SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Hashim Amla of South Africa hits out during the 2nd NatWest Series ODI between England and South Africa at Ageas Bowl on August 28, 2012 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)

South Africa 287/5

England 207 all out

South Africa win by 80 runs and lead the ODI series 1-0 with three games to play

Southampton - By the time his innings had ended, and as he slowly made his way back to the dressing room at the Rose Bowl, everyone – man, woman, child – heck, even some of the security guards, were standing to applaud Hashim Amla.

It was a sight witnessed first at The Oval when he made 311 not out in the first innings of the first Test. The MCC members and Lord’s gave him a standing ovation in the third Test when he made 121 in South Africa’s second innings there.

And then here on Tuesday, there was a “three-peat” of standing ovations for Amla, following an innings of immense class and skill – and some good fortune.

While this crowd, naturally, were overwhelmingly favouring the home side, given the magnificence of Amla’s innings, they’d have been glad they were here to witness it.

There was all the characteristic silky shot-making; the punch cover drive is an Amla special as are those elaborate flicks through the leg-side. He also invented some new shots – a late, back-glance through the vacant first-slip area off Tim Bresnan in the 47th over will need studying for even with Amla’s supple wrists, the shot defied the boundaries of human dexterity.

But that was Amla on Tuesday, showing England a side of himself they didn’t see in the Test series – and he made over 400 runs in the three Tests – his creativity. There was the patient watchful Amla, who together with opening partner Graeme Smith, scored just 11 runs in the first five overs of the South African innings, but then accelerated gradually and cleverly through the gears.

Dean Elgar, batting for the first time for the Proteas, put on 44 for the third wicket in a partnership dominated by Amla’s breathtaking stroke-play. He may have hit plenty along the ground, but it was the shots Amla lofted over the inner ring that had many in the crowd gasping and the English bowlers shaking their heads.

The good fortune which came Amla’s way was thanks to England’s South African-born wicket-keeper Craig Kieswetter, who dropped him twice – first off a thin edge found by Samit Patel when he had 42 – and then a relatively simple leg-side offering off Steve Finn when Amla was on 92.

Kieswetter’s three drops – he also missed AB de Villiers – continues a horrible summer for England in the fielding department following on from the nine dropped catches in the Test series.

When Amla passed 120, he reached 3000 ODI runs, taking just 57 innings to do so, beating the previous mark of 69 held by West Indies legend Viv Richards, an amazing statistic given no one had thought Amla would make a good one-day batsman.

England’s task was always going to be a monumental one, and the loss of captain Alastair Cook to the second ball of their innings, immediately gave De Villiers’s side the initiative. There was a bright partnership between Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, but when the latter fell to an exquisite catch by Elgar at deep backward square-leg and Bell was inexplicably bowled by Robin Peterson, England’s hopes vanished.

South Africa’s bowling was good, though there was nothing to suggest they’d bowl England out for 207. De Villiers made some bowling changes that made him look like a genius – Elgar getting a wicket with his third ball in international cricket being the highlight.

Given the high standards they set for themselves, South Africa’s fielding was scrappy – De Villiers dropped Bell early – and there were a couple of misfields which they’d want to eliminate in the remainder of the series.

Amla was responsible for one of those misjudgments in the field, though he won’t find any teammates criticising him.

It’s been a remarkable tour for him, and if the English didn’t know much about him – or didn’t think as highly of him as they do Smith and Jacques Kallis – Amla is making sure that they’ll never forget him.

Best ODI Batting averages

Ryan ten Doeschate (Ned) 33 matches, 1541 runs, 67.00 ave

Hashim Amla (Rsa) 59, 3031, 58.28

Michael Bevan (Aus) 232, 6912, 53.58

Virat Kohli (Ind) 90, 3886, 51.81

MS Dhoni (Asia/Ind) 211, 6908, 51.17

Jonathan Trott (Eng) 52*, 2077, 49.45

AB de Villiers (Afr/Rsa) 129, 5026, 48.79

Michael Hussey (Aus) 183, 5311, 48.28

Zaheer Abbas (Pak) 62, 2572, 47.62

Viv Richards (WI) 187, 6721, 47.00

Cape Times

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