WATCH: 10 years on ... The day Hashim Amla slaughtered England at the Oval

FILE - Today marks the 10th anniversary of Hashim Amla’s unbeaten 311 against England. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

FILE - Today marks the 10th anniversary of Hashim Amla’s unbeaten 311 against England. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Jul 22, 2022


Johannesburg - London, July 22, 2012. I was seated in the second row of the dreadful press box at The Oval on a sunny Sunday, watching Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis dominate England, the then No 1 Test side in the world.

The rest of England (the world in fact) was distracted by the Olympics, which were scheduled to start five days later in the English capital. In fact even on that Sunday there was another significant distraction (for South African sports fans) happening about 400km north of the Oval, where Ernie Els took advantage of an Adam Scott meltdown to win his second Claret Jug.

It was a heady day for South African sport.

Somewhere around the afternoon drinks break, a former colleague, Antoinette Muller, seated next to me, leaned over and whispered: ‘Hy gaan 300 maak (He’s going to score 300.).’ I said something to the effect of ‘shut up, you’ll put a curse on the whole thing.’

Amla was on 280-odd, already in territory no other South African batter had visited. But for an early chance missed by Andrew Strauss at slip late on day two, until that drinks break on the fourth afternoon, Amla was utterly masterful.

It’s worth remembering that Amla arrived at the crease in the third over after Jimmy Anderson had dismissed Alviro Petersen. There was thick cloud cover and at one point a lengthy break for rain.

It wasn’t easy to get started and he and Graeme Smith - playing in his 100th Test - employed every bit of skill, and showed great powers of concentration to get through to the close of play on the second evening.

They had to do the same on the Saturday - although conditions had eased for batters. In fact Smith recalled watching Amla from the other end, and feeling a little inadequate. “To sit at the other end and watch some of his timing, it’s just incredible especially on a slow wicket like this. There was a stage in the morning when he hit a backfoot drive, and I was thinking ‘geez, I’m scratching for a run out here.’ It was unbelievable.” Smith made a hundred, which was a very special effort in itself as he had to blank out off-spinner Graeme Swan spinning the ball passed his outside edge on numerous occasions.

Amla was typically phlegmatic. He and Kallis hardly seemed to utter a word to each other over the course of their unbeaten 377-run partnership for the third wicket.

At 790 minutes, his 311 not out is the fifth longest Test innings of all time - not something you’re likely to see again in the era of ‘Bazball.’ He was asked afterwards to describe his mindset over the course of his stay at the crease. “Analysing myself? What? I have to go deep now,” he quipped.

“You’ll have to speak to the psychologist with the team. You try and bat, you want to contribute to the team. I can’t get into the psycho-babble about it, I just try and enjoy it and try and maximise the opportunity.”

No ‘psycho-babble’ was needed. That was a pretty special effort, although I’m not sure it was even his best innings. For me, that was the 253 not out at Nagpur in 2010 - also another epic series from him, in which he scored hundreds in three innings and was dismissed just once

But hey, when you’re quibbling about a 250 here or a 300 there, you know you’ve watched a darn good batter. Whatever innings you wish to choose as either his best or the best ever by a Proteas batter, one thing I am glad about, is that I was there to see it.