Southampton — When Hashim Amla left the CSA T20 Challenge at the back-end of the tournament back in April, he was in horrible touch.
Considered one of the greatest batsman South Africa has ever produced in both red and white ball cricket, Amla was struggling to find any form.
He had already been included in the Proteas’ 15-man World Cup squad, but he had challenges both on and off the field.
While he desperately wanted as much cricket under his belt as possible, Amla was also devoting a lot of time to his father, who was understood to be critically ill at the time.
When he left the Cape Cobras during that T20 Challenge, Amla returned to Durban where he spent a couple of weeks with Proteas batting coach Dale Benkenstein.
Proteas management will tell you that there were never any concerns over his form, but when the squad left for England and the 2019 World Cup there were question marks hovering over Amla.
He quelled those fears with knocks of 65 (61) and 51* (46) against Sri Lanka and the West Indies, respectively, in South Africa’s two World Cup warm-ups and the signs were that Amla was back.
The returns in the tournament itself, however, have not been good.
Amla left the field after a nasty blow to the grille of his helmet from Jofra Archer in the opener against England at The Oval when he was just 5*.
He returned when the match was already beyond South Africa’s reach and was out for 13 (23) , but having suffered concussion symptoms after the match, Amla was ruled out for game two against Bangladesh.
Back for India at the Rose Bowl, Amla was out for 6 (9) to a peach from Jasprit Bumrah while he made 6 (7) against the West Indies before falling victim to left-arm quick Sheldon Cottrell when, not for the first time in the tournament, he seemed to be late in reacting to pace.
With South Africa now facing five must-win pool games in a row, Amla’s form and getting the side off to solid starts with Quinton de Kock is crucially important.
Benkenstein, though, believes that the 36-year-old is in good shape and that runs when it matters will come.
“I think it made a big difference, also the talk and chat about things and clearing his head,” Benkenstein said of his time together with Amla before the tournament.
“When he got here (England), he looked in unbelievable form and he looks amazing in the nets. He is a class player and I’m 100% sure it is just around the corner.
“He needs a nice sunny day, to have a little bit of luck and just get through it.
“He’s playing as well as I’ve ever seen him play and I think you all saw it (in the World Cup warmups). He is hitting the ball well, he’s moving well, and we have to just keep believing.”
Benkenstein also believes that Amla is still in good mental shape despite his returns at the World Cup.
“He is a hell of a relaxed guy and he doesn’t seem to be fazed by too many things, but he has always said that runs are really important for him because it gives him the confidence,” he said.
The Proteas are next in action when they take on Afghanistan in Cardiff on Saturday. On paper, it is a result that the South Africans should win, and it could be the perfect opportunity for Amla and the rest of the batsmen to play an innings of substance.
@LloydBurnard is in England covering the 2019 Cricket World Cup for Sport24 …
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Publish date : 2019-06-12 15:22:44