Amla clinches timely 26th ton
After year-long dry spell, the superior batsman helps SA to 338/3 against Sri Lanka
Timing is everything for classy batsmen such as Hashim Amla.
In choosing his 100th Test to make his 26th Test century‚ a return to form for Amla after his longest dry spell came at just the right time.
Before this‚ he went 14 innings without a hundred dating back to the 109 he made against England at SuperSport Park in early 2016.
While the aesthetic run plaudits will go to JP Duminy due to his delectable 221-ball 155‚ the significance of Amla’s milestone in SA’s imposing 338/3 on the first day of the third Test against Sri Lanka cannot be ignored.
In the process of hammering Rangana Herath down the ground for four off his 169th ball‚ Amla — unbeaten on 125 at the close — became the eighth batsman and second South African to record a ton in his 100th Test.
While he made things look easy towards the end of the day, with his wrists finding fluency and his feet moving with their famed mechanical precision‚ it was freight train-shunting stuff in the first session after he came in at 45/1 in the 15th over.
Having made the bulk of his runs of his career coming in at No3 when his country was up the creek‚ Stephen Cook’s early fall to Angelo Mathews for 10 was not the most precarious position he had been in.
It became tougher, though, when Dean Elgar bequeathed his wicket in the next over for 27 to Dimuth Karunaratne in
catching practice at first slip off Lahiru Kumara.
SA were 45/2 after 16 overs, having won the toss and choosing to bat under heavy skies.
Duminy strolled in and made a mockery of the difficult batting conditions by racing to his 50 off only 62 balls while Amla was finding his feet.
Duminy showed how cover-driving can be an art form during his serene march to his sixth Test hundred off only 140 balls.
However‚ there is nothing that wakes up Amla like a dropped catch‚ with Dhanan-
jaya de Silva shelling a low chance at gully off Suranga Lakmal in the last over before lunch, when Amla was on five.
When the South African compiled his epic unbeaten 311 against England at the Oval in 2012‚ he was dropped on 40 by Andrew Strauss. When Amla is given such a life‚ he often makes the most of it. A clear sign he was finding his groove was the confidence with which he played his shots in reaching his 50 off 109 balls.
The fact that his second 50 came off only 60 balls revealed his hunger to score runs.
Duminy had the opportunity to surpass the Test-best 166 he compiled in his second Test against Australia in Melbourne in 2008. However, he was smartly snaffled by Kusal Mendis at second slip off the hard-working Kumara.
It was Duminy’s fourth Test 100 at No4‚ creating a selection headache ahead of AB de Villiers’s return in time for February’s tour to New Zealand.
Duminy and Amla’s 292-run, third-wicket stand was the fourth-highest partnership at the Wanderers and set the scene for what could be a formidable first innings total.
Perhaps the whitewash Proteas Test captain Faf du Plessis had been dreaming of could become a reality.
Amla’s diligence and Duminy’s fluency have made it a possibility.