TELFORD VICE, Newlands
TWELVE hours in Cape Town at the height of summer. What to do? There’s the mountain, the beach, the wine farms, the restaurants, and a lot more besides. Choices, choices, choices …
None of the above would do for Hashim Amla – who spent a large chunk of Monday and on Tuesday batting for his team’s life and for his own reputation as a player and a new captain in the second test at Newlands.
Amla was at the crease for 707 minutes, or 13 minutes short of 12 hours, for his 201. He faced 477 balls, but only took runs off 100 of them. He hit 27 fours and no sixes. He also had a five, two threes, a dozen twos and 58 singles.
Before he ascended to the captaincy, Amla scored two other double centuries and a triple century. Each time, SA won by an innings. But, in all of those matches, at least one of his teammates put a century on the table.
The relative lack of support for Amla is an important part of the explanation for SA’s failure to contest more keenly at Newlands.
But what an innings it was, a monument to the batsman Amla was before 2015 – when he scored just 251 runs in his 12 trips to the test crease – and which many South Africans hope he is again.
Ten of those South Africans will be hoping harder than most. Two of them, AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel, are, along with Amla, the only survivors of the SA XI that beat England at Lord’s in August 2012 to wrest the No. 1 ranking.
Right now, Amla is more valuable to a SA side in decline from those heights as a batsman than he is as a captain. But, if he stays in a job that is already weighing heavily on his primary role, he will want to balance that equation.
“It’s whether he wants the job,” Barry Richards said in answer to a question he was asked from the floor after he had delivered the Western Province Cricket Union’s annual New Year address after stumps on Monday.
“I’m not close enough to the team to know whether he seeks people out to see where he can improve or is he saying to himself, ‘I don’t know if I want this; it’s affecting my batting’.
“And if we don’t know those answers we don’t know how to plan for it.
“It is a decision Hashim will have to come up with himself. The most important thing for SA is for him to make runs.
“You can always get help in the field; you’ve got another 10 guys around you. But when you are out there batting you’ve got to have your full focus on your batting.
“He has to exclude what’s swilling around in the captaincy stakes while he is batting. If he can do that, its going to be enormous for SA.
“I don’t think he is doing that at the moment. I think he worries about things that are happening from a captaincy point of view while he is batting, and you can’t do that.
“Maybe this is the corner he has turned. We don’t know.”
And we won’t for a while yet.