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Hashim Amla appointed South Africa test captain after Graeme Smith's retirement

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Hashim Amla was named South Africa's new test cricket captain on Tuesday, overtaking apparent front-runner AB de Villiers and succeeding longtime leader Graeme Smith.

The 31-year-old Amla previously shied away from the captaincy when approached to do the job in limited-overs cricket, but the batsman had a change of heart and made himself available after Smith's surprise retirement in March.

"I have concentrated on taking my batting to the highest possible level and now I feel I am in a position to make a contribution to South African cricket in a leadership role," Amla said.

As captain of the one-day team, de Villiers appeared to be the favourite to take on the test job. But his importance as a top-order batsman and wicketkeeper may have complicated his selection as captain, with selectors possibly unwilling to land him with too much responsibility. De Villiers was named Amla's vice captain.

Amla has played 76 tests and has an average of 51.35. Undoubtedly a world-class batsman, his quiet, humble nature appeared to hold him back from the captaincy. However, Cricket South Africa said he was the unanimous choice at a board meeting in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

"He has shown his steel in playing in the key No. 3 batting position," CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat said, adding Amla "earned particular respect as a role model for his humility."

Amla's first challenge as captain is a two-test tour of Sri Lanka next month, South Africa's first series since being deposed as the top-ranked team by Australia. Smith announced his retirement from internationals at the end of the home series loss to the Australians three months ago.

Amla will lead a team now without former stalwarts Mark Boucher, Jacques Kallis and Smith, and Lorgat said the "stability" the batsman brought to the team was a key part of his selection as skipper. He is the fifth full-time test captain for South Africa since its readmission after apartheid. The others were Kepler Wessels, the late Hansie Cronje, Shaun Pollock and Smith.

South Africa also announced two new players in its squad for the test series in Sri Lanka, with uncapped pair Stiaan van Zyl, a batsman, and Dane Piedt, a spin bowler.

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Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

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