India deserved victory in Centurion but Proteas can fight back – Hashim Amla

Test cricket
Mohammed Shami

India were deserving winners in the first Test against South Africa earlier this week but the Proteas can get level matters, according to Proteas legend Hashim Amla.

The hosts are involved in their first Test series in six months and were thoroughly outplayed by arguably the best side in the world during the first Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion.

Whilst days three, four and five – after the second had been rained out – were trademarked by three innings below 200, it was on the first day the visitors really made their mark on the Test.

After being asked to bat first, India reached 272/3 at stumps with KL Rahul (123) and Mayank Agarwal (60) at times toying with the hosts’ fast-bowling attack.

Whilst they fought back to dismiss India for 327, as well as 177 in the second innings, tallies of 197 and 191 ultimately led to a convincing victory for India – their first at the ground.

“It was a fair result,” Amla, who has more than 9,000 Test runs to his name, said.

Batting notoriously difficult

“Centurion is notorious for becoming more difficult to bat as the days progress.

“So once India won the toss, batted and scored in excess of 300 it was game on for the Protea batters to match that score at the very least.

“Being 130 runs behind is what really hurt them, and it ended up being the difference.”

South Africa’s bowling attack is somewhat weakened after Anrich Nortje was ruled out of the series with injury, Amla was impressed with how they carried themselves after a tough opening day.

“Day one, the pitch looked best for batting and credit to the Indians for playing disciplined cricket,” he continued.

“It’s obvious when teams come to SA that their batsman talk about leaving well outside off stump and that’s probably were the Proteas let themselves down.

“Not challenging the defence enough. That was day one, but on day two, though, they did extremely well to restrict the Indians to 327. They could have got to 400 plus.”

“The bowlers all had their moments. Lungi [Ngidi], KG [Kagiso Rabada] and the youngster [Marco] Jansen stand out of course.”

All to play for in second Test

Considering South Africa have never lost a home series against India, Amla is confident the Proteas can level matters although he acknowledges there is plenty of work to be done by Mark Boucher’s men.

“There’s certainly a way back but it’s going to take laser-like focus for extended periods and a touch a fortune,” he added.

“Our two best batters in the middle are Temba and Quinton [de Kock].

“Now that Quinton has opted out of Test cricket, this cripples the batting line-up further and really, now more than ever, it makes it imperative for Temba to bat higher.”

“Be it three or four, allow him time to play a solidifying role as opposed to a recovery one.

“[Captain] Dean [Elgar] and Aiden [Markram] are class players with a pedigree for hundreds and if they get momentum, it would certainly ease the nerves and give much-needed confidence for the younger guys.”

The second Test starts at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Sunday, January 3.