ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

The bearded wonder

Hashim Amla's Oval heroics have taken his Test average beyond 50 for the first time - a club he thoroughly deserves to be in

S Rajesh

July 27, 2012

Comments: 30 | Text size: A | A

Hashim Amla brought up his second Test double century, England v South Africa, 1st Investec Test, The Oval, 4th day, July, 22, 2012
Among batsmen who have scored 4000-plus runs at No. 3, Amla's average is third-best, next only to Don Bradman and Kumar Sangakkara © Getty Images
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Hashim Amla's triple-century at The Oval did several things for the team and the series: it completely shut England out of the Test and set South Africa up for a magnificent victory, which has in turn given them a fine chance to wrest the No. 1 spot from England. It did something significant for the batsman too: before he began the innings, Amla's Test average was 46.98; when he finished it, the average had climbed to 50.26. For the last few years Amla has played a brand of cricket that clearly proves he is among the top batsmen around today, but it was the unbeaten 311 that finally took his career average beyond the mark that has historically separated the great batsmen from the very good. Finally, in his 60th Test match, Amla's average breached the 50-mark. The way he has been batting over the last few years suggests it will stay there for a long time.

It's true that the significance of a 50-plus average has diminished over the last decade, thanks to the overall dominance that batsmen have enjoyed during this period: among the 32 batsmen who have scored 4000-plus runs at 50-plus averages, almost 50% have played a major chunk of their cricket in the 2000s. Given his immense batting talent, though, it feels right that Amla has breached the 50 mark; if anything, it would appear even more incongruous, in this era of batting dominance, if his average stays below 50. He clearly belongs in the elite club.

That Amla had to wait 60 Tests for his average to touch 50 is because he had to carry the burden of a poor start in international cricket: in his first 15 Tests, he averaged 25.50, with one century. (Click here for Amla's cumulative numbers in Tests.) Since then, he has been on a tear, averaging more than 60, with 14 hundreds in his last 45 Tests.

Another factor that has dampened Amla's overall numbers is the conditions in which he has played the majority of his cricket. South Africa has clearly been the most bowler-friendly country over the last few years: since the beginning of 2004, the batting average in South Africa is 30.07, the lowest among all countries; it's 39.60 in Pakistan, and 35.70 in India. In the 60 Tests that Amla has played, the overall batting average is 32.48; compare that with the numbers in the Tests that, say, Gautam Gambhir has played, and the difference becomes apparent: Gambhir's Test career has also spanned almost the same period, but in the 48 Tests that Gambhir has played in, the overall batting average is almost 10% higher, at 35.66. Add that factor to Amla's batting average, and it goes up from 50.26 to almost 55. (Though admittedly, India's poor bowling attack is also a reason why the averages are high in matches featuring Indians.)

Currently Amla averages 58.58 in away or neutral venues (up from 51.34 before the Oval Test) and 43.38 at home - a difference of 15.20. The numbers aren't dissimilar to those of two of his contemporaries, Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers. Smith averages 55.44 overseas and 44.64 at home (difference 10.80), while for de Villiers the corresponding numbers are 60.02 and 40.89 (difference 19.13).

Hashim Amla's Test career
Period Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
First 15 Tests 714 25.50 42.62 1/ 5
Last 45 Tests 4061 60.61 53.34 14/ 18
Career (60 Tests) 4775 50.26 51.41 15/ 23

In the last four and a half years, Amla's form has been exceptional: in 42 Tests he has scored 12 centuries and averages more than 59. Among batsmen who have scored at least 2500 runs during this period, only three have a higher average. Four of the top eight spots are taken by South Africans, which is even more impressive when considering the fact that they generally play in more low-scoring games than other sides. (The last column in the table below lists the overall average in the Tests that the player played: for example, in the 42 Tests that Amla and de Villiers have played since the beginning of 2008, the overall batting average was 33.79; in the 45 Tests that Sachin Tendulkar played during this period, the overall average was 37.45.)

Highest Test averages for batsmen since Jan 2008 (Qual: 2500 runs)
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s Overall ave*
AB de Villiers 42 3384 62.66 10/ 16 33.79
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 38 2996 62.41 8/ 18 32.65
Thilan Samaraweera 36 3161 61.98 9/ 16 35.91
Hashim Amla 42 3733 59.25 12/ 18 33.79
Kumar Sangakkara 40 3840 57.31 14/ 15 35.98
Graeme Smith 41 3591 57.00 13/ 14 33.65
Sachin Tendulkar 45 4104 57.00 14/ 17 37.45
Jacques Kallis 41 3279 56.53 14/ 9 33.64
* Overall batting average in the matches the batsmen played

The biggest plus for South Africa's batting line-up since Amla began his run spree is that they have an ideal No. 3 batsman, who can resurrect the innings after an early setback but can also dominate and consolidate after a good start. That's an especially big gain for South Africa, for they have traditionally struggled with the No. 3 spot in Test cricket. Till December 2007, South Africa's overall Test average at No. 3 was 33.39, worse than all teams except Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Since the beginning of 2008, their No. 3 average of 57.85 is the best among all teams, thanks almost singlehandedly to Amla. During these four and a half years, Amla has scored so many runs at No. 3 that South Africa's overall average at that position has improved from 33.39 to 35.94, which pushes them just ahead of New Zealand in the all-time averages.

Team-wise stats for No. 3 batsmen in Tests
Team Till Dec'07-Inngs Average 100s/ 50s Jan'08 onwards-Inngs Average 100s/ 50s Overall ave 100s/ 50s
West Indies 763 46.36 99/ 134 77 40.17 8/ 15 45.79 107/ 149
Australia 1219 45.94 147/ 222 98 38.06 7/ 22 45.33 154/ 244
Sri Lanka 300 41.52 29/ 48 73 56.79 13/ 15 44.46 42/ 63
India 715 40.85 64/ 132 90 43.60 11/ 18 41.15 75/ 150
England 1521 38.45 138/ 259 95 42.09 11/ 12 38.66 149/ 271
Pakistan 578 36.13 42/ 87 64 44.32 5/ 16 36.96 47/ 103
South Africa 589 33.39 33/ 98 71 57.85 11/ 19 35.94 44/ 117
New Zealand 605 34.11 42/ 81 71 27.91 0/ 14 33.45 42/ 95
Zimbabwe 156 28.75 5/ 26 8 24.12 1/ 0 28.51 6/ 26
Bangladesh 97 28.73 3/ 21 47 27.61 1/ 9 28.37 4/ 30

Amla is the first South African, and one of only seven batsmen, to score 4000-plus runs at No. 3 at a 50-plus average. Among those seven, his average is currently third-best, after Don Bradman and Kumar Sangakkara.

Batsmen with 4000+ runs at 50+ averages at No. 3 in Tests
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Don Bradman 56 5078 103.63 20/ 10
Kumar Sangakkara 167 9206 59.77 29/ 37
Hashim Amla 87 4393 56.32 14/ 22
Ricky Ponting 196 9904 56.27 32/ 43
Rahul Dravid 219 10,524 52.88 28/ 50
Rohan Kanhai 90 4689 52.68 13/ 20
Ian Chappell 91 4279 50.94 13/ 22

The big improvement in Amla's batting since 2008 has been his handling of right-arm fast bowlers. Before 2008, he averaged 26 against them. Among the bowlers who were particularly successful against him were Mohammad Asif (five dismissals for 60 runs, average 12) and Sreesanth (four dismissals for 22 runs, average 5.50).

However, since the beginning of 2008, Amla's average against right-arm fast bowlers has shot up to 60.50. Mitchell Johnson has dismissed him five times during this period, but Amla has averaged a respectable 40.20 against him. Against James Anderson, one of the best swing bowlers around, Amla averages 109 (218 runs in 380 deliveries, two dismissals); against Stuart Broad he averages 61.33. The other top bowlers haven't had much success against him either: Zaheer Khan has dismissed him once at the cost of 127 runs, while Graeme Swann has figures of 2 for 157. The one bowler who has impressive stats against him during this period is West Indies' offspinner Shane Shillingford: he has dismissed Amla three times at the cost of 42 runs. It's unlikely Amla will be losing too much sleep over that stat.

Amla against various types of bowling in Tests
Bowling type Till Dec '07-Dismissals Average Runs per over Jan '08 onwards-Dismissals Average Runs per over
Right-arm fast 22 26.00 2.87 32 60.50 3.36
Left-arm fast 2 50.00 2.97 8 63.62 3.75
Right-arm spin 4 59.00 2.32 13 72.69 2.86
Left-arm spin 3 44.67 2.45 8 42.87 2.91

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

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Comments: 30 
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Posted by Blaen on (July 29, 2012, 16:03 GMT)

@bigdhonifan on (July 27 2012, 17:19 PM GMT) I think most Cricket Fans would agree that Dravid certainly rates very high in our opinion of cricketing greatness but one wonders if you actually read the article and the table of stats that lists the averages of those who batted at 3 including Ponting and Lara? Its quite ridiculous that you feel the need to be a Dravid cheerleader instead of appreciating that we have had some exceptional number 3's in our generation.

Posted by Duncan on (July 28, 2012, 7:42 GMT)

LOL @marlboro19 "Hamish" Amla you make it sound like he is of Irish extraction! And yes he is South African, but I can understand how people might feel a cultural affinity, but the other commenters are right, he is as much an Indian export as Graham Smith is an English export, Morkel is a Dutch export...he is South African. Calling Tahir a Pakistan export is not inaccurate though.

Posted by Bandara on (July 28, 2012, 7:05 GMT)

SA shoul have done some thing very good 2 get a player like Amla he has been a inspiration for many youngsters i think if Amla palys cricket de next world cup he will catch up Sir Don Brasdman 's record he should be called de SA Tendulkar Amla batting at no 3 had given confisience for him and thanks to the SA cricket board giving him opportunities to perform unles like other cricket boards if aplayer didnt perform they drop him and the country should suffer from it.and Amla had seen his opportunities and performed his maxium .Hats off To SIR Hashim Amla

Posted by Bandara on (July 28, 2012, 7:05 GMT)

SA shoul have done some thing very good 2 get a player like Amla he has been a inspiration for many youngsters i think if Amla palys cricket de next world cup he will catch up Sir Don Brasdman 's record he should be called de SA Tendulkar Amla batting at no 3 had given confisience for him and thanks to the SA cricket board giving him opportunities to perform unles like other cricket boards if aplayer didnt perform they drop him and the country should suffer from it.and Amla had seen his opportunities and performed his maxium .Hats off To SIR Hashim Amla

Posted by Roelof on (July 28, 2012, 4:04 GMT)

Nice job S Rajesh - keep up the good work. Cricket is truely the sport for statistics.

Posted by varsha on (July 28, 2012, 1:07 GMT)

If we have to bring up the "indian" in Amla, then that should go to any other player from Aust or Eng or NZ who at one point of time might have his grandparents or great-grands from some other European country.

Posted by Kieron on (July 27, 2012, 22:54 GMT)

@ Malboro 19: Hashim Amla was born and raised in South-Africa,in Durban, Kwazulu-Natal His parents are also South-African! His grandparents came from India! So what you're witnessing in his batting is pure South-Africa, with a tinch of Indian in it!

Posted by Mohsin on (July 27, 2012, 21:31 GMT)

Stylish batsman , exquisite timer of the cricket ball and makes batting look easy. certainly he has worked a lot on the technical aspect of his batting after a below average start to his career, Amla surely and purely deserves a place amongst the best that the game has produced. He will end his career in "Sachin, Lara, Ponting" club

Posted by Steven on (July 27, 2012, 21:11 GMT)

Hash you champ! Best no 3 in world cricket.. Hands down.

Posted by amit on (July 27, 2012, 20:58 GMT)

It'd always good to see India's exports- S.Chandrpaul, Rohan Kanhai, Hamish amla etc doing well .

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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