Hashim Amla catches England's Joe Root during Wednesday's ODI. Photo: Reuters / Jason Cairnduff
DURBAN - Hashim Amla put his hand up, and admitted that South Africa lost their way at Headingley by not having someone bat through their innings, in the same manner that Eoin Morgan did for England.

Morgan scored an 11th century for his country, and that was the cornerstone for their intimidating total of 339/6.

“The way he played, he kept the board ticking, he scored at a really good rate, and he allowed Moeen (Ali) to come in at the end and play the way he did,” Amla said.

It all got out of hand for SA and the result was a 72-run defeat, and an early stumble on their extensive tour of the UK.

They are still the top-ranked side in the world, but they have shown that there are still early season cobwebs to shake off.

Amla lamented that neither he nor Faf du Plessis capitalised on fluent fifties, and they departed pretty much as a duo. That double blow stunted whatever momentum the tourists were building up, and the reconstruction never materialised.

The silver lining to Wednesday’s cloudy start was a return to fluency in national colours for Amla, complete with his trademark back-foot play, while Du Plessis carried on where he left off last term.

“That partnership had kept us in the game for about 25-30 overs, but it was a pity neither of us went through and made a hundred. That always makes it much easier for the guys coming in,” Amla conceded.

The Proteas added that a middle-order century carries much weight in a 50-over contest, not least because of the rate someone like Morgan and others of his ilk rattle along at.

“When you get someone coming in at (No) 4 or 5 and making a hundred, it is a game-changer.”

Morgan changed the game to the point that he knocked the Proteas out of stride, and then Ali administered the big blows at the end.

It was a terrific fightback from the home side, and Amla endorsed their claims for the Champions Trophy title, especially on current form.

“Over the last year or so, England have been playing very good one-day cricket. We had a very good series against them at home last year, and they are a very good team, that bats deep,” he added.

Of course, SA are also known for batting quite deep themselves, which is why the manner of their capitulation on Wednesday took many by surprise. There was a rash of poor shots in the middle-order, all of them making England’s job a lot easier than even they would have hoped.

Even so, Amla and the rest of the squad know only too well that their current opponents are the real deal, and they will have a strong say in where the Champions Trophy resides after June 18. What’s more, they will put up a sincere argument for keeping it at Lord’s.

“The Champions Trophy has eight very good sides. England are obviously a very good team, and they are at home as well,” Amla noted.

That home-ground advantage is one that England know how to utilise, and the roars will only get louder if they get on a run.

The attraction of this three-match series for both teams was that it would provide a very stiff test, on the verge of a very short and sharp tournament.

One average performance by SA certainly doesn’t warrant undue concern, but they received a timely reminder of how small the margins will be when the serious stuff gets going.

The Mercury

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