The 'Mighty Hash' keeps on rolling along but for how long?
Not even Hashim Amla wanted to play anymore.
The man who had‚ apparently in a different lifetime‚ on a different planet‚ and playing an entirely different game‚ batted for parts of three consecutive days to score a triple century had had enough.
So when Sundaram Ravi adjudged him lbw to a leg break from Jeevan Mendis that seemed to have pitched perilously close to outside the line of his leg stump‚ Amla kept on walking even though Faf du Plessis had insisted on a referral.
His innings‚ he had decided‚ was done.
He didn’t break stride when the big screen showed Mendis had grounded his foot well behind the bowling crease‚ and he had neared the boundary by the time the graphic flashed up to say that the ball had pitched outside leg.
A roar went up from the most South African of all the crowds Du Plessis’ team have played in front of at this tournament and Amla slowly turned.
Go back and bat again‚ what would be the point?
South Africa knew they couldn’t reach the World Cup semi-finals even before they played Sri Lanka at the Riverside on Friday.
So he was 68 not out?
What did it matter?
Du Plessis was also 68 not out‚ and the highest scores a South African had made in the tournament before Friday were Quinton de Kock’s 68s against England and Afghanistan.
So improving that mediocre number to something worth preserving for posterity mattered at some nerdish level‚ although undoubtedly not to Amla.
He returned and reached 80 not out and Du Plessis forged to an unbeaten 96 to take South Africa to their second win in the eight matches they have played at the tournament.
Having rattled through the Lankans for 202 with the under-used Dwaine Pretorius taking 3/25‚ they surged to victory by nine wickets with 12.4 overs remaining. Amla is 35 and on the wane from the heights he reached as one of South Africa’s bona fide batting greats.
By the look of him in this tournament‚ which started with him being sconned by Jofra Archer 23 balls into South Africa’s first innings‚ he’s had enough.
“He said he wants to keep going‚ so I think you leave it to a great player to make that decision himself. Great players almost plan their exit‚ so if ‘Hash’ is doing well and he still wants to play‚ he will keep playing.”
“Performances would be important. If you are not consistently putting the runs on the board and someone else is pushing you out the team‚ then you are competing with someone else. There will be a sitting down after this World Cup where the way forward will be decided.”
This is dangerous territory.
Allan Donald‚ Jacques Kallis‚ Dale Steyn‚ the list of South Africa’s finest who have tried to ignore the march of time and keep playing does not make happy reading.
But you couldn’t take Friday away from Amla.
“’Hash’ played brilliantly today‚” Du Plessis said.
“If there were one or two more innings like today’s we would be sitting in a different position. It’s similar with myself‚ if I had one or two more scores where I batted through. It’s the same with ‘Quinny’ [Quinton de Kock].”
“Those are three of our most senior players. The other guys are still young in their careers. Rassie [van der Dussen] has shown signs [of excelling] for us and Aiden [Markram] is just starting off. But the big scores have been highly dependent on the top three for the last two years‚ and if that happens we do well as a team.”
That hasn’t happened at this tournament‚ hence South Africa’s sorry state.
Friday‚ then‚ was an aberration.
It was also a strange day in other respects‚ a swarm of bees visited the ground during Sri Lanka’s innings‚ felling all the players and the umpires until they passed. After the match a reporter who had‚ wisely as it turned out‚ taken the stairs to make his way from the pressbox to the press conference took a call from a colleague.
“I’m stuck in the lift‚” he bleated.
It would be 20 minutes before an engineer clambered onto the roof to free him.
Finally‚ he could go down.
South Africa‚ for a change‚ went up.
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