The Oval is officially Hashim Amla’s playground. It is there where he became the first South African to score a triple-century in a Test.
And now he’s added a superb ICC Champions Trophy century at the iconic
Even the sun comes out from behind the ever-present clouds when Amla bats at The Oval.
The former Test captain realised the surface was not as good as the tournament opener between hosts England and Bangladesh last Thursday and adapted his game plan accordingly.
Normally destructive during the opening 10 powerplay overs, Amla and his opening partner Quinton de Kock absorbed the early pressure induced by the Sri Lankans.
The sub-continent side definitely benefited from having former Proteas bowling coach Allan Donald in their camp, for they were a far more disciplined unit than the wayward bunch that were in South Africa only a few months ago.
In fact, it took Amla all of 9.5 overs to register his first boundary when he delivered his trademark flick off his pads to the mid-wicket fence. The crucial aspect, though, was that Amla was still at the crease and slowly started finding his groove.
Even the departure of De Kock for 23 off an uncharacteristically laboured 42 balls did not get Amla outside his bubble. Instead, he was now only getting into his work.
The arrival of Faf du Plessis (75 off 70 balls, 6x4) also provided the impetus the South African innings required.
With Du Plessis taking the necessary risks – sometimes fortuitously, with Lasith Malinga dropping the Test skipper on only eight – it allowed Amla to calmly stroke his way to his 25th ODI century, the most by any South African as he went past AB de Villiers’ record of 24.
It was an innings in which not many strokes would make the highlights reel, but it was hugely effective and set the platform for South Africa to launch an assault in the final 10 overs.
The late innings fireworks show did not arrive though, with the Proteas losing their way after Du Plessis, De Villiers (4), Amla (103) and David Miller (18) falling in quick succession due to quality death bowling from the Sri Lankans.
JP Duminy, however, ensured Amla’s graft did not go to waste as he initially shared a crucial 45-run partnership with Chris Morris (20 off 19 balls, 3x4) before smashing the final two balls of the innings for a four and six to push the Proteas to a total that should be defendable on a slowish Oval surface.
Duminy’s confidence would have been boosted with his undefeated 20-ball 38 (5x4, 1x6).