Hashim Amla ticks all the boxes in captaincy debut
Cape Town: Hashim Amla had big shoes to fill, literally and figuratively, when he took over the captaincy of the South African test team from Graeme Smith, but he has come through his first series in Sri Lanka having ticked all the right boxes.
Amla said when he took over from the retired Smith that he wanted to take South Africa back to the top of the International Cricket Council`s test rankings, and it has taken him just two matches to do so.
Monday`s nail-biting draw in the second test in Colombo, which handed South Africa a 1-0 series win, their first in Sri Lanka, has lifted the side above Australia to the summit of the world game once more.
But perhaps more importantly it has given Amla the perfect start as the new leader of the side and will have silenced the doubters, of which there have been a few.
"I have enjoyed the first two tests, everything about it has gone pretty well," he said after the second test. "The players have responded brilliantly."
Amla led the side with intelligence and positivity, rotating his bowlers well and providing a second-innings declaration in the first test that was refreshingly early compared to South African sides of the recent past.
It left Sri Lanka needing 370 runs to win in 120 overs and with the weather set fair, but Amla backed his bowlers on a wearing wicket and they proved him right as the tourists won by 153 runs.
The team have been accused of being too cautious in the past and batting on when they needed to give their bowlers more time to take wickets. There looks to have been a change in attitude and it has already paid dividends.
Amla prefers to suggest the performance was just more of the same from the past few years.
"We have had challenges like this before and we have managed to do some special things as a team in the last two years, and today was another example of the characters we have in the team," he said.
The right-handed batsman failed in both innings in the first test, but when his side needed him to come good he was able to muster those famous powers of concentration, seemingly not diminished by the weight of captaincy.
His unbeaten 139 in the first innings was all class, while no less important was the nearly three hours he spent at the wicket in helping save the test in the second innings.
In all he spent four minutes shy of 11 hours at the crease in the game on a wicket that was taking prodigious turn from day two and against some of the world`s premier spin bowlers.
His calmness, whether perceived or real, at the wicket, in the field or the dressing room never fluctuated with the fortunes of his side. This is not a man to panic, and for a side too often accused in the past of being "chokers", that may turn out to be one of his most valuable captaincy traits.