Cape Town – South Africa took the principle of “don’t tamper
with a winning team” to new levels of devotion at the Wanderers on Sunday.
Tongues were set wagging at the toss for the second one-day
international against Australia when captain Faf du Plessis revealed that
master batsman Hashim Amla – who missed the opening victory at SuperSport Park
on Friday through illness – was restored to fitness, and simply not chosen.
The bearded accumulator extraordinaire (current world
ranking third among ODI batsmen, career runs 6,445 at 51.97) was quickly seen
in the dugout wearing a substitute’s bib, looking a picture of health and
chatting to team-mates after the Proteas lost the toss and were inserted.
Amla also has a superlative record at the famous
Johannesburg venue: five innings in the format, 344 runs at 86.00 including two
The move stunned renowned television critics.
“You can’t tell me Hashim Amla isn’t better than some of the
guys in the top six,” said former SA captain Kepler Wessels.
“Especially in the absence of AB de Villiers, surely you need
him. I’m astonished.”
Meanwhile visiting commentator and former Australia skipper
Allan Border, seeing a humorous side in the fierce bilateral rivalry, added: “I
think South Africa should leave him out indefinitely.”
Although the rejigged opening combination of Quinton de Kock
and Rilee Rossouw excelled in Friday’s comfortable win, blasting 145 runs in
only some 18 overs, common sense suggested that a fit-again Amla would return
at the top of the order with Rossouw operating elsewhere amongst the top four –
a status he is both suited to and proven enough at.
As Wessels pointed out, Amla is statistically light years
superior to several incumbents of specialist batting berths in the South
African ODI order – some of whom aren’t even compellingly assured of their
slots at national level.
The latter category certainly includes JP Duminy, David
Miller and Farhaan Behardien, scheduled occupants of positions four, five and
six respectively on the renowned Wanderers limited-overs “belter”.
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