Hashim Amla’s 159 set up a 201-run win for South Africa against Ireland in Canberra on Tuesday.
The performance at the Manuka Oval was the Proteas’ most complete of their 2015 World Cup campaign. The batsmen fired to score 411-4 in the allotted 50 overs, while the bowlers were equally destructive in the initial overs of Ireland’s innings.
The result marks South Africa’s third win in the pool stages, a tally that will see them advancing to the quarter-finals. Wins in their final Pool B matches, against Pakistan and the UAE, will see them finishing in either first or second place.
Dale Steyn was handed the new ball in Canberra, and bowled quickly and aggressively. Together with Kyle Abbott, Steyn ripped through Ireland’s top order to leave the minnows reeling at 48-5.
Of course, the bowlers cannot take all of the credit for the result. As was the case in South Africa’s previous match against the West Indies, a first innings total in excess of 400 dictated the outcome. That scoreboard pressure was not insignificant. It certainly gave the bowlers the freedom to bowl short and at an express pace.
Hashim Amla played a key role in the South African batting performance, scoring his 20th ODI century. It took Amla 100 deliveries to reach the three-figure mark. That measured march to 100 contrasted the rate at which he has scored centuries over the course of his career.
The ton at the Manuka Oval was Amla’s 20th in just 108 innings. No ODI batsmen has reached the milestone in a shorter period of time. Not India’s Virat Kohli, and not even the man of the moment, AB de Villiers.
In the match against Ireland, Amla beat Kohli’s previous record of 133 innings. De Villiers is next on that list, having gone past the 20-hundred mark in his 175th innings against West Indies. Both Kohli and De Villiers are classified as world-beaters, but Amla’s stats confirm that he has contributed the big runs more consistently over the course of his career.
Amla’s innings in Canberra may have ended on 10 had Ed Joyce held a catch in the sixth over. Quinton de Kock was already out, and Ireland had a clear chance to dismiss South Africa’s other opening batsman. Amla clipped a Kevin O’Brien delivery straight to midwicket, and Joyce put the catch down.
It was a costly miss. Amla and Faf du Plessis put on 247 runs, a record second-wicket partnership for South Africa at the World Cup. They scored these runs at a rapid rate, and took few chances. This ensured that the platform was set for the Proteas to launch in the final 15 overs.
Du Plessis was dismissed shortly after scoring a richly deserved century. Amla accelerated, taking 24 balls to move from 100 to 150, and suddenly it looked as if a double century was within sight.
It was not to be, however, as Amla was caught in the deep after mishitting an Andy McBrine delivery. McBrine also claimed the prize wicket of De Villiers, but not before the South African skipper had smashed 24 off nine balls.
Great finishing by Rilee Rossouw and David Miller ensured that South Africa added as many as 131 runs in the final 10 overs. However, much of the credit must go to Amla and Du Plessis for batting South Africa into such a commanding position.
For the first time in this World Cup, South Africa backed up a strong batting performance with a fiery bowling display. Steyn and Abbott were excellent up front, dismissing Ireland’s top five inside 11 overs. Abbott eventually finished with figures of 4-21, his best in ODIs.
Ireland survived for as many as 45 overs, and Andy Balbirnie batted especially well for his 58. However, this must be viewed in context, as De Villiers experimented with his part-time bowlers in the middle overs. Had Steyn, Abbott, and Morné Morkel been backed to finish the job when Ireland were 48-5, this game would have concluded sooner.
South Africa 411-4 in 50 overs (Hashim Amla 159, Faf du Plessis 109, Rilee Rossouw 61 not out, Andy McBrine 2-63)
Ireland 210 in 45 overs (Andy Balbirnie 58, Kyle Abbott 4-21, Morné Morkel 3-34, Dale Steyn 2-39)
South Africa won by 201 runs