Time’s winged chariot seems to be inexorably catching up with the South African squad. And slowly its stalwarts are ebbing away. If AB de Villiers stunned all by retiring from international cricket and opted to stick to domestic Twenty20 leagues, the vagaries of age and the fickle nature of form seem to be plaguing a few others.

Dale Steyn has been laid low through a shoulder injury and Hashim Amla isn’t exactly racking up the runs. At 36, and with previous scores of 6 (against India on Wednesday), 13, 14, 59, 25 and 8 in ODIs, the opener with a zen-like demeanour is at his tipping point.

His previous limited- overs hundred (108 not out) was scored against Pakistan at Port Elizabeth in January before he suffered a slump.

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For the Proteas, down with three consecutive defeats, Amla has to fire. Aware of his team’s needs and a bit perplexed about the squad’s dipping fortunes, Amla, who squared up to the media late on Wednesday evening at the ICC’s mixed-zone, still hoped for a turn-around: “Very disappointed to have lost three in a row. In previous World Cups, we have played really well but we haven't won a World Cup. This could be the other way round. Imagine that, where you start badly and then find some momentum. Obviously we need to win five or six games in a row.”

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Amla expressed his surprise over how the pitch at the Hampshire Bowl eventually turned out: “We anticipated it to be a bit more high scoring. And the guys went in with the more attacking option with Tabraiz (Shamsi) being a left-arm wrist spinner. The wicket was a lot more seamer friendly, nipping throughout the day. Those are things you can't anticipate.”

And what about his dismissal to Jasprit Bumrah? “Batting upfront, you have to assess the wicket. Unfortunately I didn’t get past the assessment period, it was the first ball I faced off Bumrah. You don't know what to expect, it just comes off the wicket and it can happen. When you look around, I think him and Kagiso Rabada are the two best bowlers in the world. They have got pace, accuracy and can bowl at all stages,” Amla replied.

In the days ahead, he has to become the Amla of old -- patient, adhesive and etching consistent runs. South Africa needs that from its veteran batsman.