AMLAmazing

2012-09-08 00:00

HASHIM Amla can look back on his current tour to England knowing he walked on its green and pleasant land, conquering all in sight. It’s similar to what Viv Richards did on the 1976 West Indian tour to England, where the men from the islands did anything but grovel, as England skipper Tony Greig predicted.

Considering the difference of 36 years, and the much-altered cricketing landscape, it is not exactly an apples-with-apples comparison.

But I believe it is worthwhile to weigh up the huge impact these two batsmen – Sir Vivian Richards and Hashim Amla – had in seminal English summer tours for their respective international teams, West Indies and South Africa.

Of course, Amla’s 2012 visit to England isn’t quite over yet. There is still the matter of three Twenty20 internationals, starting at Durham today, before the Proteas pack their bags for the ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka.

Just how much of a role the bearded batting assassin plays in the series remains to be seen, because there is probably a sound case for offering him at least some rest and refreshment opportunity after his plundering performances in the Tests and one-day internationals.

Richards, of course, never got to play T20 cricket because he retired in 1991, but it is possible to measure the individual impact he and Amla made in the other two codes to English seasons where the main goal of the overall raid — duly achieved by both the Windies and Proteas — was to clinch the Test series.

Back in the unusually sweltering summer of 1976, the West Indies won the five-match Test portion 3-0 and the three-game ODIs by the same score-line.

In 2012, of course, the Test series was scandalously restricted to three contests and there was an inevitably greater tally of ODIs (five), although the first was abandoned due to rain.

South Africa inspiringly grabbed the Test series 2-0 and came from 2-1 down to split the ODIs 2-2.

In 1976, the year that heralded the true arrival of the “Master Blaster” from Antigua, a famously incendiary note was sounded in the lead-up by Grieg, England’s South African-born captain, who announced: “I intend to make them grovel.”

It was in the thick of the apartheid era back in these parts, of course, so the imagery that Greig’s brazen statement evoked was obvious.

The cudgels were keenly taken up in response by a West Indies side only considered as “emerging” at the time.

Through the virtually non-stop brilliance of Richards at the crease, the Caribbean marauders instead sparked a new era of iconic dominance.

The dashing right-hander was 24 then, and only some 18 months into his Test career, but it was undoubtedly the tour that established his legend and would remain his best personal series by some distance.

Richards amassed 829 runs in four Tests (he missed one through injury) and only seven innings, at an average of 118.42, his series culminating in a career-best 291 in the fifth encounter at The Oval.

It’s fitting that in 2012 Amla launched his own assault on English bowling at the same venue (unusually staging an opening Test), with that withering 311 not out that bettered Richards’ score and is his and South Africa’s most productive ever knock.

How nearby Hashim Mahomed Amla lurks to Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, named one of five Cricketers of the Century in 2000.

RICHARDS IN TESTS

1st Test, Nottingham: 232 and 63

3rd Test, Manchester: 4 and 135

4th Test, Leeds: 66 and 38

5th Test, The Oval: 291

RICHARDS IN ODIs

1st ODI, Scarborough: 119 not out

2nd ODI, Lord’s: 97

3rd ODI, Birming-ham: 0

England 2012

AMLA IN TESTS

1st Test, The Oval: 311 not out

2nd Test, Leeds: 9 and 28

3rd Test, Lord’s: 13 and 121

AMLA IN ODIs

2nd ODI, Southampton: 150

3rd ODI, The Oval: 43

4th ODI, Lord’s: 45

5th ODI, Nottingham: 97 not out

England 1976

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