Johannesburg - There was a beautiful moment at the end of Hashim Amla's press conference at the Wanderers on Thursday following his 26th Test hundred in his 100th Test match.
Having batted for over 75 overs to end his lean run of form, Amla was asked if there was ever a moment in his career where had ever felt flustered, or felt like things were getting on top of him.
Amla's team-mates, at domestic and international level, will tell you that he is always the coolest man in the dressing room, that nothing gets to him and that he never changes.
In response to the question, the 33-year-old looked skywards, had a long think, and replied with a simple "no".
And that just about sums up Amla.
While South Africa's cricketing community was hyping up Amla's 100th Test as much as they could, the man himself was keeping out of the limelight, meeting with his personal batting coach, Phil Russell, and trying to iron out the flaws in his game.
Before Thursday, Amla had gone 10 Test innings without getting past 50 - rare for a man of his stature.
"I'm really grateful to reach 100 Test matches, but to be
very honest I think the silver lining to me not scoring runs in the last couple
of Test matches was that my focus was pretty much on scoring runs," Amla said.
just wanted to have a quiet build-up. There’s been some frustration … not
getting runs over the last few games and not contributing to the team’s
"I just wanted my focus to be as pure as possible with no side
attractions and razzmatazz. I personally feel really grateful to get 100 (Test matches) and
there’s no disrespect for it, but I had a more important thing and that was to
try and work on my game with as least distractions as possible."
And, in typical fashion, the end result was an Amla masterclass.
He struggled initially - he was dropped on 5 - but by the time Amla got into the 30s he was beginning to look like the player who has averaged over 50 in Test cricket for so long.
The calm that Amla has brought to this Proteas side for over a decade was evident in his knock.
At 45/2, the Proteas were up against it.
But Amla - and JP Duminy (155) - were resilient at precisely the moment their country needed them to be.
"When I first got in, they bowled really well to us," he said.
right-hander it seemed like they got their lines better to us up front. You
just kind of sucked it up and had a bit of fortune, which you always need.
this type of wicket, you’re never in. Myself and JP just kept reminding each
other, because any ball could get you out. We tried to keep our focus like
The Proteas are now well set in the Test match, sitting at 338/3 at the end of day one.
Amla will resume his knock on Friday morning 125*.