The Proteas’ search for centuries may come to an end this week when they revisit the scene of Hashim Amla’s record-breaking triple-ton.
The Proteas have room for improvement. The South African batsmen showed remarkable mettle to blunt the England attack in what were favourable bowling conditions in the second Test at Trent Bridge.
The bowlers did well to exploit those conditions, as well as the technical weaknesses of the England batsmen. And yet one has to believe that the best is yet to come from the tourists in this series, especially in the batting department.
This week, England will host the Proteas in the third Test. The contest will be staged at The Oval, the site of a famous South African victory, as well as a record-breaking feat by Amla in 2012.
Graeme Smith scored 131 and Jacques Kallis 182 not out as South Africa posted 637-2 declared. The real hero in that emphatic victory – the Proteas won by an innings and 12 runs – was Amla, who became the first South African to score a triple century in Tests when he hit 311 not out.
Four years later, and the Proteas are searching for inspiration. It’s been five Tests since one of the South African batsmen scored a century. Amla posted 78 and 87 in the recent match at Trent Bridge, while Dean Elgar scored 80 in the second innings. Those were crucial contributions in the context of a game played on a bowler-friendly surface. However, it must be a concern for the senior players and management that nobody has gone on to post a big century in recent times.
Amla himself may be looking to make a statement at The Oval. England will not have forgotten how Amla dominated their attack at this very ground back in 2012. Amla went on to score another important century (121) in the series decider at Lord’s. Two more 100-plus contributions followed in the big series in Australia, as Amla scored 104 in Brisbane and 196 in Perth. The Proteas won that series in Australia and thus enhanced their reputation as the best side in the world.
Since the beginning of 2015, however, he has battled to post many Test scores of significance. Amla has scored seven 50s and three 100s in the 39 innings played during this period. His last century was scored in the third Test against Sri Lanka earlier this year (134).
Conditions should favour the batsmen in the third Test between England and South Africa at The Oval this week. England will feel that they have a point to prove after their dismal performance at Trent Bridge. The Proteas should be looking to take their own batting to the next level. There should be an opportunity to post significant individual and team scores.
We’re now two Tests into this four-game series in England and we’ve yet to witness a century by a South African player. Five tons were scored by Proteas players in the three-game series in 2012, seven in four Tests in 2008, six in five in 2003, four in five in 1998, and two in three in 1994.
It would surprise to see the Proteas completing the current series without one player scoring a century. That outcome would certainly hurt their chances of claiming a third-successive Test series win in England.
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