Both Proteas batting coach Dale Benkenstein and captain Faf du Plessis have defended Hashim Amla and said they back him to still score big runs in the remainder of the World Cup.
Amla was a controversial choice for the World Cup squad after passing 50 just four times in 19 innings in 2018 and 2019, and he spent most of the domestic T20 competition working alone with Benkenstein.
But he then made polished half-centuries against both Sri Lanka and the West Indies in the warm-up matches. But questions over whether both his eyes and form have deserted him began to resurface when he was late on a hook shot against Jofra Archer and was forced to retire hurt before coming back and scoring just 13 against England.
He rested due to concussion symptoms for the game against Bangladesh, but then could only make a pair of 6s against India and the West Indies in Southampton.
“I had two weeks of one-on-ones with Hash and I think it made a big difference, we were able to just chat and clear his head. He now looks in amazing form in the nets, he’s a class player and this is as well as I’ve seen him play. I’m 100% sure that a good score is just around the corner for him, all he needs is a nice sunny day and a bit of luck.
“Hash is hitting the ball well and moving well and he’s 100% mentally, helluva relaxed. He’s not fazed by anything but he knows getting some runs is very important for him. He just needs to get through to about 30 overs and I’m sure he’ll convert. He and Quinton de Kock have been prolific for us and we’ve scored 300+ quite a few times. It’s just at the moment they’re not firing,” Benkenstein said.
“Hashim is a class player and it was tough opening on that Southampton pitch,” Du Plessis pointed out. “If he can just get through the first 10 or 15 overs then I’m sure there’s a big score coming. But there was more pace and bounce in Southampton and that pitch is more tricky than many of the others in England. Like most of our batsmen it’s been a case of getting in and not converting, we’ve had a lot of starts.”
Those conversion rates were also what Benkenstein pointed to as the major reason why South Africa’s batting has not really fired.
“The message now is that the batsmen must step up. We’ve batted well but not for long enough, we’ve had the opportunities for hundreds and hundred partnerships but not taken them. That’s what win games but we’ve just got out at the wrong times. I feel that we are one game away, one hundred away, one win away from getting our confidence back.
“The key is the top four and one batsman going through, it’s not rocket science. And it’s frustrating because they’re not out of form, they’re actually all playing quite well. So it’s those moments of mental weakness when they just get out. You relax, you’re think you’re in when you’ve got 30 or 40 and you try and play too aggressively, when you just need more hunger to try and make the most of your start,” Benkenstein said.