Amla's numbers top Kohli, Tendulkar

South African the fastest to 50 international centuries and continues to build peerless ODI record

Ricky Ponting's declaration last week that Virat Kohli can already be regarded as the best player in the history of one-day international cricket, ahead of Sachin Tendulkar, unsurprisingly caused a minor ripple in the land where The Little Master has long been bestowed God-like status.

Quick Single: Ponting's high praise for Virat Kohli

Kohli's ODI numbers of 7755 runs and 27 centuries, a tally accrued still nine months short of his 29th birthday, have him on track to surpass the incredible record that Tendulkar built over more than two decades - almost 18,500 runs and 49 centuries in 463 matches.

Jan, 2017: Kohli clinic, Jadhav blitz hand India first ODI win

While the raw numbers back up Ponting's learned judgement that the current Indian star will one day surpass all before him, South African Hashim Amla continues to build an ODI record that, by several measures, is superior to that of Kohli, the great Tendulkar and anyone else to have played the game.

The serene Proteas star notched his 24th ODI century on Friday, a near-flawless 154 against Sri Lanka that also represented his 50th three-figure score at international level. He is one of just seven players to have achieved the feat of 50 international tons and the fastest to do so. Faster than Tendulkar. Faster than Ponting. And faster than Jacques Kallis, Brian Lara, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene as well.

Jun, 2016: Amla's unbelievable display powers Proteas

While Amla is exactly halfway to Tendulkar's seemingly unbeatable tally of 100 centuries in all formats, his record in ODI cricket during his nine-year career is without peer.

The stylish right-hander, who only made his ODI debut a few weeks before his 25th birthday and more than three years after his first Test, has taken just 142 innings to score 24 ODI tons, 19 innings faster than Kohli, 50 innings faster than star teammate AB de Villiers and - incredibly - in almost half the number of innings that it took Ponting (278 innings) to do so.

Amla's innings at Centurion brought his career tally to 6780 runs and he's a genuine chance to break through the 7000-run barrier early next month during the latter stages of South Africa's five-match series against New Zealand.

Mar, 2016: Amla blasts career-best score

Amla already holds the record as the fastest batsman to 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000 and 6000 ODI runs and is on track to shatter Kohli's current record for the fastest to 7000. The Indian reached the milestone in 161 innings, meaning Amla has 18 innings to score another 220 runs, a mere formality.

For all of Kohli's dominance in the one-day game, Amla has made a habit of chasing down the Indian maestro to each 1000-run milestone; Kohli was the fastest to 5000 and 6000 runs before Amla got there 13 innings faster than him.

Kohli sets the benchmark, and Amla breaks it.

Oct, 2016: Kohli anchors India to big win

But the major factor working in Kohli's favour is something both men have in abundance at the crease - time.

Amla will turn 34 next month and looks set to call time on his career well before Kohli, more than five years his junior, tires of plundering bowling attacks around the world.

The Proteas star could well be targeting the 2019 World Cup in the UK as his possible ODI swansong, by which time Kohli will be just 30 years old and nowhere near finished.

And as Ponting himself said last week, it's longevity in the game that is the true measure of greatness.

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"I think that’s the difference between the really, really great players and the great players," Ponting remarked.

"The longevity and how long they can perform at a certain level for."

Having made his ODI debut relatively late in his career, Amla is unlikely to ever accumulate the number of runs needed to surpass the likes of Tendulkar and Kohli.

But whenever the Proteas star does walk away from ODI cricket, a day that is hopefully still years down the track, he should be remembered as a genuine great.

Fastest to 50 international centuries

  • Hashim Amla - 348 innings
  • Sachin Tendulkar - 376 innings
  • Ricky Ponting - 420 innings
  • Brian Lara - 465 innings
  • Jacques Kallis - 520 innings
  • Kumar Sangakkara - 593 innings
  • Mahela Jayawardene - 667 innings

Nov, 2014: Highlights of Amla's classy ton

Runs after 142 ODI innings

  • 6780 - Hashim Amla
  • 6232 - Virat Kohli
  • 6019 - Sir Viv Richards
  • 5817 - AB de Villiers
  • 5700 - Brian Lara

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Fastest to 24 ODI centuries

  • Hashim Amla - 142 innings
  • Virat Kohli - 161 innings
  • AB de Villiers - 192 innings
  • Sachin Tendulkar - 219 innings
  • Ricky Ponting - 278 innings