Amla suffers rare dip in form

2012-02-28 00:00

CAPE TOWN — It says much about his reputation as a consistently stellar “accumulator” that Hashim Amla’s failure to get among the runs after five innings in his maiden tour of New Zealand will be just starting to surprise some observers.

Conversely, you might argue that it is a triumph for a re-emerging, confident team ethic that South Africa have won three matches on the trot against the Black Caps (two in the T20 code plus the first one-day international) without one of their central batting pillars for several seasons now coming to the party.

So if he posts a slightly overdue big score in the second one-day international at Napier at 3 am tomorrow, the Proteas ought to be in with a particularly good chance of killing off the ODI series with one game to spare. Not for nothing is Amla still comfortably the ICC top-ranked batsman in the world at the format, with skipper AB de Villiers next in the pecking order.

Amla has looked in good touch most of the time, and has perhaps been undone by cricket’s penchant for dishing out doses of pure ill luck at times.

The top-ranked batsman was run out for 19 after looking solid in the first T20 clash at Wellington, and in his most recent knock at the same Westpac Stadium venue on Saturday — the scene of South Africa’s satisfying six-wicket triumph in the first ODI — chopped on to Tim Southee for eight as the top three collectively misfired.

There have also been one or two occasions in New Zealand when, like some specialist batting colleagues, he has succumbed to a mild dose of over-eagerness in shot selection.

A well-organised and mentally composed player, you would expect the 28-year-old, who ought to earn his 56th ODI cap at Napier to go with the same tally in Tests, to set that right before too long.

Top score in his five knocks in the Land of the Long White Cloud remains his 35 in the T20 warm-up fixture against Canterbury.

Amla certainly left South African shores in excellent fettle, having scored 93 in a rare SuperSport Series appearance for the Dolphins against the Lions at Kingsmead. Before he took a paternity-related break from the last three ODIs against Sri Lanka he had belted those particular opponents for 112 (Paarl) and 55 (East London) in respective winning causes.

Even if it was on South African soil — at Newlands in late April 2006 — Amla will have fond memories of playing New Zealand because they were the victims of his maiden Test century (149).

Meanwhile, the Black Caps are reportedly mulling the fact that their bowling attack looked increasingly popgun after their promising start to the first ODI.

Seamers Southee and Doug Bracewell are under scrutiny after each conceded more than 60 runs in completed 10-over spells as De Villiers and Faf du Plessis made the chase for 254 suddenly look all too easy in the Cake Tin.

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