It is an absolute honour that the first thing this blog ever does is to salute two historical sporting achievements, achieved by some of the greatest carriers of our national flag – Hashim Amla and Ernie Els.
At the end of what was a dream South African sporting weekend, one can only be glad that Bafana Bafana weren’t involved in any action. Proteas batsman Hashim Amla broke the South African individual test score at the same time became the first man to post 300 runs in one innings. Ernie Els, or “Oh Ernie” as he had been known in the last ten years, won his fourth career Major, the British Open.
Amla took to the England attack, in the first test at Lords, with the panache of the surgeon he is. England strike bowlers James Anderson and Graeme Swann could not tempt the bearded Durbanite (who should compare notes with Lions captain Josh Strauss) into poking at a wide one. Amla’s batting has certainly matured. Remember when you could trap him with a straight delivery while he was dancing in front of his stumps during his first four innings in Proteas colours when he registered scores of 24, 2, 1 and 0? His plucky batting action also gave you the sense that he would tickle one outside off stump.
Amla scored his second ever test century against England at Lords in 2008. Four years and 13 more centuries later, Amla became the first South African to cross the 300 run mark; a remarkable achievement. He finished day 4 of the first test on 311 not out, helping SA to an innings and 12 runs win in the first test.
As the England bowlers have demonstrated, you can’t stray on Amla’s pads, you can’t give him width and you simply cannot get him out cheaply any longer. He has the concentration span of an eagle. It’s as if the Proteas have two Jacques Kallises. He’s that good. Who can forget his 253 not out against India in 2010, which he followed up with a 114 and a 123 in the second test match in Kolkata a week later?
Hashim Mahomed Amla deserves praise in the same way AB de Villiers is being touted as a future Proteas legend.
Ernie Els, meanwhile, made an astonishing career comeback to win his second British Open and his fourth Major overall after a period of lean years and quivering putting. The 42-year-old’s lowest point came at the beginning of the year. There are 19 ways to qualify for the US Masters, Ernie failed in all of them after dropping out of the top 50 golfers in the world. Ernie will toast to good times once more.
The Sharks’ dominant win over the Reds in Brisbane to book a Super Rugby semifinal date with the Stormers in Cape Town this weekend deserves a mention. JP Pietersen was talismanic. He scored his fourth try in his last five games, including internationals, and the only game when he didn’t score, against the Cheetahs, he created two tries. He was again involved in the Paul Jordaan’s try, the second for the Sharks.
When I argue with fellow scribes that he’s the country’s most complete winger, because of his experience gained while playing fullback in his career, I will whip out Saturday’s tape as further evidence.
What about Graeme Smith’s 100 in his 100th test? The Proteas captain is becoming LeBron James-like in rising above criticism.
There are only two types of South African cricket fans: those that are for Smith and those that are against him. He will surely win more fans towards his side with his bullying batting performance.
And then Jacques Kallis, as splendid as ever.