Battle for Test honours clouded ODI build-up … and then came Amla

2012-08-30 00:00

AFTER a high-intensity battle for Test honours, it wasn’t easy to build up any enthusiasm for a one-day series between England and South Africa.

Then along came Hashim Amla.

As modern cricket has evolved, so it makes sense to have separate Test and limited overs tours, especially between the leading nations.

This will become the case with exchanges between South Africa and Australia, starting with a Tests-only tour later this year.

When the Proteas next go Down Under two years later it will be for five one-dayers and three T20 internationals.

The same pattern will apply to incoming tours by Australia, who will play three Test matches in South Africa early in 2014 (as well as three T20s to appease the money men and spectators who want a good night out).

Split tours will enable proper attention to be focused on one form of the game at a time.

Only five of the Proteas who won the Test series in England were in action in Southampton on Tuesday evening, while England’s side contained six of the players who appeared in the final Test at Lord’s. Both teams had different captains, further illustrating the differences between the types of cricket.

The transition period between Tests and one-dayers in England was ludicrously short, so much so that AB de Villiers, the Proteas captain, admitted that the rain that washed out the scheduled first ODI in Cardiff on Friday, just four days after the end of the Test series, had given the players a bit more time to adjust to a different format.

Given the above, it was with a sense of duty more than eager anticipation that I sat down to watch the proceedings from Southampton’s Rose Bowl, only for my spirits to soar as Amla produced another batting master class.

Conditions were not ideal for batting.

Graeme Smith was the only other batsman to reach fifty on a pitch which gripped and turned. Amla assessed the situation perfectly, playing conservatively while keeping the scoreboard ticking over.

His manipulation of the bowlers and his wristy stroking of the ball into gaps took him to a superb century before he galloped through his third fifty off only 27 balls.

South Africa’s total of 287/5 was always likely to be beyond England, but the home team were consistently ahead of South Africa’s scoring rate on their respective five-over splits.

The difference was that England kept losing wickets — and they didn’t have an Amla to keep the rate accelerating all the way through 50 overs.

For a reason which I cannot fathom, the ICC one-day rankings are adjusted after every ODI, while South Africa only became number one in the Test standings at the end of the series.

So for the second time in just over a week, the Proteas have taken over from England as number one.

The battle for the top position will be a sub-text to the rest of the series. I still think it takes a bit of the gloss off the Test triumph, but I am looking forward to the remaining games. Thanks mainly to Hashim Amla.

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