Amla leaves for home to be with his expecting wife
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — South Africa’s top batsman Hashim Amla flew back home on Friday to be with his wife, who is expecting a second child.
While Cricket South Africa says it will not send a replacement for Amla, it’s unclear whether the top-ranked test batsman will make it to Dubai before the second test against Pakistan, starting next Wednesday.
Amla scored a gritty 118 in the first test as the rest of the Proteas batsmen struggled in a seven-wicket loss inside four days, the Proteas first loss in the last 16 test matches.
“We know where we went wrong and this team is without a doubt a fantastic team,” Amla said. “We take a lot of pride from our performance and this has hurt, we set high standards for ourselves.”
Despite the loss, Amla occupied the No. 1 position in ICC’s test rankings while A.B. de Villiers, who scored 90 in the second innings, moved to a career-best No. 2 on Friday.
South Africa’s top order stuttered in both innings and showed signs of rustiness of not playing test cricket since routing Pakistan 3-0 at home in February.
But for Amla it looked like a half century in the warmup match against Pakistan ‘A’ at Sharjah was enough to get back into his groove.
Despite Amla’s brilliant fightback, Pakistan managed to restrict the Proteas to 249 in the first innings and from there on South Africa looked only the second-best team at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Pakistan’s new opening pair scored its first century stand in the last 18 months when Khurram Manzoor had 146 and 24-year-old left-handed debutant Shan Masood made an elegant 75 in Pakistan’s huge reply of 442 for a match-winning 193-run lead.
South Africa seamers Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn could not adjust their lengths on a slow wicket as Pakistan’s openers scored at a healthy run-rate of over four an over.
“We will go back and address where we have gone wrong, where we can improve,” Amla said. “Over the next few days a lot of hard work will be put into place in our training sessions and discussions.”
Amla also said the Proteas needed to be mentally stronger for the second test.
“We’ll probably have a few net sessions, but the biggest change will be mental,” he said.
Philander and Steyn gave South Africa some hope of bowling with the new ball in the second innings when they reduced Pakistan to 7-3 inside the first four overs while chasing a small target of 40 runs.
Philander, who finished with five wickets in the match, needs six more to become South Africa’s fastest bowler to reach 100 test wickets.
Philander has taken 94 wickets from 17 test matches at an average of 17.33.