Can Amla claw his way back to 50?

2019-01-17 20:07
Hashim Amla (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - It will be a popular development if it comes about.

Veteran Proteas batsman Hashim Amla, showing promising seeds of revival after a lengthy spell of under-delivery at various levels, has the opportunity in a full, five-match one-day international series against Pakistan from Saturday (St George's Park, 13:00) to hoist his average back to the hallowed 50-mark.

Or at least to kick-start the process, which will also soon enough feature another inviting opportunity: an equal-length home series against Sri Lanka.

Now well into his 36th year and having had a rough old time of it recently in the Test arena as well, there has been inevitable, understandable speculation that his powers are on the wane.

Damage to his once sublime - though still highly impressive - international batting statistics has been especially acute at five-day level, where he has gradually dipped from a once settled average in the low- to mid-fifties to 47.33. It may be a tall order now to expect the great accumulator to push that figure back to half-ton terrain.

But in ODIs, where the decline has been limited to his present 49.65 - though also from the prior mid-fifties - he probably sports a better chance of returning that curve more northward.

Not too many of the world's most long-serving, consistent limited-overs stars can boast career ODI averages in the fifties, remember.

Of the top 20 heaviest scorers in the landscape of all time, just three (Virat Kohli 59.76, AB de Villiers 53.50 and MS Dhoni 50.38) have managed that status; Kohli and Dhoni, of course, remain active for India and in sprightly present form in Australia.

The heaviest run-maker in ODIs, Sachin Tendulkar (18,426) averaged "only" 44.83.

Amla, for the record, is currently the 32nd best runs-grabber in ODI history and likely to shift up several positions even if he decides to pull the plug on his illustrious career after the World Cup, beginning in England in late May.

Although nobody qualifies on sentimental grounds, it would somehow just feel right if the popular, long-serving stroke-player can hike back to 50-plus territory in at least one of the two major formats before he strolls into the sunset.

He will begin this ODI series, in Port Elizabeth, presumably very heartened by his steely, so welcome dual contribution of 41 and 71 at the Wanderers to the Proteas' clean sweep-ensuring triumph over the Pakistanis in the Test series.

Amla is not quite "there" yet in terms of rekindling his heyday, of course. As visiting SuperSport commentator and scribe Mark Nicholas observed this week on "(His) cricket these past weeks has revealed both the influence of Father Time and a deep-rooted determination to overcome him."

But a discernible stride back toward regular, meaningful productiveness is nevertheless apparent: Amla had also weighed in with a gritty 63 not out in tricky, sometimes lottery-like conditions in the second innings of the first Test at Centurion, and shortly before that ended an unusually desperate little period for him with a knock of 61 for the Cape Cobras in the domestic franchise first-class competition.

So the scene is quite promisingly set for Amla to begin his personal, 2019 ODI campaign successfully.

The 2018 calendar year had been the worst of his decade in the environment; he managed an average of only 28.63. That is incomparable with, for instance, his halcyon 2012 year when his average was a dreamy 84.75.

St George's Park is not traditionally one of his more notably happy hunting grounds in ODIs; none of his 26 centuries have been registered there.

But he has notched half-centuries in each of his last two matches in the format there, and fell tantalisingly short of the three-figure mark in the last Friendly City clash specifically with Pakistan, back in November 2013: he plundered 98.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    pakistan  |  proteas  |  hashim amla  |  cricket


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