Tag: Hashim Amla (page 1 of 2)

Hashim Amla in ODIs – a brief but unwelcome detour into stats

The human brain isn’t wired for statistics. In fact it isn’t wired at all. Perhaps that’s the problem. Maybe in the distant future when we’re all mechanically enhanced cyberfolk we’ll be able to make logical decisions based on data rather than being influenced by our demented emotional responses to stories we hear about individuals.

In general, one story about a single representative of some group or other acting like a prize bell-end will easily trump a statistic indicating that 99 per cent of said group aren’t bell-ends. However, an interesting aspect of cricket is that statistics are so plentiful and easy to come by that you can have your demented emotional opinion first and then source your stats to fit. It’s a win-win situation – albeit a win where you’re doubly wrong.

“You can prove anything with facts”

So said our favourite ever phone-in contributor. This person was wholly unimpressed with another caller’s entirely logical stats-based argument and delivered the line in a dismissive tone which made it abundantly clear that only a fool would pay heed to ‘proof’.

It’s the way to be. We’re not sure if it’s age or what, but we’re increasingly prone to sourcing facts to either confirm or rebut our half-formed opinions. Time was we used to just write something that seemed like it might possibly be true and then make a passing reference to a Transformer to distract people. Now we for some reason feel obliged to ‘look into things’.

When it comes to cricket, ‘looking into things’ is time-consuming, boring and ultimately pointless.

The Hashim Amla bit

Earlier today we had a vague sense that when Hashim Amla scores a lot of runs in a one-day international, South Africa more often than not win. We should have just written that and then had some fun. Instead, like a man trapped on an alien planet who’s lost all perspective about what’s important and what’s not, we actually went and checked. Before today, they’d won 19 of the 21 matches in which he’d made a hundred.

Really, that should have been enough for us and the dicking about with statistics should have ended there. Nothing we found would have been of any real consequence with regards to what may happen in the future, so there was literally no point investigating further.

But our old, decrepit, wanting-to-check-things brain pointed out that of course South Africa generally won when one of their top order batsmen made a hundred. That wasn’t really the point. It wanted to know whether Hashim Amla tended to make runs when South Africa won, which is something subtly different.

So here’s another stat. When South Africa win, Hashim Amla averages 68.54.

Our brain’s not entirely happy with this either. It wants us to dig deeper; to slice and dice the numbers more. But you have to draw the line somewhere and we’re already way past the correct place to do so. The correct place to draw the line would of course have been ‘at the outset before looking up any statistics whatsoever’.

So just give it a rest, brain. Life’s too short.


Hashim Amla – the other best batsman in the world

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Photo by Sarah Ansell

Cricket loves to rank things. You’d think the whole point of a cricket match was to determine which of two teams was the better, but apparently that’s not enough. Cricket also wants to know how the teams involved compare to all other current sides and how each of the players compares to his contemporaries.

But if you’re going to make judgements based on more than what’s happening in the here and now, what timespan should you use? Many of the sport’s stupidest arguments revolve around a refusal to comprehend this one simple variable.

‘How can South Africa be the top-ranked Test side?’ people asked midway through this series. ‘Look at them. They’re clearly not.’

Well, if rankings were taken over just the last six months then no, they wouldn’t be top. But the rankings don’t work like that. Over South Africa’s previous 29 matches, they had done enough to secure first place.

We’ve also heard people saying that there is ‘no way’ England are the fifth-best side, even though they’ve lost to Pakistan and drawn with both New Zealand and the West Indies inside the last year. We’ve no idea what timespan people are using to gauge England. Both incredibly short-term and fairly long-term only without the bit in between, presumably.

There’s similar disagreement regarding the individual rankings

Only the rankings themselves seem just as uncertain as everyone else. Of late, the best batsman in the world has been Steve Smith, Joe Root, Kane Williamson or AB de Villiers, depending on the time of day.

But what of Hashim Amla? He had a terrible year in 2015, but with captaincy and duckmaking responsibilities handed to de Villiers, he seems to have recovered that dreamlike state where he can combat tough conditions while simultaneously ensuring that every single poor delivery is slapped to the fence.  When he was out for 109 in the first innings of this Test, we genuinely felt like England had secured a pretty decent outcome.

In the short-term, Amla has made 201, 109 and 96 – three innings which aren’t done justice by numbers alone. In the long-term, things are similarly rosy. His longevity gives rise to a record that surpasses all the young pretenders, while he has 25 Test hundreds to de Villiers’ 21 from 14 fewer matches.

So Hashim Amla’s the best batsman in the world then?

We’ve rather been dragged into comparisons here, which wasn’t our intention. We merely wanted to point out that while the rankings are currently recognising some fantastic, relatively new young batsmen who have done well in the medium-term, Amla has been at something approaching the same level as them but for many more years.

Nor does that tell the full story, for the challenge evolves. Amla’s been around long enough that the world’s bowlers have had plenty time to pick apart his game. They’ve picked and they’ve picked and they’ve picked and he has not been found out yet.

Hashim Amla remains one of the best batsmen in the world. We don’t really care about his specific ranking.


They’re playing Hashim Amla’s song

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During Sunday’s play, the England and South Africa supporters did a duet, trading verses of their respective Moeen Ali/Hashim Amla songs which both employ the tune of No Limits by 2 Unlimited.

It was really rather entertaining – although they persisted for so long that we can still hear it in our mind’s ear well over 24 hours later. Watch it for yourself. We especially like the bit where the South Africa fans all duck down and bob rhythmically when it’s the Moeen Ali verse.

If you watch the video, you can clearly see that Hashim Amla enjoyed it. Perhaps this was the moment when he shrugged off the despondency that afflicted his batting throughout 2015.

This is not good news for England, because history tells us that once he’s up and running Hashim Amla WILL NOT GO AWAY.


Hashim Amla practises his forward defensive

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Facing his 46th delivery, Hashim Amla inside-edged the ball past his stumps and into space. Trawling through his memory banks, he happened upon the correct course of action and moved his body up to the other end. With the ball still enjoying a rare moment of liberation, he then jogged back.

Three balls later, still high on adrenaline, he edged one through the slips and increased his total by a further 50 per cent. Somewhat dizzy, he then played out two successive maidens before accidentally defending the ball into a gap off the final ball of the next over, which forced him to score another single.

Another maiden followed, but then came the big moment; an event no-one thought they’d see. Presented with an inviting ball on his pads, Hashim Amla deliberately scored a run. In fact, he scored two and was so scarred by the experience that he then bedded down for 39 successive dot balls.

Having helped deliver South Africa’s first wicketless session of the series, Amla emerged after tea and promptly hit a four. It seems he had retrieved his gearstick during the interval – and he wasn’t afraid to use it. Upon the dismissal of Temba Bavuma shortly afterwards, he employed that gearstick to change back into neutral.


Dissecting ‘momentum’ for the millionth time

Hashim Amla's face and cricket bat

Ahead of the third Test between South Africa and Australia, Hashim Amla has said:

“There’s a lot riding on the last Test and fortunately we’ve got a bit of momentum.”

Let’s very quickly examine how ‘momentum‘ has influenced the series thus far.

Australia won the first Test and thus gained momentum. They then lost the second Test. South Africa lost the first Test, but won the second despite not having momentum.

So basically ‘momentum’ has had precisely zero impact on performances and results thus far.


Hashim Amla WILL NOT GO AWAY

Hashim Amla hitting the ball with his bat again

We really like Hashim Amla, but by the box of Dujon, will he EVER stop batting?

There’s one more match this summer and we have every reason to believe that he’ll bat out the overs and make a hundred. It seems the most likely outcome, even if it’s another nine over match. He averaged 120.50 in the Test series, 111.66 in the one-day series and he made 47 not out off 30 balls today. He’s probably racking up hundreds on Little Master Cricket in the drinks breaks.

Aside from anything else, it’s a massive feat of endurance. A long innings is mentally and physically wearying and even if you recover the next day, you don’t fully recover. Experience repeated success on a long tour and it chips away at you. We can only presume that there must have been a lot of Hashim Amla to begin with.


Hashim Amla is a bit too good

Hashim Amla is not new. He’s been bearding hundreds for many years now. It is therefore no surprise that his second innings hundred tipped the balance from ‘could go either way’ to ‘very probably a South Africa win’. Vernon Philander’s two late wickets then shoved it to ‘almost certainly a South Africa win’ but he can thank Amla for giving him the opportunity to do that.

Going into the final day, all results are at least technically still possible, so for the most part it’s been a fairly even Test. ‘Fairly even’ doesn’t mean ‘destined for a draw’. It means one side has had to play well to get into a position of dominance and Amla’s contribution looks most influential.

It’s not just England’s specialist batsmen who have been found wanting in this match. Take Amla’s hundred out and South Africa’s top six have actually only scored 14 runs between them. This is a lie – but not that big a lie.

However, with batsmen like Amla, it’s not just about the shots or the runs; it’s the sense you get when he’s batting. It just doesn’t feel like he’s ever going to get out. We don’t know much about professionalism, but Amla’s helmet and clothes must reek of it. Professionalism smells, right?


Enduring South African flawlessness with the bat

We’re not a fan of batting. Fours and sixes elicit an approving nod of the head, but they don’t move us in the same way as wickets. This has perhaps been compounded by a period of Test cricket that lasted until recently in which huge scores became the norm. That said, there was an enormous amount to admire about the batting of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and above all Hashim Amla this week. It was almost perfect.

There’s a paradox in that every big innings eats itself a little. The more runs a batsman scores, the easier the conditions are presumed to be. Certainly The Oval didn’t present the stiffest of tests for the South Africans and England didn’t provide the toughest of Tests for them, but to lose two wickets in 189 overs is an achievement in itself.

Every delivery can potentially result in a wicket, but it’s amazing how this fact can transmogrify into fantasy as an innings wears on. Bowlers’ spirits are eroded and batsmen’s confidence builds and often it only ends when the latter gets out of hand. The three South Africans exhibited an iron will in preventing that from happening.

During an innings like South Africa’s 637-2, there comes a point at which it’s no longer about any particular shot or passage of play. It’s most admirable in totality. The sheer scale of what’s happened is the most striking thing about it – all that time and so few mistakes. It’s an exercise in perseverance, endurance and faultlessness, like setting up a giant domino rally only without the toppling pay-off.

It’s also good because you can go outside and enjoy the sun and you won’t miss much.


Hashim Amla beards 253 not out

Hashim Amla beards the crowdHashim Amla bearded India all round the park in bearding 253 not out.

Bearding for most of the day, his bearding was immaculate throughout. Amla did struggle to beard against Amit Mishra for a while, but he bearded that problem by bearding his head down and bearding before bearding other bowlers.

Despite this, we don’t really know where this match stands. Test matches in India are very hard to predict these days. The first few days are generally just jockeying for position with the timing of declarations as important as wickets. Then suddenly, at some point on day three or four, it all kicks off.

Hashim Amla might have some bearding to do yet.


South Africa’s strongest batting line-up

Ashwell Prince looks forward to a long rest for the rest of the dayNot so long ago, this South Africa batting line-up looked stronger than Geoff Capes crossed with a grizzly bear. Now? Not so much.

Ashwell Prince isn’t an opener; Hashim Amla might as well paint a bullseye on his front leg; while if JP Duminy could ever get past his first ball, we might get a chance to watch him being found out by the short ball. Even AB De Villiers is looking a bit rocky.

Batting averages only tell you what’s already happened.


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