South Africa in Australia 2012-13 November 4, 2012

Warne's influence massive

While the contest has been much more balanced in recent years, Australia's extraordinary dominance between 1993 and 2006 had much to do with the presence of Shane Warne

In recent years, Australia-South Africa Tests have been the most enthralling contests with the teams splitting the last eight matches 4-4. Perhaps the best feature of the match-up is the relatively low percentage of draws (15.62% since 1993). With both countries producing result-oriented pitches and the teams playing aggressive cricket, a stalemate has been virtually out of question. In the last 20 Test matches played between the teams since the start of 2000, only one match has been drawn. Taking advantage of the transition Australia were going through in 2008, South Africa won their first series against Australia 2-1 with victories in Perth and Melbourne. Australia, however, hit right back winning the return series in South Africa 2-1. The previous series between the two teams (in 2011), which was restricted to just two Tests, ended 1-1 with Australia chasing a record 310 in Johannesburg after their inexplicable collapse in the first Test in Cape Town.

Australia well ahead overall
South Africa's recent display in England has seen them rise to the top of the Test rankings once again. Remarkably, their last series defeat outside home came in 2006. However, they have failed to dominate Australia similarly despite Australia's form dropping considerably in the last four years. While the teams are locked 4-4 in their last three series, Australia have held the whip in home and away series between 1993 and 2006. The teams drew their first two series 1-1 with South Africa sneaking a stunning five-run win in Sydney (1994) defending a target of 117. Australia followed up an outstanding performance in South Africa (1997), where they went on to win the series 2-1, with a 1-0 win at home later in the year. The highlights of the series in South Africa included the record 385-run stand between Greg Blewett (214) and Steve Waugh (160) in Johannesburg and Mark Waugh's brilliant 116 that enabled Australia chase down a tough target of 270 in Port Elizabeth. Between then and 2006, it was one-way traffic with Australia bossing each of the four subsequent series.

In 2001-02, Steve Waugh's team triumphed 3-0 at home and 2-1 in South Africa. The series in South Africa was dominated by Adam Gilchrist who scored 473 runs in the three Tests including 204 and 138 in the first two Tests. Ricky Ponting was in top form in the 2005 series in Australia as he led the team to a 2-0 win with two centuries in his 100th Test in Sydney as Australia overhauled the 287-run target with ease. The world-beating Australian outfit followed this up with a 3-0 whitewash in South Africa. Australia's 10-1 record in the period 2000-2006 is comparable to their dominant run against South Africa in the years before the Second World War when they won 18 and lost just one of 24 matches. South Africa, however, proved to be a far tougher unit in the 1950s and 1960s winning 10 and losing 11 matches. South Africa's finest moment came in their final series before the ban (in 1969-70) when Ali Bacher led a star-studded team to a 4-0 whitewash of Bill Lawry's Australian team. Overall though, Australia are well ahead on the head-to-head front and boast a win-loss ratio of 2.52 (48 wins and 19 losses). Although the draw percentage across the 85 Tests is low (21.17%), it is still higher than the corresponding number since South Africa's readmission (15.62%).

Australia's record in Tests against South Africa
Period Matches Wins Losses Draws % draws W/L ratio
Overall 85 48 19 18 21.17 2.52
Pre World War 2 24 18 1 5 20.83 18.00
1946-1970 29 11 10 8 27.58 1.10
1992-present 32 19 8 5 15.62 2.37
In Australia (post 1992) 15 8 3 4 26.66 2.66
In South Africa (post 1992) 17 11 5 1 5.88 2.20

The Warne factor
Both Australia and South Africa have traditionally fielded top-quality pace attacks and the stats prove the same. South Africa's bowlers have picked up more wickets in Australia (181) but have been far more expensive averaging 37.04 compared to Australia's 31.66. In South Africa too, Australia's pace bowlers have done better picking up 195 wickets at 28.78 while South Africa's fast bowlers have managed 221 wickets at 33.04. South Africa's pace bowlers have picked up more five-fors in Australia but have been upstaged in this regard in home Tests. The biggest difference between the two teams in the period since South Africa's return has been the presence of Shane Warne in the Australian team. Warne, the most successful bowler against South Africa, with 130 wickets dominated the contests picking up seven five-wicket hauls and two ten-wicket match hauls. He was equally prolific in home and away Tests though five of his seven five-fors came in Australia. South Africa's biggest problem over the years has been the lack of a match-winning spinner. The gulf in the quality of spinners is reflected clearly in the bowling stats. While Australia average 31.18 and 26.13 in Australia and South Africa respectively, the corresponding averages are 48.92 and 41.00 for South Africa. While Australian spinners have contributed nearly 36% of the wickets (only wickets taken by pace and spin bowlers), the South African spinners are way behind contributing just 17.28% of the total wickets.

Pace v Spin for both teams in Tests since South Africa's readmission (1992 onwards)
Team Wickets/avg (in Australia) 5WI/10WM (in Australia) Wickets/avg (in South Africa) 5WI/10WM (in South Africa) Wickets/avg (overall) 5WI/10WM (overall)
Australia (pace) 133/31.66 3/1 195/28.78 8/0 328/29.95 11/1
South Africa (pace) 181/37.04 6/2 221/33.34 5/1 402/35.00 11/3
Australia (spin) 97/31.18 5/2 87/26.13 2/0 184/29.79 7/2
South Africa (spin) 40/48.92 0/0 44/41.00 1/0 84/44.77 1/0

Australia's dominance near total
Since South Africa's readmission, the two teams have played each other in 11 series with Australia hosting five and South Africa six. Australia have by far been the better team winning seven of the 11 series, drawing three and losing just one (in 2008-09). In the 1990s, the teams were more evenly matched with Australia managing two series wins to go with series draws home and away (in 1994). Australia's dominance started with their away series win in 1997 (2-1) when they won the first two Tests by an innings and two wickets respectively. Six of the next seven series (2001-2011) have proved to be decisive with the only draw coming in the last series played in 2011. Australia won four successive series between 2001 and 2006 by margins of 3-0, 2-1, 2-0 and 3-1 before their run was brought to a halt in the 2008-09 series in Australia. The average difference (difference between batting and bowling averages) is a clear reflector of the grip Australia have had. Australia have an overall average difference of 6.86 (7.80 in home Tests and 6.10 in away Tests). The lower average differences for Australia (home 5.89 and away 4.70) in the 1990s point to closer contests in the decade. However, since 2000, when Australia lead the head-to-head tally 14-5, the corresponding numbers (9.00 and 6.81) are far higher.

Australia's series record against South Africa since 1992
  No of series Series wins Series losses Series draws Bat avg (Aus/SA) Avg diff (Aus)
Overall 11 7 1 3 36.92/30.06 6.86
In Australia 5 3 1 1 39.38/31.58 7.80
In South Africa 6 4 0 2 34.87/28.77 6.10
In 1990s (Australia) 2 1 0 1 33.35/27.46 5.89
In 1990s (South Africa) 2 1 0 1 33.14/28.44 4.70
Since 2000 (Australia) 3 2 1 0 43.15/34.15 9.00
Since 2000 (South Africa) 4 3 0 1 35.75/28.94 6.81

Australia, who hold a 19-8 advantage in Tests played since South Africa's readmission, have an even distribution of wins batting first (nine) and second (ten). South Africa's story, however, is vastly different. They have won six Tests batting first but just two when they have had to bowl first. When these stats are analysed deeper, they reveal some interesting results. Australia have lost twice at home batting first with both the defeats coming in the 2008-09 series. They have an even win-loss record (4-4) when they have batted first in South Africa. South Africa, on the other hand, have won a Test each in Australia and South Africa batting first. However, they have suffered seven of their ten defeats (batting first) in home Tests. Australia have achieved wins by a margin of 150 or more runs on five occasions (three at home and two away) and triumphed by an innings three times including the second-biggest win in terms of runs (innings and 360-runs) in Johannesburg in 2002. South Africa beat Australia by an innings for the first time in the home series in 2009 after the visitors had taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-Test series. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Australia-South Africa matches has been the high number of 250-plus chases. Australia have done so five times overall (four in away Tests) and chased 300-plus targets on two occasions in Cape Town (2002) and Johannesburg (2011). South Africa, who successfully chased 335 in the third Test in Durban in 2002, won the first Test of the 2008-09 series in Perth by chasing a record 414.

Analysis of results for both teams (head-to-head matches since 1992)
Team Wins/losses (bat first) Wins (by innings) Wins (150 or more runs) Wins (8 or more wickets) Successful chases (250-plus)
Australia (overall) 9/6 3 5 4 5
South Africa (overall) 2/10 1 1 3 2
Australia (in Australia) 5/2 1 3 3 1
South Africa (in Australia) 1/3 0 0 1 1
Australia (in South Africa) 4/4 2 2 1 4
South Africa (in South Africa) 1/7 1 1 2 1

Middle-order batting boosts Australia
Ponting, one of only three batsmen to score over 2000 runs against South Africa, has eight centuries in 23 Tests against them. He and Matthew Hayden aggregated over 1000 runs at 87.38 with four century stands in matches against South Africa. The Hayden-Justin Langer pair has also been among the most successful with 1030 runs at 57.22 (three century stands). For South Africa, the AB de Villiers-Jacques Kallis pair has been the most prolific averaging 95.71 with four century stands. Australia have comfortably outperformed South Africa in terms of the first and second-wicket partnership stats and extend the dominance to the middle-order stands too. For the third and fourth wickets, Australia average 39.75 and 44.69 while the corresponding numbers for South Africa are 35.34 and 41.10 respectively. The average third-wicket stand for both teams in Australia has not been high with South Africa in particular struggling (average of 26.14). South Africa's woes against Warne are reflected in the middle/lower-order partnership stats. While Australia average 43.71 and 35.94 for the fifth and sixth wickets, South Africa have failed to stitch together too many useful partnerships and have corresponding averages of just 28.48 and 22.61. On more than one occasion, Australia have wriggled out of a hole with the help of some gritty lower-order stands. Against South Africa in the 2005 Boxing Day Test, Michael Hussey and Glenn McGrath added a crucial 107 for the last wicket to rescue Australia from a score of 248/9 and paved the way for Australia's 184-run win. Twice in Johannesburg (2006 and 2011), Australia's lower-order shared vital partnerships and enabled the visitors to chase down targets of 292 and 310.

Partnership stats for both teams in head-to-head matches (avg, 100/50 stands)
Wicket Aus (in Aus) SA (in Aus) Aus (in SA) SA (in SA) Aus (overall) SA (overall)
1 44.07, 2/7 37.51, 3/3 38.50, 3/6 40.12, 2/8 41.05, 5/13 38.88, 5/11
2 51.96, 5/6 49.07, 3/10 53.38, 4/10 35.75, 2/5 52.73, 9/16 41.96, 5/15
3 35.28, 2/2 26.14. 0/6 43.35, 5/5 43.93, 5/4 39.75, 7/7 35.34, 5/10
4 58.04, 5/7 50.85, 6/4 33.56, 2/5 32.33, 1/6 44.69, 7/12 41.10, 7/10
5 50.87, 4/6 26.23, 2/3 37.57, 2/4 30.43, 2/3 43.71, 6/10 28.48, 4/6
6 26.33, 0/5 24.72, 1/3 44.48, 3/4 20.79, 0/4 35.94, 3/9 22.61, 1/7
7 31.52, 1/5 27.13, 1/1 33.88, 2/3 26.06, 2/4 32.77, 3/8 26.53, 3/5
8-10 27.86, 1/7 21.96, 1/7 16.36, 1/3 18.21, 0/8 21.43, 2/10 19.83, 1/10

Surprisingly, this is the first time that Australia and South Africa will face off in a Test in Brisbane. The teams have played five Tests each in Melbourne and Sydney with Australia holding a 2-1 and 4-1 record at the venues. Along with Sydney, Johannesburg and Cape Town have been venues that have yielded results in every match. Adelaide, the venue for the second Test, has witnessed the highest batting average in the first innings (52.77) in Australia-South Africa matches. However, as has usually been the case with the venue, the average in the subsequent three innings drops remarkably. In the previous Test between the two teams in Cape Town, South Africa and Australia were bowled out for 96 and 47 before the hosts comfortably chased down the 235-run target. While the average in the first innings at the venue is just 25.96, the fourth-innings average is a high 63.08. Batting has also eased up in the final innings in Durban Tests (average 41.95) as compared to the first three innings. The first, second and fourth innings in Melbourne and Sydney have been more or less similar. However, while the third-innings average drops to 26.06 in Melbourne, it is a much higher 48.73 at the SCG. Pace bowlers have dominated the wickets tally at all venues picking up more than 100 wickets in Johannesburg, Melbourne and Cape Town. Spinners have played a major role in Sydney, where they have picked up nearly 40% of the wickets (bowler wickets only).

Venue stats for Aus-SA Tests since 1992(minimum three matches played)
Venue Matches Result % 1st inns (avg) 2nd inns (avg) 3rd inns (avg) 4th inns (avg) Pace (wickets/avg) Spin (wickets/avg)
Johannesburg 6 100 39.29 31.94 25.71 31.97 155/31.67 49/31.75
Melbourne 5 60 35.68 39.55 26.06 34.05 100/34.00 32/42.37
Cape Town 5 100 25.96 37.44 31.37 63.08 119/31.99 36/32.38
Sydney 5 100 38.89 31.69 48.73 32.95 92/34.39 61/32.16
Durban 4 75 32.62 25.48 28.21 41.95 90/35.97 32/28.84
Adelaide 3 66.66 52.77 33.23 32.94 17.92 67/34.52 32/33.06

Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan is a sub-editor (stats) at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Victor on November 6, 2012, 5:08 GMT

    I dont know why ppl keep on comparing Murali and warne. they are both different kind of bowler and were the best in their trade. yes warne took lots of wickets against sa and the english. but sa or england has never been known for being good players of spin bowling. the experts in playing spinners are the indians. warne's record against india aren't that flashy. but murali has done much better against the indians. so does that mean murali is better bowler than warne. i say no. because you cant compare them. if they both bowled leggie or offie then one could draw a comparison.

  • Andrew on November 6, 2012, 2:14 GMT

    @ Chris_P on (November 05 2012, 22:31 PM GMT) - Punter is going to smash 'em, on one leg! LOL!

  • jake on November 5, 2012, 22:54 GMT

    After his shoulder injury in 1998 he was never the same bowler again.His most dangerous ball, "the flipper" never worked for him anymore after that.A shame because I am convinced that he would have reached 1000 wickets without that injury.

  • Peter on November 5, 2012, 22:31 GMT

    @Arrow011 Agreed Warne's record was not good in India but to state he was carted everywhere is a little extreme. Try looking up the second test of the 04/05 series where he took a 6 for. The Indian batsmen, overall did their homework on him, but, unlike Australia, had to face against a lot of other class bowlers (McGrath, Gillespie). These stats re: Sth Africa are all well & good, but currently, no-one would argue the Boks are on top & past performances mean nothing. We don't have the high quality attack of the past (last series excepted). Although I want the Aussies to win, reality tells me the Boks will, but cricket being the game it is, anything can happen.

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2012, 21:07 GMT

    Warner was part of a weak OZ team in 1997 & 2001 without Mcgrath, Gilespie n co & he suffered a bit as he had no support. IN 2004-05 OZ had a full strength team & completely dominated India & warne also did very well..Shane Warne is a legend & will always remain one..!!

  • Bhaskar on November 5, 2012, 17:14 GMT

    Warne had a very bad record in India, he was carted everywhere, though he was the world's best but got humbled in India on all trips. Sachin made a mockery at warne & tore him apart. Warne said in press that he used to get dreams at night Sachin hitting him for sixes. After Sachin's back got injured he cut down on hitting sixes, else even in post 2000 tests he would have treated warne in same manner.

    @redneck - Yes, you are right, it looked Sri Lanka board scheduled matches with weak Zimbabwe & Bangladesh for Murali to overtake Warne's tally. Murali is one such bowler who took almost 70-75% of wickets in sub-continent (especially in doctored pitches of Kandy, Galle & Colombo). No other bowler got such assistance from their respective boards, not even kumble who too was a home wicket taker & achieved too less abroad in a long career.

  • Bhaskar on November 5, 2012, 17:00 GMT

    Murali a spinner? Warne was the best ever spinner, he is like Tendulkar of batting, he can never be compared to murli, ashwin, harbhajan, ajmal , narine, kumble or ajanta mendis. Though I dont support Pakistan cricketers, I must say the 2nd best spinner was Saqlain Mushtaq, he was the inventor of doosra, murli harbhajan copied it & made themselves big. All Pak spinners have identical action, even that was of Saqlain, he was the one who stopped & delivered in ODIs. Warne is the foremost of spinners. I wish Aus crushes Saf this time a 3-0 would be welcome. Kallis failure is inevitable with Aussies in Aus like before.

  • martin on November 5, 2012, 14:39 GMT

    I'm sure Daryl "teh bunny" Cullinan is still having nightmares somewhere...!

  • Dave on November 5, 2012, 13:55 GMT

    @Sanjay Madhava - Warne certainly copped some stick in his first outing vs Bangladesh (0-112 off 20 overs). His only other 3 innings against them, (3-28, 3-47, 5-113) certainly don`t support your statement though. Overall record in Asia of 127 wickets in 25 matches at 26.8 (SR 52) suggests he did OK.

    And hang on, I always thought the benchmark of every spinner was their performance in Aus...although Murali (ave.75), Harbhajan (ave.73), Ashwin (ave.63) et al. may beg to differ. Warney managed a fairly decent ave. of 26 in Oz, not quite as good as his 24 away from home, but not bad in the spinners` graveyard just the same.

  • Dave on November 5, 2012, 13:17 GMT

    It`s also important not to forget Ponting`s contributions during Warney`s era. In the 5 series they played together (all Aus wins), Ponting averaged 64 (SR 60) - a period when he was clearly the best played of fast bowling in the world. Twice he scored 2 centuries in a match, (failed by 1 run doing it for a 3rd time in 2008/9) - no centuries in 5 matches since then, and it`s hard to imagine it`s getting any easier.

    Kallis` relatively average contributions vs Australia (bat ave.39, bowl ave.38) have also been a factor. It`s easy to see him making a more emphatic contribution this time around though.

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