Pakistan v SA

Amla’s stamina a key ODI asset

2010-11-02 23:26
Hashim Amla (Gallo Images)
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – There is little more you can say in praise of Hashim Amla’s riotously successful quest to nail himself down, against some initial odds, as a one-day international “must pick”.

He is simply scoring runs so frequently and meticulously for his country that the superlatives dry up a bit.

To take it notably further, he is arguably the most stellar ODI performer worldwide in 2010 – a remarkable state of affairs when you consider that some critics once firmly felt Test cricket should be his sole international focus.

And Amla’s sixth century for the Proteas in the format in Dubai on Tuesday was almost certainly his most valuable, coming on a pitch which required the utmost in application and resolve as South Africa squeaked in by two runs for a 2-1 lead in the five-match series against Pakistan.

He is a man in the 50-overs form of his life, with five tons now in his last 11 innings (there’s also a 92 sandwiched in there) and a lowest knock in the period of 24.

If he manages one more three-figure score over the course of the next two games he will equal Gary Kirsten’s South African record of six in a calendar year.

Mind you, Kirsten had the benefit of 29 ODI innings in 1996 to achieve that landmark – Amla has been to the crease only 13 times.

Of course AB de Villiers is firmly in the hunt as well, with five centuries of his own – how he was given out stumped for 19 by the official “upstairs” on Tuesday when his foot was clearly back over the line remains a mystery of some magnitude.

Unassuming KwaZulu-Natalian Amla is also developing a handy little trend in scoring consistently heavily in conditions that test human durability to a maximum.

In the tropical humidity of the West Indies earlier this year, he amassed ODI knocks of 102, 92, 34 and 129 over the course of just eight days in a typically cluttered programme.

Now, in the United Arab Emirates, where the desert heat burns the lungs in a slightly different way – there are still daily maximums of around 35 deg C in this supposedly “cooler” season in the region – he is showing similar signs of iron resolve.

After scoring 65 in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, he was doubly prolific in the latest instance, batting right through the 50 overs for the first time in his 35-game career for 119 not out off 126 balls, well more than half his team’s total of 228 for nine after being offered first strike by the suddenly right-up-for-it Pakistanis.

On a pitch particularly challenging because emphatic front-foot driving was so rare a luxury, Amla could only register nine fours, which meant as many as 83 of his runs came in scuttling between the stumps – I can think of a few cricketers both in the SA camp and around the planet who might have suffered serious cramping in such circumstances.

So his admirable athleticism shone through afresh: commentator Mike Haysman noted that Amla didn’t even come off for the dinner break bathed in any especially visible sweat.

And back in the SuperSport studio after the nail-biting match, Daryll Cullinan succinctly lauded him as “a quiet man with enormous mental powers”.

Amla has swelled his ODI average to 61.13. Just for the record, Sachin Tendulkar, who sports more runs than anyone (17,598) averages 45.12, although maybe we should wait until the South African has also played 442 matches before we draw fair comparisons!

Really, the Proteas should be 3-0 up in the UAE series by now, but at least they just ended on the winning side on Tuesday after nearly botching it with their unsatisfactory bowling – and some panicky fielding, too -- at the death for a second game on the trot.

Not for the first time, that man Amla is owed a king-size debt of gratitude …

Read more on:    proteas  |  pvp  |  hashim amla

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