In 99 Tests, Hashim Amla has scored 7 665 runs. The greatest of those were the 311* he ran up against England at the Oval in the first Test of the 2012 tour.
There is more to it than the fact that he became the first South African to hit a triple hundred: it was the circumstances in which he did it. South Africa were under pressure after day one, when England had scored 267-3, and went on to 385. It was a huge target just to gain parity.
When the Proteas declared at tea on day four, they had 637-2, with Graeme Smith having scored 131 and Jacques Kallis on 182*. But their performances were overshadowed by the pure skill and poise of Amla’s artistic innings, in which he guided, cut and drove 35 fours. Not only that, Amla was fasting throughout the match and not once took a sip of water on the field.
Dale Steyn (5-56) did the rest against a demoralised team to bring up victory by an innings and 12.
121 v England, third Test, Lord’s 16-20 August 2012
This was a must-win match for England if they were to stop South Africa taking their No 1 title and they came out fighting. England held a 16-run lead from the first innings, and were looking strong when they dismissed Alviro Petersen and Graeme Smith with 50 runs on the board.
Amla, in his calm but authoritative way dug in for a stand of 81 with Jacques Kallis, who contributed 31 of those, and one of 95 with AB De Villiers (43), the only two to offer any meaningful support. Amla’s 121 came off 205 balls with 10 fours and enabled South Africa to offer a target of 346. England fell 51 runs short and the Proteas were top of the world.
149 v New Zealand, second Test, Newlands, 27 April-1 May 2006
This here not necessarily for the score – his maiden Test century – and certainly not for elegance in a high-scoring drawn match. It was his return to the Test arena, in place of ‘mentally fatigued’ Herschelle Gibbs after being sent back to franchise cricket, after six Tests, to work on his technique.
He worked with Gary Kirsten tirelessly until his results forced the selectors’ hand. The main outcome was his realisation that he needed to keep it simple. ‘When I’m batting, I try to concentrate on what I’m doing and stay as calm as I can. I always try to keep it simple. I hope it will be a long Test career, and maybe if I can score 50 centuries in my career, no-one will question my technique.’
100 v England, first Test, Centurion 16-20 December 2009
Amla rescued South Africa from a first-session meltdown with a brilliant and phlegmatic century built over five and quarter hours and put South Africa in a position to win. They could not quite pull it off, but his stand prevented South Africa going one-down in the series.
At 46-4 in the 22nd over, with a precarious lead of 108, but Amla retained his composure admirably, crouching low in his stance to combat the bounce and calmly working the gaps. His resolute stand enabled AB de Villiers (64) to play more freely, stretching the lead to a far more comfortable 227. Mark Boucher, too, was liberated by Amla’s solid stand and they put on 75 for the seventh wicket, allowing the Proteas to declare and offer a target of 364. England were nine down when stumps were drawn.
253 v India, Nagpur, 6-9 February 2010
Amla batting for more than 11 hours is a display of discipline and determination which took the game away from India and set up victory by an innings and six runs.
Just as an example, Amla faced 139 balls from the leg-spinner Amit Mishra for just 34 runs. ‘There were a few tough parts: the reverse swing and facing the spinners. Mishra beat the bat many, many times but in a way you don’t look back and sigh,’ he said.
While Jacques Kallis had set the tone with his aggressive 173, Amla faced 473 deliveries and the batsmen after him got 556 in all. Amla could continue playing his natural game, taking singles and punishing the loose deliveries, because AB de Villiers came out full of intent, playing almost every other delivery about four yards down the wicket for his 53. Commentators said that the cover drive he played to bring up 200 was ‘the standout shot of an innings that was so remarkably even you’d struggle to pick a favourite area or favourite shot in.’
In the next match in Kolkata, Amla scored a century in both innings but the Proteas went down by an innings and 57 runs.
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