Hashim Amla became the quickest to 25 ODI centuries in history, as the Proteas finished on 299-6 in their Champions Trophy opener against Sri Lanka.
A score of 320-plus looked on the cards for the Proteas for most of the innings, but they’ll still be confident that their seamers can do the job on this track. The groundsman lived up to his words when he said that the pitch would be more bowler-friendly than the tournament opener between England and Bangladesh.
Bowling first was always going to be the favourable option at the toss, and Upul Tharanga had no hesitation in putting the Proteas in to bat. Against a side they had thrashed 5-0 earlier in the year and without their talismanic skipper Angelo Mathews, the Proteas were hoping to breeze through their Group B opener at the Oval.
It will be interesting to see how the Sri Lankans approach the first 15 overs of their innings. The pitch is two-paced and the ball wasn’t coming off the bat cleanly, but they possess a very attacking top three who probably won’t factor that in.
The way the pitch played, made Amla’s century all the more special. He played it cautiously in the first 10 overs with Quinton de Kock, and the pair actually did well to keep their wickets in tact, despite an LBW review scare for De Kock. De Kock wasn’t having a happy time out there and he eventually departed for 23 off 42. It was just reward for Nuwan Pradeep (2-54), who, together with Lasith Malinga (0-57) and Suranga Lakmal (1-51), showed excellent discipline.
But then it fell apart a bit for the Sri Lankans. The fast bowling became too short, and the slow bowling proved ineffectual. Faf du Plessis and Amla struck up a 145-run stand at a rate of knots, with the game slipping away from the islanders’ reach.
But then one excellent catch changed the course of the innings. Du Plessis was dropped on eight, thanks to a clumsy attempt from Malinga on the boundary ropes, but Dinesh Chandimal plucked one at mid-wicket, and Du Plessis had to walk back for 75. Six balls later and AB de Villiers was gone too. He got off the mark with ease, but a mistimed pull shot off Seekkuge Prasanna left the simplest of catches for Chamara Kapugedera.
Amla held strong, and continued to find the ones and twos, unperturbed by what was going on around him. He eased his way to his 25th ODI century, becoming only the sixth to do so, and beating Virat Kohli by 10 innings to become the quickest.
With just 32 of those runs coming in boundaries, the legs were tired, and it showed when he turned around for a second run in the 43rd over. He fell short of the mark and walked off for what was an excellent 103. This was an over after David Miller perished for 18.
It was a scrappy effort in the dying overs. Chris Morris found the boundary on three occasions before he was run out for 20 off 19, and JP Duminy, who interestingly came in at No 6, managed to see out the rest of the innings to finish on a handy 38 off 20.
With Morne Morkel in the side at the expense of Andile Phehlukwayo, the Proteas have four genuine quicks to rely on to avoid an upset.
Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images