Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers have played cricket alongside each other for the last 10 years. The two could not be more different. De Villiers is the flamboyant trailblazer, Amla the quiet one with silky wrists.
But opposites attract, and opposites make magic happen on the cricket field. On Sunday, De Villiers and Amla combined for 151 runs, coming in at over six runs an over against Sri Lanka in a one-day international in Colombo. The partnership propelled South Africa to 304 runs, a winning total in the end. It was a fine effort from two of South Africa’s finest players, but it did not come easily.
"At first, we hung there," Amla said, per ESPN Cricnfo. "Quinny (Quinton de Kock) got away a little but I just hung in and tried to support him in that phase. We took a little bit of time to settle and the wicket also got a little better."
Important as ever in the partnership between the two was the way they rotated the strike. Amla scored 51 runs of his total from singles, while De Villiers nudged the ball around for 40 singles. Knowing how to run with your partner is vital and something the pair did well, especially against the spinners.
"AB and I managed to get a rhythm going and rotate the strike but as the partnership progressed, it got easier. With AB at the end, the intensity is there, and you know you're probably going to score quickly. These guys are good bowlers but the wicket didn't turn a lot," said Amla.
Amla’s 109 and De Villiers’ 75 were significant scores not only because of their relevance in the match but because they carry much meaning for South Africa going forward.
As South Africa’s new Test captain, Amla will have a partner not only in decision-making but also in runs. The captaincy approach will now become far more holistic, with the two making decisions together and helping each other out when the going gets tough. It’s far different to the days of Graeme Smith, when for the most part the team was his.
That will now change. With Amla as Test captain and De Villiers his deputy, the two will run the team very much in tandem. The pair have already got the records to match their new expectation. Together, in Tests, they have scored 1,703 runs at an average of 51.60. In 32 innings, they have notched up 10 half-century partnerships and five century partnerships.
In one-day internationals, their record is equally impressive. In the last 10 years, they have scored 2,090 runs together at an average of 83.60. That's the second-most total runs of the top 10 partnerships but the highest on average:
|Best South African ODI partnerships in the last 10 years|
|AB de Villiers, GC Smith||2005-2013||42||1||2278||186||55.56||7||10|
|HM Amla, AB de Villiers||2008-2014||27||2||2090||238||83.60||9||4|
|HM Amla, GC Smith||2008-2013||50||2||2015||136||41.97||2||18|
|HH Gibbs, GC Smith||2004-2009||40||0||1944||187||48.60||7||6|
|AB de Villiers, JH Kallis||2005-2013||43||3||1931||173*||48.27||5||7|
|AB de Villiers, JP Duminy||2007-2013||41||7||1694||219||49.82||4||10|
|JH Kallis, GC Smith||2004-2012||40||3||1669||142||45.10||3||12|
|HH Gibbs, JH Kallis||2004-2010||34||1||1579||175||47.84||5||6|
|HM Amla, JH Kallis||2008-2014||26||1||1189||144||47.56||4||6|
|JP Duminy, JH Kallis||2006-2013||25||3||955||108||43.40||1||7|
Cricket certainly is a team sport, and to suggest that South Africa can get away with relying solely on De Villiers and Amla would be misguided at best. However, if both remain in good form, it’s hard to see South Africa struggling too much with the adaption in Tests.
It would be of enormous significance for both players to have a good one-day series, because if that form is carried through to the Test series, it will go a long way toward defining their success in Sri Lanka and for the years to come.