In part of two of our series on the best Proteas Test XI (of players who represented the country after the end of isolation), Stuart Hess looks at the No 3 spot, where there were really only two candidates.
He was dropped from the national team after playing three Tests. His technique didn’t look right with that twirl of the bat, which seemed like it was pointed toward gully before he’d get into line. And he had problems with the short ball. Oh well. He was recalled to the national team a year later – April 2006 and made a pleasant 149 against New Zealand at Newlands.
For a while thereafter he was back under pressure for his place.
Two half-centuries in a win against Pakistan at Centurion in 2007 eased the pressure but after 15 Tests he was averaging 25.5 and calls to try someone else grew louder. Luckily for Amla, he faced his favourite opponents New Zealand – he averaged 60.73 against the Kiwis – in his 16th game, and scored 179.
That innings proved to be the catalyst for a great career. He played 108 more Tests for South Africa, captaining the side 14 times. He was part of three Proteas teams that won series’ in Australia, two that won in England and another two that drew in India.
From 2008 to 2014 he was the most consistent batsmen on the planet – 20 of his 28 Test centuries came in that period, and on three occasions he topped 1 000 runs in a calender year. His average for 2012, the year he made 311 not out at The Oval, was 70.93.
In that same year he stunned his own teammates with a surgical dismantling of the Australian attack at The Waca where he scored 196 off only 221 balls.
The statistics are magnificent as was his backfoot cover drive. He was a superb person to bat with as well, just ask Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis alongside whom he shared 21 century partnerships, including six doubles and three triple century stands with Kallis.
It was because of Amla’s steadiness initially and then success in the No 3 spot, that Kallis could move to number 4 and we saw the best of his batting in that position.
Notables: Jacques Kallis (averaged 49.77 at 3, but he’s going into the middle order)