Amla joins an elite group who scored 100 in their 100th Test
It’s a pity that such a small crowd was present to witness Hashim Amla become only the eighth player in Test cricket to score a century in his 100th Test match against Sri Lanka at The Wanderers on Thursday.
Big sporting moments deserve to be watched by big crowds and there won’t be too many people who will boast "I was there" except for those who watched on TV as SA ended day one of this third and final Test in total control on 338/3.
Amla arrived in Joburg a man under pressure as he had failed to score a half-century in his past 12 innings, but he returned with a century born of grit and determination to join an elite list of players to have achieved this feat. He is now in the esteemed company of giants Colin Cowdrey (England)‚ Javed Miandad (Pakistan)‚ Gordon Greenidge (West Indies)‚ Alec Stewart (England)‚ Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pakistan)‚ Ricky Ponting (Australia), and former teammate Graeme Smith.
His slow but meticulously constructed century number 26 came after 169 balls and included 14 boundaries at an average of 60.95 as he announced his return to form after months of struggles with the bat. This occasion could have ended in disaster for Amla as he was dropped on five by Sri Lanka’s Dhananjaya de Silva at third slip from the bowling of Suranga Lakmal in the last over before lunch.
He has another opportunity to write his name in the history books if he becomes only the second player to score consecutive centuries in a 100th Test appearance, and join Ponting, who is the only other player to have achieved this feat against SA in 2006.
That will have to wait for the second innings of this match because he ended the day unbeaten on 125.
Amla is likely to hog the headlines but the day was not all about him. Batting partner JP Duminy dazzled the crowd with brave and attacking cricket to register his sixth Test century and second score of 150-plus after a delightful knock of 155, which included 19 boundaries at a strike rate of 70.13.
The form of Amla and Duminy‚ who are crucial members of the Proteas’ top order‚ is vital for SA as they have sterner assignments lined up against New Zealand and England, away from home, in the coming months.
Duminy joined Amla on the crease with SA in early trouble on 45/2, but they managed to rebuild the innings with a third-wicket partnership of 292 that was broken in the penultimate over of the match. Duminy was dismissed by Lahiru Kumara and caught by Kusal Mendis at second slip.
While Amla took his time to get going‚ Duminy hit the ground running and when their partnership clocked 50 runs‚ he had scored 38 from 46 compared to his partner’s six from 36. Amla’s slow pace was further evident as he scored his first boundary after facing 42 balls with a delectable cover drive from the bowling of Nuwan Pradeep‚ whose short delivery allowed him to execute his shot to near perfection.
Though he left too many balls‚ was slow and careful during his innings‚ Amla showed flashes of his brilliance with the ball as he punished mostly loose balls by Sri Lankan bowlers that were pitched outside off-stump to his favourite cover area.