It was an unspectacular way to mark an outstanding career.
Hashim Amla drove Paul Stirling’s off-break languidly to long-off for a trotted single; but that stroke brought up his hundred and made him the fastest batsman to reach 20 one-day centuries. He has batted in just 108 innings.
To put that in context, the next most aggressive batsman was India’s brilliant Virat Kohli, who blazed his path in 133 knocks. The prolific AB de Villiers had taken a pedestrian 175 innings, and below them sat such luminaries as Sourav Ganguly, Herschelle Gibbs, and Sachin Tendulkar, who laboured through 197 innings to gather in 20 hundreds.
It has taken Amla nearly eight years to compile that 20, having made his debut in March 2008, but his value to the side is measured by the fact that from these 20 centuries, South Africa has gone on to win 18 matches. He averages nearly 60 an innings at a strike rate of more than 90.
With 28 fifties and 20 hundreds in 108 innings Amla has converted a staggering 44% of his innings into milestones. Add to that, Amla has been dismissed in the nineties on five occasions.
A quick glance at his ODI record shows that Amla, a month away from his 32nd birthday, is getting better and better at this form of the game. He announced himself with five centuries in 2010, but went quiet over the next two years, when he gathered four more. But last year he exploded out of the blocks with five and so far this year has notched up three; including his two best scores of 153 not out against the West Indies in Johannesburg and 159 against Ireland.
Supersport commentator Kepler Wessels praised his contribution, not only for the solid platforms that he gave the Proteas, but for the rate at which he scored; giving his teammates freedom and time to play aggressive innings of their own.
‘It is not just against “weaker” teams that Amla scores,’ he pointed out. ‘He has done it all over the world and under all sorts of circumstances. He is absolutely vital to the Proteas’ cause. He is the rock on which they build.’
Interestingly, Amla broke another of Kohli’s records earlier this year when he became the quickest man to score 5 000 one-day international runs, reaching that mark after 101 innings before being run out for 66 against West Indies in January. Kohli and Windies legend Viv Richards previously held the record after taking 114 knocks to reach that mark. He also, just for good measure, got to 2 000, 3 000 and 4 000 runs quicker than anyone else, but he missed out on the 1 000, which is jointly held by his teammate Quinton de Kock, along with Kevin Pietersen, Jonathon Trott and Viv Richards, all in 21 innings.
NUMBER OF INNINGS FOR BATSMEN TO GET 20 ODI CENTURIES
101 Hashim Amla (South Africa)
133 Virat Kohli (India)
175 AB de Villiers (South Africa)
197 Sachin Tendulkar (India)
214 Sourav Ganguly (India)
217 Herschelle Gibbs (South Africa)
226 Chris Gayle (West Indies)
243 Saeed Anwar (Pakistan)
244 Ricky Ponting (Australia)
350 Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka)