John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Saturday 21 July 2012) Admiring Amla

John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Saturday 21 July 2012) Admiring Amla

Roy got up and did nothing, he was frozen. Amla resumed: a cover drive off the back foot for four, a mid-wicket flick for another. “Beautiful shot!” said commentator Bumble with awe, as though he could feel the perfect sweetness of the timing through the palms of his own hands. Amla swept Swann to the fine leg boundary, finding the very space that Strauss had just vacated. Smith reached his century. Amla went to 99 then glanced calmly to third man, bringing up three figures of his own. “Special innings from Hashim Amla,” Bumble declared. The batsman removed his helmet, revealing a startling shaven scalp, or maybe baldness, Roy didn’t know. “Cool as you like,” Bumble remarked.

The theme of Amla’s knock was serenity, the art of batting made spiritual. Roy searched his back catalogue for comparisons. Amla was graceful like Graveney, gracious like Sobers, combining ease, tranquillity and competitive gravity. A text book drive off Swann took him to 150 from 204 balls. Smith had gone by then but Kallis had joined him and already reached 50. Another Amla four. Nasser Hussain: “Oh, he’s superb there. Punching off the back foot, is there a better player in world cricket?”

A stillness settled on Roy, something he hadn’t felt for quite a while. He wanted it to stay with him and carry him through the coming days, months, years, the afterlife promise kept early. No more striving and defeat, just equable drift and the balm of harmony between eye, body, bat and ball. Roy dozed, snored and stirred. Amla was still in.

He switched channel to the Tour where it was time trial day, each cyclist racing separately against the clock. Wiggins went last, straight after team-mate Froome, who was in second place. He covered the distance in just over an hour, faster than anyone else. Sunday’s final stage into Paris was by tradition a procession, Roy read. It meant Wiggo had already won. “I was thinking of my wife, children, grandfather, nan with about 20 kilometres to go,” Wiggins said. “It sounds cheesy, but your whole life is for this and the reason I got into cycling as a kid was today.” No mention for his dad, thought Roy.

He switched to the golf: McDowell climbing; Woods stalling; McIlroy falling; Snedeker still in the top two but falling too, with Scott the beneficiary. Come the turn the Australian led the field again, by four.

Roy studied Scott closely for the first time. He was no vintage Oz archetype: there was no matey swagger or big, bush moustache; no blond shock, or teeth thrown into blinding relief by an outdoor tan. He wore glasses, a cap, a chequered jumper of a type Roy had owned and then disowned 30 years before, and he used a long-handled putter, which Roy thought ungainly. His frame was slight, his face was thin. Stubble did not make it threatening. He closed out at eleven-under, still four shots clear. Pressure on for the last day

Roy’s thought again of Kristie’s message: “It’s a long time since you said something that nice.”

Still immobilised, he went to bed.

All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE. Photo of Hashim Amla by YellowMonkey/Blnguyen. Follow John Vane on Twitter.

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Categories: Culture, Roy's Summer of Sport

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