JOHANNESBURG — Hashim Amla is set to join an elite group of South African cricketers when he makes his 100th Test appearance in the third and final match of the series against Sri Lanka starting here Thursday.
The elegant right-hander has been battling poor form in recent months but his influence on the side remains unquestioned as he becomes the eighth player from South Africa to notch up a century of Test caps.
One of the coolest customers in cricket and a hugely popular figure in the dressing room, Amla has established himself in the pantheon of modern South African greats, equally as influential as the likes of Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers.
His recent dip in form, leading him to score just 195 runs in his last five Tests, has dropped his average below 50, but with 25 tons, including 311 not out against England in 2012, he has been a key part of the team’s success in the last decade.
“He has a wonderful sense of calm,” South African opener Stephen Cook, who played with Amla in the national under-19 side, told reporters. “When a situation becomes tricky or some of the players become a bit hot-headed, Hashim will be the guy who’ll bring balance back.
“He contributes so much, he starts with 30 runs before he even comes in to bat.”
The 12 years since Amla made his Test debut have not been without challenges, his technique was questioned early on after a faltering start to his test career, while 12 months ago he resigned as captain after a home series loss to England.
A devout Muslim, he has also had to endure racial and religious slurs, and was infamously called “the terrorist” live on air by Australian cricketer-turned-commentator Dean Jones during a Test against Sri Lanka in 2006.
It was a slur repeated by a fan in Hobart during the Australia series last November, but none of these incidents have managed to ruffle the man dubbed the ‘Silent Warrior’ by his South African teammates.
Sri Lanka picks uncapped de Silva for T20s
Sri Lanka named uncapped all-rounder Thikshila de Silva Wednesday in a 15-member squad for the three Twenty20 Tnternationals against South Africa.
The squad also included left-arm wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan, who has impressed in Test cricket but has still not played a T20 International.
The squad: Angelo Mathews (captain), Dinesh Chandimal, Danushka Gunathilaka, Seekkuge Prasanna, Niroshan Dickwella, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Isuru Udana, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya Silva, Asela Gunarathna, Sachith Pathirana, Lakshan Sadakan, Thikshila de Silva and Nuwan Kulasekara.
Boult back to boost Kiwis
Bowling spearhead Trent Boult could return as the sole change for New Zealand in the first Test against Bangladesh in Wellington Thursday.
Coming off back-to-back Test victories over Pakistan and a 3-0 triumphs in both the 50-over and Twenty20 series against Bangladesh, New Zealand is looking for a clean sweep of the tourists as it builds toward the arrival of South Africa in March.
“We haven’t confirmed it yet, but it’s hard to see too many changes from our last Test,” captain Kane Williamson said on the eve of the Test, adding that Boult was getting back to his best form.
The left-arm fast bowler missed the second Test against Pakistan because of a knee injury but showed he had regained his express pace with deliveries in excess of 145 kms per hour (90mph) in the final Twenty20 against Bangladesh in Mount Maunganui Sunday.
With the Basin wicket offering pace and bounce on the opening day, Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim is looking for his batsmen to prove themselves in unfamiliar conditions, something they were unable to do in the limited-over matches.
Despite the unfamiliar conditions Mushfiqur said he believed he had the weaponry to produce Bangladesh’s first Test win over New Zealand if his bowlers can stick to their game plan.