TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
IT takes the bizarre, even the unique, to make someone as grounded as Hashim Amla use words like “bizarre” and “unique”.
But SA’s test series in Bangladesh ticked those boxes. The rubber was squeegeed off the schedule on Monday when the fifth day’s play in the second and last test in Dhaka was abandoned because groundstaff needed up to five hours to dry a sodden outfield.
With cyclone Komen lashing the region, days two, three and four were also lost to the weather. In the first test in Chittagong the last two days were washed out.
Of the 5400 balls that would have been bowled in the series had both matches gone the distance, just 1855 materialised.
All of which left the usually even-tempered Amla reaching for superlatives.
“It is one of the most bizarre test series I’ve played in – out of 10 days six have been rained off; it was unique,” he said.
That’s what happens, many would say, when cricket is scheduled in the sub-continent during the monsoon.
Amla, it seems, concurs: “If (the weather) is like this it doesn’t fit in to be playing (test) cricket at this time of year.”
The rubber featured the second fewest number of deliveries yet seen in a test series of a minimum of two matches. SA also played in the record-holding series in this dubious regard – their inaugural engagement, also a two-match affair, against England in 1889, was all over in 1810 balls.
Then, SA were dismissed for fewer than 100 three times in four innings and twice for fewer than 50. By contrast this SA team are, officially, the best in the game.
But even a side that good can’t beat the weather. They will also be prone to the problems of arriving under-prepared and probably still staggered by their one-day cousins’ controversial exit from the World Cup.
“It was frustrating in the sense that we came to Bangladesh with the intention of winning the test series and playing some good cricket,” Amla said. “So we go back with unfulfilled ambitions.”
Amla was talking about the test series and SA’s imminent T20 and ODI engagements with New Zealand when he said, “It’s a totally clean slate: I don’t think there’s any repercussions from what’s happened here.”
But that assertion will jerk memories of SA’s defeat in the ODI series in Bangladesh, a fate they suffered having beaten their clearly inferior opponents in both T20s and the first ODI.
The stalemate of the test series has cost SA five points in the rankings. Also unfairly, Bangladesh have gained six points.
“It’s a difficult one to understand,” Amla said. “Perhaps this is something to be looked at from the ICC (International Cricket Council) perspective. Us losing points seeing as we haven’t played a lot of cricket seems a little strange.”
The sole SA highlight of the test series was Dale Steyn becoming only the second South African after Shaun Pollock to reach 400 wickets.
“Had we batted first he would have had to wait another three months before getting his wicket,” Amla said.