Amla, who will make his Cobras first-class debut in Thursday’s Sunfoil Series four-day match against the Knights at Newlands, batted mainly against coach Paul Adams’s throw-downs with the early afternoon sun beating down.
With a swish of Adams’s left arm, releasing the ball from a bowling practice tool that almost resembled a “slingshot”, Amla was right behind every delivery with a broad bat.
After about an hour, Amla faced a few deliveries of spin – he didn’t need to practice much in that regard, having just come through the toughest of spin examinations against the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in India.
The 72-day journey across the sub-continent is probably a distant memory – and thankfully so – for Amla, as he is would be looking forward to batting on truer South African surfaces during the blockbuster four-Test series against England, which starts on Boxing Day in Durban.
But before that, Amla and a number of his fellow Proteas will get some match practice for their respective franchises. That is why the Cobras line-up that will face the Knights looks like a Proteas Test batting order, with SA opener Stiaan van Zyl, Amla and JP Duminy turning out for the Cape side.
The two Danes – wicket-keeper Vilas and off-spinner Piedt – are also in the mix after returning from India, though Vilas has lost the Proteas gloves for the first two England Tests to AB de Villiers after a tough time behind the stumps and with the bat in the difficult Indian conditions.
With the usually heavy-scoring Amla notching up just 118 runs in seven innings against India, he felt he needed to get his touch back by playing for the Cobras. The same applies to Duminy, who also struggled against Ashwin and Co, totally only 70 runs in five visits to the crease.
It is critical for the Proteas, who are still reeling from a 3-0 Test defeat to India, that their captain and one of their senior middle-order batsmen find some form before they go head-to-head with James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Adams wasn’t surprised by Amla’s commitment a day before a match. “Yes, it’s the norm for Hash to have a good throw-down! It’s just him switching his mind back on to cricket. He’s had a nice break now, him and JP, and they are just switching themselves mentally back into cricket again,” the Cobras mentor told Independent Media at Newlands on Wednesday.
“There were different conditions there (in India) – you didn’t face much seam. And now you come back to South Africa and face a lot more seam bowling and that, so it’s important for them to click back into their routines of facing seam.
“We’ve seen them achieve a lot of success (in the past at home), and I think it’s (getting back to form) just about spending time out in the middle and at the crease, and making sure that their balance and everything is fine.”
Left-handed opening batsman Van Zyl will be keen to repay the Proteas selectors’ faith in him with some runs on the board for the Cobras before the England series. He scored 56 in five innings in India, where he was dismissed by Ashwin each time, before being dropped for Temba Bavuma in the final Test in Delhi.
Meanwhile, Bavuma will play for the Lions against the Dolphins at the Wanderers, where he will be back in his usual middle-order slot, which is where he will bat in the first two Tests against England as the Proteas selectors have opted for seven batsmen and four bowlers, with De Villiers as the wicket-keeper.
Another Proteas opener in Dean Elgar will feature in the Titans side against the Warriors in Centurion.
* Play will start at 10am at Newlands on Thursday. Follow @IndyCapeSport for score updates during the match, and visit www.iol.co.za/sport for a report on the day’s play. For more on Duminy and Amla’s search for form, read cricket writer Zaahier Adams’s expert views in Thursday’s Cape Times and Cape Argus.
Original source: Amla ‘switches on’ for Cobras