South Africa will look to celebrate Hashim Amla’s 100th test by completing a series whitewash over Sri Lanka in the third test at the Wanderers from Thursday.
Having thumped Sri Lanka by 206 runs and 282 runs in the first two tests, South Africa has extra impetus from Amla’s milestone to keep the visitors unhappy.
Quiet by nature, Amla has turned down the offer of a special dinner to mark the occasion and has steered clear of speaking to the press, but his teammates intend to turn a dead rubber into a memorable match.
“Hashim has been one of our pillars over a long period of time. It would be really nice for us to give him a victory,” fast bowler Wayne Parnell said on Tuesday.
Amla made his debut against India in Kolkata in November 2004, and although he struggled in his first three tests, he overcame that hurdle to become one of South Africa’s most prolific batsmen.
Now 33, Amla has scored 7,665 runs in test cricket at an average just below 50, and his unbeaten 311 against England at The Oval is the highest score by a South African in tests.
However, he has undergone a rare lean patch over the past six months, when he has gone 12 innings without a hundred, and nine without a half-century.
“He’s a brilliant player, but he’s not in form in this series. Hopefully it will be the same in this match as well,” Sri Lanka batsman Dhananjaya de Silva said.
Sri Lanka has struggled with the seam movement on South Africa’s pitches, failing to cross 300 in its four innings.
It is unlikely to have any respite at the Wanderers, where South Africa is contemplating the employment of four fast bowlers to take advantage of seam-friendly conditions.
Last season’s test at the venue saw England defeat South Africa in just three days, as Stuart Broad took 6-17 in the second innings to bowl the host out for 83.
Although rain has hampered preparation this week, groundsman Bethuel Buthelezi does not expect the batsmen to find life as difficult this time around.
“I will keep grass on the pitch and there will be bounce and carry, but there won’t be as much in the wicket as there was for Broad,” Buthelezi said.
“This will be a wicket that will offer run-scoring opportunities.”
Amla has scored just two of his 25 test centuries at the venue, with the last one coming more than five years ago.
But whether or not he breaks that run and marks his 100th test with a score of note, his impact on South African cricket is not in question.
“You can look up stats and see the records and that tells one half of the tale. The person he is is more important,” opening batsman Stephen Cook said. “You are a human being first and a cricketer second, and he epitomises that.”