Stuart Hess.

Neil Manthorp’s excellent column this week, remembering Hashim Amla’s astonishing 196 at Perth seven years ago, reminded me of a conversation he and I had at The Oval earlier in 2012.

It was probably well into the fifth hour of Amla’s partnership with Jacques Kallis that Manners took a seat next to me and asked: “What do you think they say to each other between overs?”

Of course I snorted.

Both of us knew that Kallis and Amla weren’t big talkers. They batted in that ‘bubble’ that batsmen – in fact, all sportsmen – love.

You could say of Amla that he batted in that ‘bubble’ for all of six years between 2008 and 2014, so prodigious was his output.

Kallis located the ‘bubble’ at will.

It’s worth remembering that the duo spent a heck of a lot of time in each other’s company.

Of their 11 century partnerships, three were over the 300-run mark, and another three over 200 runs.

At the moment of Neil’s inquiry, the thought about what Kallis and Amla could be talking about hadn’t crossed my mind.

So I fixed the binoculars on them for the next few overs and tried to lip-read.

There was a whole rhythm to their interaction between overs.

Touch gloves, tap the pitch, look around, tap the pitch some more, touch gloves again and then bat on. Their lips barely moved.

Some 15 minutes later, before Neil headed off to his next stint on radio, I said: “Not much.”

He smiled.

So did I.

And on they batted.

And they might still be batting today had Kallis not pushed Graeme Smith to declare at tea time that Sunday afternoon.

I kept an eye on them between overs thereafter, and virtually nothing was said.

Maybe a ‘keep going,’ but nothing more.

Nothing need have been said. Nearly six hours in each other’s company and nary a word.

Just 377 runs and an England attack made up of James Anderson, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad – then the No 1 team in the world – was eviscerated.

And it was all done so quietly.

I realise now how fortunate I was to be there for that innings.

The historical significance is not lost on me.

Hashim Amla raises his bat to acknowledge yet another milestone during his epic innings of 311 not out against England at The Oval in 2012. Photo: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire
Hashim Amla raises his bat to acknowledge yet another milestone during his epic innings of 311 not out against England at The Oval in 2012. Photo: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire

In recent months, I’ve been called ‘harsh’ (among other things) for saying I didn’t believe Amla should have been picked for the World Cup.

Honestly, a lot of that had to do with the fact that having seen Amla at his best, as I was very lucky to do, it’s hard to watch when someone that great is struggling.

You almost want to look away, not wanting your memories of his many great feats scarred.

Thankfully, that shouldn’t be the case now.

Now I can remember where I was for the 196 (sadly not in Perth, but on a bus to Sun City, watching on someone’s iPad), or the 253 in Nagpur (I was there for that too) and of course, the 311 not out.

Gosh, I was damn lucky, as were we all, that we got to watch Hashim Amla play.

* You can read Manthorp’s column about Amla at www.manners-on-cricket.com

@shockerhess


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