Cape Town – Third innings as Test captain
of the Proteas, first century in that capacity ... it’s got to be considered a
pretty swift return.
As it happened: Sri Lanka v South Africa - Day 3
That was the situation on Saturday for
Hashim Amla, who led what was virtually a solitary, meaningful quest to keep
the hungry Sri Lankans at bay on day three of the decisive second Test in
Amla’s 22nd Test ton and first
against these opponents in seven Tests against them was the lone but very substantial
high point of South Africa’s middle day in the contest.
The dice is probably loaded at this stage
against the Proteas being able to save this game on a patience-testing surface and
prevent the ‘Lankans sharing the mini-series, but thanks to the skipper’s
resilience they have a slightly better chance of achieving it now and even a
win cannot completely yet be discounted.
There were plenty of doubters about the
wisdom of giving the leadership, as Graeme Smith’s successor, to a batsman who
has been one of the country’s essential kingpins for years and has previously
mostly shunned the chore in order to focus on his often brilliant endeavours at
But even if it stays early days in his
tenure, this innings, coming in eight hours and six minutes of admirable
concentration in demanding conditions - both cricketing and weather-related - was
quite some put-down for the dissenters.
Indeed, if Amla had stayed in the steamy
middle for that long under more orthodox, attack-minded circumstances for him
in this format, he would possibly have expected to have achieved or got much
nearer to another double-century than the 139 he was undefeated on when the
Proteas were bowled out in their first knock for a painstaking 282.
It doesn’t require Archimedes to work out
that he accounted for more than half of his team’s runs off the bat (there were
There had also been some publicity, ahead
of the team’s departure for their energy-sapping destination, about the fact
that Amla would have the physical drawback of campaigning there whilst in the
throes of the Ramadan fast - that’s been proved no snag at all, especially when
you add in his back-to-back tons in the one-day international series which SA
won against the odds.
Tempering his delight over his standout
personal success on Saturday, no doubt, would have been his awareness, before
the Proteas bowled a handful of unrewarded overs to Sri Lanka’s openers before
stumps, that the hosts still ended up leading on the first innings by precisely
as many runs as he had registered himself.
Still, Amla would have been quietly
satisfied for another reason: this was also his first rich, three-figure
harvest after his self-determined switch to designated No 4 in the order following
his appointment as skipper.
He does boast one prior century in the
berth, against England at Centurion in 2009/10, but that was only because he
was bumped out of his then-staple No 3 by Paul Harris having gone in ahead of
him as a night-watchman.
Sri Lanka powerfully hold the aces with six
sessions left in this Test; that’s hard to dispute.
But the Proteas have produced miracle
salvation acts before ... oh, and a certain Hashim Mahomed Amla still has a
second opportunity looming at the crease.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing