Hashim Amla: A legend of the gentlemen’s game
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CAPE TOWN - SURREY will always be a part of Hashim Amla’s cricketing legacy. It was at Surrey’s home ground, the Oval, that Amla became South Africa’s first triple Test century maker with an unbeaten 311 against England in 2012. Nearly a decade later, playing for Surrey, Amla earlier this week played an innings, in absolute contrast, but as remarkable.
Amla knows how to accelerate an innings. He has a T20 strike rate of 132 and an ODI strike rate close to 90. He has scored 18 452 runs in 247 First Class matches, which excludes List A matches, in which he scored 9 973 runs.
He knows how to win the biggest matches with his appetite for runs, and his 311 against England led the Proteas to an innings and 12 runs win, with Amla arriving at the crease after 16 balls in South Africa’s first innings and still there on 311 after facing 529 balls in an innings that lasted 790 minutes.
Not only can Amla bat, but he can find a place of absolute contentment in not wanting to leave the crease.
Amla’s best stroke play days have passed and the eyes don’t quite react as quickly, which is why he no longer plays international cricket, but this week in saving Surrey from defeat in the English County Championship, Amla showed his mind is as strong as it has ever been and the lesson to any cricketer will be as big as Amla has ever given when batting.
Internationally, Amla has won matches and saved matches, and for the cricketing purists, saving a Test or First Class match is an achievement recognised as much as any match-winning innings. Those who relate only to power plays, strike rates in excess of 120 and define the glory of batting in 12-ball blitzes that include sixes and fours, won’t ever appreciate the magnitude of Amla’s achievement in England this week.
If you are among those, thanks for reading this far, but what follows will be lost on you.
If not, have a read, absorb the statistical returns of Amla and share my awe of an innings that will forever be engrained in Surrey cricketing folklore.
Surrey had to bat all day to save the match against Hampshire. Amla was at the crease from the first ball of the final day and despite seeing eight batting partners come and go, he was still there when the final ball was bowled on a day in which Hampshire’s attack bowled 64 maidens and 500 dot balls.
Amla’s resilience and state of mind are to be admired. Are there adjectives to encapsulate just what he did? I can’t relate to any.
The only adjective that fully describes what Amla did is the raw statistical breakdown of his day’s work.
So here goes, with many thanks to Cricinfo’s statistician Sampath Bandarupalli:
* Amla was unbeaten on 37 off 278 balls.
* No First-class innings of 200-plus balls since 2008 has come at a lower strike rate than Amla’s 13.30. Amla was also responsible for an even better effort in Test cricket in 2015, when he scored 25 off 244 balls against India, with a strike rate of 10.24 as the Proteas unsuccessfully tried to save the Test. AB de Villiers, with equal defiance, was his batting partner on that day.
* The run rate of Surrey’s second innings against Hampshire, scoring 122 for 8 in 104.5 overs is the second-lowest run rate in a first-class team innings of 100-plus overs since 2000. South Africa’s 0.99 against India in 2015 stands on top as they scored 143 in 143.1 overs during an unsuccessful attempt to save a Test match in Delhi.
* The 0.72 run rate of the fourthwicket partnership between Amla and Ryan Patel is the fourth-slowest partnership of 25-plus overs in first-class cricket since 2010. Amla and Patel added 21 runs in 28.5 overs, during which Amla scored only two runs. Amla’s partnership with AB de Villiers against India in 2015 stands third in this list as they scored at 0.64 during their stand of 27 from 42.1 overs.
* Amla took 63 balls to score his first run on the fourth day. He got off the mark on the fourth ball (and the last) he faced on the third day, and his second run had not come until the 67th ball of his innings. Amla had three streaks of 35 and more consecutive dot balls on Wednesday.
What makes the Amla last day batting for Surrey even more remarkable is that Surrey were 9/3 with most of the day still to be played and he orchestrated an effort that finished on 122/8 after 104.5 overs, which translates to Surrey’s batsmen resisting for 629 balls.
“I really enjoyed it,” was Amla’s typically understated response to the marathon innings. Equally, and so in keeping with Amla’s personality, he lauded his teammates more than himself. “The way the youngsters played was fantastic. We had some nervous moments, but you don’t know how far you can go and we managed to go all the way.”
Amla is 38.
To have that appetite to occupy the crease in a First Class match, typified his professionalism and his persona in a cricketing age when some find it a struggle to bowl four overs or to occupy the crease for 10 overs.