Another Amla half-century puts to bed any doubt he belongs
Two half-century stands in South Africa's two World Cup warm-up games seems to have put to bed any questions around Hashim Amla's place in the side.
It’s hard to draw too much narrative from just 12.4 overs of cricket as South Africa’s final warm-up game against the West Indies ahead of the Cricket World Cup was washed out in Bristol. But in just 46 deliveries, yielding 51 unbeaten runs Hashim Amla has emphatically put an end to a long-running debate.
By hammering eight majestic fours and one six - a flying top edge for six over third man to bring up his milestone - the elegant opener put to rest any question around his place in the side. As it was on Friday when he scored 65 against Sri Lanka in Cardiff, this was the Amla of old; flashing blade, perfect balance, whipping wrists and the feeling that his bat is made of something more liquid than wood. Make no mistake, he will be playing against England on Thursday.
“It was nice to get some time in the middle and scoring runs is always important,” Amla said. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, I’m just glad that I managed to get some time.”
That time was not guaranteed in the lead up to the squad announcement ahead of the tournament. He couldn’t buy a run for most of 2019. Critics were baying for his departure. And as the runs stayed away and the wicket kept tumbling, those dissenting voices grew louder.
“I know there was a bit of speculation but I had a few more important things to have my mind occupied with,” he said, alluding to the poor health of his father. “But like I said earlier I’m just happy to get back on the park, get some cricket under my belt and get some runs.
“Whether I am selected in the playing XI is not up to me. I can only do what I do and hopefully whatever happens after that will be for the benefit of the team.”
It’s hard not to be impressed by Amla’s demeanor. He carries himself with the same grace and composure that he displays out in the middle. It’s easy to see why so many of his teammates speak so highly of him and the contribution he makes off the field.
“It goes without saying that some things you don’t try and force, it just happens in our team,” he said when asked about his influence on some of the younger members of the squad. “Our communication is very good. We have a lot of experience in the team and the playing staff.
“That osmosis of information is just going to happen naturally. We are really fortunate we have that attitude in the team.”
Indeed, they look like a together bunch. Diverse in thought and application, this is a side that has grown into a cohesive unit that looks comfortable in their own skin.
Amla, along with Imran Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi, is observing Ramadan and is fasting between sunrise to sunset - a challenge at the best of times made even more so by the UK’s long summer days. For most, this would make the demands of a professional athlete nearly impossible. For Amla, it clarifies his thinking and propels him to greater heights.
“Fasting is something I look forward to and is probably the best month of the year,” he said. "Whenever we play cricket in that time I do feel thirsty and hungry but for me, it’s a great physical and mental exercise. But more importantly, it’s a great spiritual exercise.”
It’s hard to draw too much narrative from a five-minute press briefing. But if those few lines are delivered by someone like Hashim Amla there is more to report than what was merely said.
Here is a man who is content with his station, he feels blessed to be a part of a team saying and doing all the right things and who now, after two knocks that oozed class, will open the batting against the hosts without a shadow of doubt that he belongs there.