South African one-day opener Hashim Amla inched his way closer to joint second spot among the country’s century-makers with his 15th three-figure score in the format as South Africa eased to a 93-run victory against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo yesterday.
The only SA batsmen ahead of Amla in the statistics are Herschelle Gibbs (21 centuries), and AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis (both 17), but all of them have played many more matches (see table). It remains to be seen, though, whether anybody will get close to the overall leader on this table, India’s Sachin Tendulkar, with 49 hundreds – 19 more than next-best Ricky Ponting of Australia.
It was no surprise that South Africa’s full-strength batting line-up dominated the Zimbabwean bowling in the first of three ODIs yesterday, given that the home attack had three debutants. Amla duly cashed in, batting through the innings for an unbeaten 122.
If Zimbabwe’s cricketers had shown as much energy as their singing supporters, they might have come a bit closer to South Africa’s 309 for three. Instead they showed the briefest flicker of character before being bowled out for 216 in the final over.
Amla’s opening partner Quinton de Kock did all the early running, racing to 50 in just 42 balls before falling to off-spinner John Nyumbu for 63. South Africa already had 109 on the board at that stage, having easily overcome any difficulties created by losing the toss.
It had been expected that the hosts would struggle given the gap in class between the two sides, but the fight that has been the hallmark of competitive Zimbabwean teams in the past was entirely absent.
It didn’t help that their debutant seamers Neville Madziva and Luke Jongwe proved erratic, but when Amla and Faf du Plessis took the attack to Zimbabwe in the second power play after a calm start to their 123-run partnership, captain Elton Chigumbura looked out of his depth.
Chigumbura was returning to the one-day captaincy that he lost in 2011 after Zimbabwe’s board decided last month to split the captaincy, but looked every bit the shrinking violet that he did during his first stint.
That left South Africa to fill their boots. Amla enjoyed some fortune when he was dropped twice in the same over by Shingirai Masakadza, who was bowling at the time, but was otherwise his usual imperious self at the crease.
Du Plessis helped himself to a steady 59 before throwing it away in the 43rd over, which allowed AB de Villiers and JP Duminy to do the late slogging as they scored a combined 43 from 23 deliveries. – Cape Argus