The-RockThe Twitter world was set buzzing on Sunday and was flooded with Hashim Amla jokes. The South African skipper remained not out on 23 from 207-balls at stumps on Day Four in the final Test of the tour at Feroz Shah Kotla, and this is the lowest strike-rate for any batsman who has played over 200-balls in Test cricket. While some mocked it as his protest against ‘rising intolerance’ in India, some called it ‘blockathon’ and some ‘the most boring innings ever in Test cricket.’ ‘Unfair’ to say the least because this display defined Amla’s character and why he has been one of the reasons for South Africa’s rise in Test cricket. Full Cricket Scorecard: India vs South Africa 2015 4th Test at Delhi

You are out battling for your country with an imminent defeat and a draw is South Africa’s best possible result at the moment. There’s a notion that Amla is an overtly defensive batsman but that’s not true, his career strike-rate in Test cricket is over 51 (which by the way is more than the likes of Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman among other greats and not very less than the likes of AB de Villiers or Virat Kohli). To mention One-Day Internationals (ODIs), his strike-rate is over 89 — more than that of Sachin Tendulkar or even MS Dhoni, with an average touching almost 53. Full Cricket Updates: India vs South Africa 2015 4th Test, Day 4 at Delhi

Amla is an attacking batsman who loves to play his shots and several times in this series, we have seen him getting out while trying to score and more often to reckless strokes. Amla’s last visit to India was in 2010 and he made it memorable with consecutive scores of 253 not out, 114 and 123 not out. Now as a captain, he has been shadow of his glorious past getting 43, 0, 7, 1, 39, 3 and now 23 not out, in this series. Along with de Villiers, he has been South Africa’s most prolific batsman in the recent years. The fact that he has failed in this series has hurt his side the most and despite his poor outings he still continues to hold the No.7 position in ICC’s Test batsmen ranking. Form can elude the best and unfortunately for Amla it was this India tour, his most challenging one as the national skipper.

In the ongoing series where South Africa have struggled to even reach the 200-mark, chasing 481 in five sessions was never a possibility. It was a matter of time Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja demolished them in less than two sessions, once again. That’s when South Africa displayed a rare stubborn resilience, something unseen from them in the series. Amla led from the front and received good support from Temba Bavuma and then de Villiers.

With the duo of Ashwin and Jadeja asking questions of every ball, and with Indian seamers hitting the right lengths consistently, it’s not easy to curb your natural stroke-making instincts and play for the time. In fact, in the age of T20 cricket where batsmen have got out playing shots in the direst of situations — like Rohit Sharma in the first innings of this Test — South Africa have batted out 72 overs scoring just 72 runs and despite the crawl it has been an excellent display of Test cricket. Here’s a side desperate to win and the other hell bent on denying that.

Let’s see the session-by-session breakdown of South Africa’s innings:

Session

Overs

Runs

Batsmen’s scores

First

5

5

Dean Elgar 4 (17) – out

Temba Bavuma 1 (13)*

Hashim Amla 0 (0)*

Second

34

35

Temba Bavuma 30 (104)*

Hashim Amla 6 (107)*

Third

33

32

Temba Bavuma 34 (117) – out

Hashim Amla 23 (207)*

AB de Villiers 11 (91)*

Fantastic AB: It’s not easy to bat like that and especially if you are Amla or de Villiers. One has to laud de Villiers for his versatility. The same man who scored a ton off 31-balls earlier this year is now trying to save a Test for his side — batting on 11 from 91-balls and mind you it’s not the first time he is doing this. Maybe that is why he is regarded as the very best of this generation. The current scenario reminds us of the Adelaide Test of 2012, when South Africa managed to save the game from a similar position. De Villiers with his 33 from 220-balls and Faf du Plessis’ 110 not out from almost eight hours of batting saved the day for the side.

In this game, Amla is showing the way but conditions are tougher here. He has batted, rather battled over four hours now. In 2010, Amla with his valiant efforts had almost won South Africa the series in India (ended in a draw) and now again it may come down to the war between his instincts and concentration.

Despite having lost the series, if South Africa manage to save this, it will be a big confidence booster for them ahead of their tough upcoming home series against England.

India enjoy a fabulous record at Feroz Shah Kotla and the bowlers have looked threatening. It won’t be easy for South Africa to bat out three sessions on a fifth day wicket. They won the T20I series here under du Plessis, ODI series under de Villiers and though they have struggled in the Test series, the Amla-led Proteas have conducted themselves brilliantly. Like true sportsmen, they have acknowledged India’s dominance and have dismissed the raging ‘pitch-talk’. The tour started with all smiles for South Africa and as ranked No.1 side in Test cricket. They will hope to leave shores with some solace. They deserve it.

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer , strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)