There can only be one possible winner of this week’s award following South African batsman Hashim Amla’s record-breaking 311 not out in the First Test against England. He was the first South African to make a Test triple hundred, going past AB de Villiers’ previous best of 278, and made the highest score in a Test in England since Graham Gooch hit 333 not out against India in 1990.
Along the way, he hardly gave a chance – aside from offering a difficult slip catch to Andrew Strauss when on 40 – and played at a relatively consistent pace throughout his epic 529-ball innings. His first fifty was the slowest, taking 110 balls as he and Graeme Smith saw off the new ball on the second evening following the loss of Alviro Petersen, while his last two were the fastest as he began to play more freely only after reaching 200.
Perhaps the single-most impressive aspect of the innings was his unyielding concentration. He applied much the same watchfulness to the 301st ball that he received as he had his first. Throughout, his judgement of when to leave – as in all great innings – was exemplary, while his method of playing Graeme Swann was particularly effective. Possibly learning from his earlier failures against England’s off-spinner when he had been bowled after standing on middle-stump and leaving a gap between bat and pad, he habitually moved over outside the off-stump, forcing Swann to bowl wider, and played predominantly off the back foot, which forced Swann to bowl fuller. Both of which helped negate his effectiveness.
A tribute to Amla’s knock wouldn’t be complete without also mentioning Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, who both made influential centuries of their own, and supported him throughout his innings. Smith added 259 with him for the second-wicket and played a key role in helping to blunt both England’s new ball threat and their enthusiasm; whereas Kallis was typically machine-like during his unbeaten 182 and shared an unbroken third-wicket stand of 377 – the highest for any wicket in Test cricket in England since 1957 – with him.
Away from The Oval, there were several other notable performances over the past week – many of whom, without Amla, would have been in with a serious shout of winning the award. One of the most impressive was Bangladeshi slow left-armer Elias Sunny, who took eight wickets during the three-match Twenty20 International series against Ireland – including five for 13 in the first match. Another spinner, Sunil Narine, took five for 27 in the fifth One-Day International against New Zealand in St Kitts, while in the first One-Day International in Hambantota, Virat Kohli (106) and Virender Sehwag (96) starred for India. In associate cricket, Netherlands all-rounder Shahbaz Bashir marked his first-class debut with an innings of 102 against the United Arab Emirates.
© Cricket World 2012
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