 (East London) in respective winning causes.
Even if it was on South African soil – at Newlands in late
April 2006 – Amla will have fond memories of playing New Zealand because they
were the victims of his maiden Test century (149).
Meanwhile the Black Caps are reportedly mulling over the
fact that their bowling attack looked increasingly “pop gun” after their promising
start to the first ODI.
Seamers Southee and Doug Bracewell are under scrutiny after
each conceded more than 60 runs in completed 10-over spells as De Villiers and
Faf du Plessis, in particular, made the chase for 254 suddenly look all too
easy in the Cake Tin ...
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