253* v India, Nagpur, 6-9 February 2010 and 114 & 123* v India, Eden Gardens, Kolkata, 14-18 February 2010
Surely Amla’s finest hour – or rather 10s of hours – and up there with the greatest series effort by any touring batsman anywhere. Having entered at 6/2, his unbeaten 253 in the first game set up an innings win. India hit back with an innings win of their own to share the series, but Amla could barely have done more, scoring twin hundreds, and facing 394 balls unbeaten in the second innings as he dragged the Proteas agonisingly close to a draw. His average across the two games? 490.
112 v Australia, Newlands, Cape Town, 9-11 November 2011
It took an unflappable innings from one of cricket’s most unflappable characters to deliver the telling blow in one of the craziest games in the sport’s history.
On a lightning-fast wicket, Michael Clarke’s scintillating 151 carried Australia to 284. When South Africa were skittled for 96 it looked a match-defining knock. But the Proteas hit back in extraordinary style, Vernon Philander’s 5/15 on debut reducing Australia to 21/9, and in danger of plumbing the lowest total in Test history. A last-wicket stand boosted them to 47 all out and took the target to 236.
Given the madness of the first two days, anything seemed possible, but Amla’s brisk, risk-free 112 sapped all the tension out of the situation, and South Africa breezed to the total two wickets down in 50.2 overs.
311* v England, The Oval, London, 19-23 July 2012
A truly epic knock. South Africa’s 2012 series against England was highly anticipated, and billed as the two best teams in the world facing off, with the MRF Tyres No.1 Test Team Ranking up for grabs. Amla came into bat with the Proteas behind in the game, 1/1 in reply to England’s 385, and walked off unbeaten 529 balls, 311 runs, and more than 10 hours later.
His deconstruction of the English attack, and Graeme Swann in particular, was total, moving across to off stump and tucking one of England’s greatest spinners into the leg-side over and over again. An innings and series win was set up, another Amla ton coming in the decider at Lord’s. No South African before or since has passed 300 in Test cricket.
150 v England, Hampshire Bowl, Southampton, 28 August 2012
Hashim Amla’s ODI numbers exceed his in Tests, but in white-ball cricket he tended to be not a player of great knocks, but a simply relentless accumulator. Good enough to score at or near a run a ball with seemingly little effort, he was content to tick along and play the foil for a bevy of devastating hitters around him – his genius was in his consistency.
Still, while this knock was par for the course for Amla, from any other player it would have been a career peak. In yet another top-of-the-rankings clash, he was the only player to score quickly with any longevity. He contributed well over half of South Africa’s 287, and England never got close.
196 v Australia, The WACA, Perth, 30 November - 2 December 2012
Another game with the No.1 ranking on the line, another pivotal hand by Amla. South Africa had been on the ropes for most of the three-match series. A pair of Michael Clarke doubles had seen the Australians rack up 550 in each of the first two games, with an Amla ton and rain saving the Proteas in the first game, and a heroic debut ton from Faf du Plessis rescuing them in the second.
But when South Africa’s chance came, an inspired Dale Steyn spell securing a slender lead in the decider, Amla ensured they grabbed it with both hands. His 196 came at close to a run a ball, grinding Australia into the dirt, and South Africa soon sealed the series and held onto top spot.
139* v Sri Lanka, SSC, Colombo, 24-29 July 2014
Amla’s time as captain was short-lived and somewhat ill-fated, but his side’s efforts in Sri Lanka gave him a memory to savour. The two-match series was hard-fought, with it taking South Africa until deep in the fifth day to complete victory in the first game.
Amla ensured the lead wasn’t squandered, scrapping 382 balls for his unbeaten 139 in the second Test. The Proteas’ next highest score was 37, and a captain’s knock was needed to take vital time out of the game and drag them past the follow on. Far from done, Amla dead-batted another 159 balls in the fourth innings as South Africa survived eight wickets down. It was their first series win in Sri Lanka for over 20 years.