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Daniel Brigham: Why England Should Fear Amla and de Villiers

October 22nd, 2009 by Daniel Brigham in England, International, South Africa, Test cricket


Many observers feel that England’s bowlers are in for a long, hard, staring-at-the-boundary winter. South Africa’s batting line-up is fearsome: even Ashwell Prince, who averages 47 with 11 Test hundreds, struggles to get in the current side.

They also have two players who have turned enormous hype as teenagers into consistent, world-class performances: Hashim Amla, 26, and AB de Villiers, 25. I spoke to both of them a couple of days ago for TWC’s next issue and, while they share in common the ability to score lots of runs, the two seem to be vastly different personalities.

There’s the obvious contrast: de Villiers the blue-eyed golden boy of South African cricket with a strong Christian faith; Amla the heavily-bearded Muslim who became the first South African of Indian heritage to play for his country.

Yet they also appeared very different on a cricketing level: de Villiers watched practically every minute of the Ashes, Amla just followed the results; de Villiers knew the likely England batting line-up, Amla wasn’t sure who would bat at three; de Villiers says he plays better when the sledges are flying, Amla admits to not talking enough on the field other than to encourage his team-mates.

That’s not to suggest Amla cares less about the game, far from it. The ability to shut himself off from cricket when not playing is exactly what makes him such a calm presence and the perfect No.3 (perhaps Ian Bell should take note). While AB de Villiers’ enthusiasm for battle and all aspects of the game is what makes him such a destructive, aggressive batsman at No.5.

It’s this mixture of personalities and styles that make the South African batting unit such a dynamic, lethal proposition that a line-up including Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell can’t match.

The interviews, with lots more interesting things on KP, Jonathan Trott, race and Rhinos, will be in the December issue of the mag, out November 13.

What won’t be included is, after an intelligent discussion (on Amla’s behalf, anyway) about people’s attitudes to his beard and the preconceptions that he encounters, is me asking “So, if you were captain, would you give it a stroke to make yourself appear more wise while making a difficult decision?” He laughed politely while I contemplated jumping out of the nearest window.

Daniel Brigham is assistant editor of The Wisden Cricketer

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