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Amla in great form - for England?





Preparation for a huge tour like South Africa’s to England, starting next month, requires logistical planning on a scale most people will never experience. For the players who will be there for over three months, it is impossible to organise without help.

Faf du Plessis, J-P Duminy, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock and Kagison Rabada – quite possibly a few others – will be on tour for over a quarter of the year. Arranging for someone to water the plants probably won’t be a problem, but plenty of other things need to be carefully considered before they go. Of course, four of the five will be in India for two months before they even arrive in England so make that five months away from home.

It’s a monstrous commitment and one that I’m also familiar with. Budgets are tighter than ever (not one of the players concerns) and as many corners need to be cut as possible. When a short train journey costs R600 there isn’t much left for a cheese sandwich, never mind a hotel. The couches of friends and colleagues become essential.

Which has necessitated much reconnection and communication with old mates in recent days, one of whom made the interesting observation: “We’ve never paid much attention to the IPL for the last ten years but, now that there are so many Englishmen playing, a lot more people are following it,” he said.

“It’s interesting to see Hashim Amla scoring so many runs. Brilliant for England.”

What?

“He’s been averaging 20 in test cricket for the last couple of years,” my friend and colleague said matter-of-factly (but not strictly strictly accurately). “Ever since he decided to play T20 cricket and cash in, his test game has gone to sh*t. Isn’t that obvious? It is over here.”

“Well, umm. We don’t tend to talk about him like that,” I explained. “The thought of his recent run of test form signalling the beginning of the end of his test career is probably a bit too much for us to digest,” I said. Or words to that effect.

“Mate, he’s your hero, you can protect him as much as you like. But the England think-tank reckon he’s become terminally ‘loose’ as a result of T20. They saw Josh Hazlewood get him five times in a row in Australia and he’s a classic, ‘top of off-stump’ test bowler. He’s sold out to the money, mate, face it,” said my now unnecessarily smug acquaintance. He was smug, obviously, because Amla is the batsman the England team fears most during the test series – in the absence of De Villiers.

Perhaps it’s nonsense. Maybe the Mighty Hash can prove everyone wrong and produce something similar to the heroic 311* scored at the Oval four years ago. I’m not sure. But I am most definitely on the side of those who say: “He’s still got it.”

But I am worried.


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