December 12, 2008

Does Kallis really go missing against Australia?

His overall stats against Australia are admittedly modest: in 18 Tests he averages only 38.32, but since 2000, his numbers have been much better


Jacques Kallis hasn't had a great year, but his record against Australia since 2000 stands up to scrutiny © Getty Images
 

"Kallis is a flat-track bully, who dishes it out to the minnows like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe but goes missing against the Australians." Those were the words of Rodney Hogg, former Australia fast bowler, as part of some typically Aussie pre-match talk ahead of the upcoming series against South Africa. An average of 124.50 from 12 Tests against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe is enough proof that Kallis does "dish it out to the minnows", but the second part of Hogg's statement needs further scrutiny: does Kallis indeed go missing against the best team, or is that a vast exaggeration of a less-than-stunning record?

His overall stats against Australia are admittedly modest: in 18 Tests he averages only 38.32, well below his overall average of 55.06. He has scored three hundreds, but none has been over 114. Perhaps there is some truth to Hogg's statement, but let's examine the numbers further. In his early days, before 2000, Kallis managed just 256 runs from 11 innings against Australia at 23.27; since the turn of the century, in 24 innings against them, his average has doubled to 46.60. Admittedly these aren't outstanding numbers, but that's hardly a record to be scoffed at, especially against the best team of his era.

In fact, if Hogg believes that to be the definition of a player gone missing, you'd have to wonder what he would say for the rest of the South African batsmen against Australia in this decade - among those who have played five Tests against Australia during this period, none averages even 40. Their captain has been especially disappointing, scoring 344 runs in 14 innings at 24.57.

South African batsmen against Australia since 2000 (Qual: at least five Tests)
Batsman Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Jacques Kallis 11* 849 44.68 44.68 2/ 5
Neil McKenzie 6 415 37.72 44.67 0/ 3
Gary Kirsten 6 437 36.41 44.59 1/ 2
Herschelle Gibbs 12 815 33.95 49.24 1/ 5
Shaun Pollock 8 367 33.36 63.93 0/ 2
Ashwell Prince 9 546 30.33 39.88 1/ 1
Jacques Rudolph 6 294 26.72 40.00 1/ 0
Mark Boucher 12 558 26.57 51.52 0/ 4
Graeme Smith 7 344 24.57 47.64 0/ 1
AB de Villiers 6 279 23.25 40.37 0/ 3
Boeta Dippenaar 5 185 18.50 47.55 0/ 1
* Excludes one Test he played for World XI against Australia in 2005, in which he scored 44 and 39 not out.

The other feature of the table above is the scoring-rates of the batsmen: apart from Shaun Pollock and Mark Boucher, both of whom bat down the order, the others have all got their runs at a rather sedate pace, scoring at less than 50 runs per 100 balls. Kallis, Neil McKenzie and Gary Kirsten, the top three in the list, all have scoring-rates of less than 45, while for Ashwell Prince, Jacques Rudolph and AB de Villiers, the number hovers around 40. For de Villiers, especially, it's well below his career scoring-rate of 53.

Against most other teams, occupying the crease might do the job, but against Australia the best way is often to show greater aggression. Among the top eight batsmen against them since 2000, only one, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, has a rate of less than 50. Virender Sehwag is in a class of his own, but VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar and Kevin Pietersen have all scored at a far quicker rate than most of the South African batsmen have. Had Kallis scored at Laxman's rate, 55.76 runs per 100 balls, off the 2079 deliveries he faced from the Australians in his last 12 Tests, he would have accumulated 227 more runs, and his average would have increased to nearly 58.

The list below is also dominated by strokeplayers, as opposed to defensive accumulators. Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs have the game to dominate, but neither has so far turned it on against the Australians.

Top eight batsmen against Australia in terms of averages (Qual: at least 500 runs)
Batsman Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
VVS Laxman 20 2041 61.84 55.76 6/ 9
Sachin Tendulkar 18 1695 54.67 58.16 5/ 8
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 10 866 54.12 46.21 4/ 4
Kevin Pietersen 10 963 53.50 57.56 2/ 6
Virender Sehwag 15 1483 51.13 74.71 3/ 7
Michael Vaughan 10 959 47.95 58.94 4/ 1
Brian Lara 13 1240 47.69 60.31 4/ 3
Chris Cairns 6 515 46.81 68.30 1/ 3

The Australian top order, on the other hand, has got on with the job against all teams, including South Africa. The difference in numbers when the two teams play each is obvious in the table below: Australia's top seven average nearly 20 more runs per wicket, and they also score 14 more per 100 balls.

Top seven for Australia and South Africa in Tests versus each other since 2000
Team Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Australia 12 6384 49.87 58.95 22/ 25
South Africa 12 4825 30.15 44.95 6/ 24

South Africa's slow scoring is also apparent from a comparison with other teams' run-rates against Australia. Since 2000, England and India have scored quickest against them, while only Zimbabwe have a slower run-rate than South Africa. Which isn't to say that scoring fast will solve all problems for South Africa: Bangladesh are third-quickest in the table, but they've also lost wickets far too quickly.

Team-wise batting and bowling stats against Australia in Tests since 2000
Team Tests Win/ loss Runs per wkt (bat) Runs per over Runs per wkt (bowl) Runs per over
England 20 4/ 14 28.47 3.27 43.49 3.98
India 20 7/ 7 35.80 3.24 38.75 3.51
Bangladesh 4 0/ 4 22.61 3.23 66.25 3.46
Sri Lanka 7 0/ 6 27.45 3.04 42.50 3.58
Pakistan 6 0/ 6 20.78 3.04 41.89 3.91
New Zealand 13 0/ 9 26.57 3.01 44.90 3.62
West Indies 15 1/ 13 26.57 2.99 46.68 3.56
South Africa 12 1/ 10 28.27 2.98 43.45 3.72
Zimbabwe 2 0/ 2 28.35 2.72 77.05 4.69

South Africa's batting has admittedly been below par against Australia, but as the table above indicates, their bowlers have hardly done any better, conceding 43.45 runs per wicket at 3.72 per over. That has often added to the pressure for South Africa's batsmen. If the bowlers do a better job of restricting Australia, the South African batsmen could perhaps finally show more aggressive intent, especially against a bowling attack not as fierce as the ones they've encountered in the past. If that does happen, South Africa could have a genuine chance of staking their claim as the best team in the world.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

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