Chester-le-Street - Hashim Amla, one of South Africa's finest ever batsman in both red and white ball cricket, has been the subject of intense discussion among Proteas fans and analysts for some time now. 

Nobody can ever doubt what the man has achieved for his country, but the conversation centres around whether the time may have come for him to leave the international stage.

Now 36, Amla has struggled for consistency in all formats over the past couple of years and that has seen both his ODI and Test averages dip below 50. 

The obvious concern is that the legacy of one of the game's greats is being tainted by an inability to let go. 

All through the World Cup, the signs have been there that Amla is a shadow of his former self, with issues against genuine pace resurfacing and giving weight to the worry that his eyes and reaction times are not quite what they were before. 

The sickening blow Amla took from Jofra Archer in the tournament opener against England that forced him to retire hurt on 5* was the beginning of a testing few weeks for the man affectionately known as the 'Mighty Hash'.

Amla was eventually out for 13 (23) in that match after coming back in to bat when South Africa were already out of the contest, but he would miss the second match against Bangladesh as he continued his recovery from the Archer blow. 

Amla then returned for a must-win game against India in Southampton, but this time the pace of Jasprit Bumrah was too much for him as he nicked off to second slip to be out for 6 (9)

He was done by pace and bounce again against the West Indies, edging Sheldon Cottrell to slip to make 6 (7) as South Africa fell to 29/2 before the rain came and the match was called off. 

Against Afghanistan, Amla took 83 balls to card a knock of 41* as the Proteas cruised to their first victory of the tournament, and at that stage there were concerns that his slow batting would cost the Proteas if their semi-final participation came down to net run rate. 

Amla followed that up with a laboured 55 (83) against New Zealand in Birmingham, while he was trapped LBW for 2 (3) by Pakistan quick Mohammad Amir at Lord's as South Africa's World Cup elimination was confirmed.

Up until then, Amla had endured a frustrating and, at times, difficult to watch World Cup campaign. 

On Friday at Chester-le-Street with the pressure off and no real pace in the Sri Lankan attack, Amla bounced back with a beautifully constructed 80* (105) that rolled back the years and made you wonder what all the fuss was about. 

Amla acknowledged after the match that it was the innings he had been waiting for, but he cannot put his finger on exactly why he has been struggling over the past couple of years.

"It's hard to say," he said.

"I try and prepare as best as I can and give each ball the credit it deserves.

"Sometimes the runs come and sometimes they don't. It's a bit too late to do a post-mortem on things that happened three years ago. The plan is to try and score runs every game."

Amla was also probed on his scoring rate. 

While he boasts a more than respectable strike rate of 88.39 in his ODI career, that number stands at just 64.85 at the World Cup this year.

"I've managed to get some runs and I try and play the way that I know how to score runs," he said.

"Sometimes it might be a bit slower. Coming into this competition there was all this talk about 350 scores, and if you look around it hasn't really materialised that way.

"You've got to play each game and wicket how you can, and I use my experience to play accordingly.

"It's about fitting into the team. Not everyone is going to be scoring at 150 strike rate. It's about the team and if you play your part, then hopefully things work out and unfortunately early in the competition we didn't get those scores that we could defend properly."

Amla will play what will almost certainly be his final World Cup match when South Africa take on Australia in Manchester on July 6. 

He will then return home to Durban where he says he will spend time with his family and contemplate his future. 

Next up for the Proteas after the World Cup is a three-Test tour to India at the end of September that will be their first participation in the inaugural Test championship. 

Amla may not be at his most fluent anymore, but it is hard to see the Proteas embarking on such a daunting assignment without him. 

@LloydBurnard is in England covering the 2019 Cricket World Cup for Sport24 ...