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De Villiers on a roll, and Amla's feat

AB de Villiers can justifiably stake his claim to being among the best middle-order batsmen in ODIs

S Rajesh

May 28, 2010

Comments: 11 | Text size: A | A

AB de Villiers plays on the leg side, West Indies v South Africa, 1st ODI, Antigua, May 22, 2010
AB de Villiers has scored four hundreds in his last seven ODI innings, and averages more than 67 since the beginning of 2009 © AFP
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AB de Villiers has been on an amazing ODI run over these last few months. His 101-ball 102 against West Indies in the first one-day international of the five-match series in Antigua was his third century in a row - he'd made successive ones in India - and his fourth in six innings, during a roll in which he can seem to do no wrong. De Villiers followed that hundred in Antigua with a quickfire 41 off 35 balls in the next match, which means he has scored at a strike rate of more than 100 in six of his last seven innings.

In fact, the last year and a half has been exceptional for de Villiers in the 50-over version. He started with successive half-centuries in Australia as South Africa beat the hosts 4-1, and then continued the good form at home. In 22 ODI innings since the beginning of 2009, de Villiers has notched up 10 scores of 50-plus at an average of more than 67. Not only that, he has also managed to strike at more than a run a ball. Combining those two factors, de Villiers' batting index (average multiplied by runs per ball) works out to an impressive 67.76, which is the best for any batsman who has scored at least 750 runs since January 2009. The only other player with an index of more than 60 is Sachin Tendulkar, whose stats are also pretty similar to those of de Villiers.

Best ODI batsmen since Jan 2009 (Qual: 750 runs)
Batsman ODIs Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s Ave x SR/100
AB de Villiers 22 1146 67.41 100.52 4/ 6 67.76
Sachin Tendulkar 23 1176 61.89 99.15 4/ 3 61.36
MS Dhoni 37 1485 67.50 87.25 3/ 10 58.89
Tillakaratne Dilshan 22 1186 56.47 102.06 5/ 2 57.63
Virender Sehwag 25 967 42.04 136.77 3/ 2 57.50
Suresh Raina 35 922 46.10 101.20 1/ 7 46.65
Michael Hussey 47 1679 49.38 92.86 0/ 14 45.85
Jacques Kallis 17 828 51.75 86.43 1/ 7 44.73

De Villiers has been arguably the best ODI batsman for a longer period than that, though. His first year in the format, in 2005, was a disaster, with 14 innings fetching him only 221 runs, but since then the transformation has been remarkable. There was a slight dip in 2008, when he averaged 36.16, but overall, since 2006 his ODI average is an impressive 48.58, with 27 scores of 50-plus in 84 innings, an average of one such score every three innings.

A few other players have higher averages than him during this period, but de Villiers has also scored at a strike rate of more than 91, which not many others have managed. Combining the two factors, de Villiers' batting index works out to 44.50, which puts him in second place, next only to MS Dhoni.

Best ODI batsmen since Jan 2006 (Qual: 2500 runs)
Batsman ODIs Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s Ave x SR/100
MS Dhoni 132 4506 52.39 87.51 5/ 32 45.85
AB de Villiers 84 3255 48.58 91.61 7/ 20 44.50
Sachin Tendulkar 84 3689 49.85 87.58 8/ 22 43.66
Virender Sehwag 82 2943 37.73 113.10 5/ 16 42.67
Michael Hussey 119 3532 48.38 86.54 2/ 25 41.87
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 80 3210 54.40 74.15 8/ 22 40.34
Yuvraj Singh 113 3908 42.94 92.40 7/ 23 39.68
Jacques Kallis 72 2745 49.90 79.33 4/ 20 39.59
Ricky Ponting 107 4282 45.07 85.69 11/ 29 38.62
Chris Gayle 94 3412 41.10 90.76 8/ 18 37.30

One of the standout aspects about de Villiers is his ability to convert starts into centuries, even when batting in the middle order. In a format that gives the batting team only 50 overs, the top three batsmen obviously have the best chance to rack up hundreds, but de Villiers hasn't done badly at all, scoring five centuries when batting at No. 4 or lower - only 10 batsmen have scored more centuries from those positions. None of them, though, have managed to do it with the frequency that de Villiers has managed - in 52 innings so far, he has touched three figures five times, a rate of one every 10.40 innings. The next best is England's Kevin Pietersen with an average of 14, but the rest have averaged around 20 innings or more per hundred.

Fewest innings per hundred in ODIs for batsmen at No. 4 and below (Qual: 5 hundreds)
Batsman Innings Average 100s Innings per 100
AB de Villiers 52 52.16 5 10.40
Kevin Pietersen 70 48.36 5 14.00
Viv Richards 116 42.60 6 19.33
Yuvraj Singh 214 37.65 11 19.45
Mohammad Yousuf 224 39.97 10 22.40
Aravinda de Silva 241 37.37 10 24.10
MS Dhoni 125 47.05 5 25.00
Andrew Symonds 153 39.67 6 25.50

De Villiers' exploits at Nos. 4 and 5 place him, statistically, among the best players to bat at those positions in one-day internationals. In 52 innings, he averages more than 52 at a strike rate touching 90, a combination few other batsmen have achieved. Dhoni's batting index is higher - he has an exceptional average and a higher strike rate - but de Villiers' stats are better than everyone else's. Ramnaresh Sarwan and Michael Bevan are the only other batsmen to average more than 50 in these slots, but Bevan's relatively low strike rate of 71.17 pulls down his overall rating.

Best ODI batsmen at No. 4 and 5 (Qual: 50 innings at these positions)
Batsman Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s Ave x SR/100
MS Dhoni 51 2294 60.36 91.54 4/ 15 55.25
AB de Villiers 52 2191 52.16 89.57 5/ 12 46.72
Ramnaresh Sarwan 63 2507 54.50 82.25 4/ 13 44.83
Kevin Pietersen 66 2629 48.68 87.28 5/ 18 42.49
Viv Richards 110 4223 43.53 92.46 6/ 30 40.25
Andrew Symonds 113 3976 43.21 91.02 5/ 26 39.33
Andrew Flintoff 59 2009 41.00 95.66 3/ 13 39.22
Michael Bevan 86 3430 51.96 71.17 5/ 22 36.98
Martin Crowe 57 1980 47.14 77.49 2/ 13 36.53
Yuvraj Singh 154 5171 38.58 90.30 11/ 27 34.84

De Villiers' favourite slot has been No. 4, from where he has scored 1883 runs in 44 innings. Thanks largely to his displays, South Africa have the best stats for the third wicket in ODIs since the beginning of 2006. They average more than 50 per dismissal, which none of the other teams have managed. De Villiers has been a part of the four leading third-wicket pairs for South Africa during this period: he has combined superbly with Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith, Herschelle Gibbs and, most recently, Hashim Amla - the pair have notched three century partnership in five innings.

Team-wise partnership stats for the third wicket in ODIs since Jan 2006
Team Innings Runs Average stand Run rate 100/ 50 stands
South Africa 87 4160 50.12 5.24 9/ 24
Australia 127 5425 44.46 4.77 14/ 26
India 127 5277 42.21 5.42 15/ 22
England 97 3780 40.21 4.85 7/ 25
Sri Lanka 117 4411 39.38 4.89 10/ 23
West Indies 103 3591 36.64 4.55 7/ 20
New Zealand 88 3024 36.00 4.88 4/ 20
Pakistan 89 3032 35.25 4.58 7/ 13
Bangladesh 104 3450 34.84 4.53 7/ 18
Zimbabwe 88 2866 34.11 4.60 6/ 13

A recent addition to de Villiers' list of responsibilities is that of keeping wicket. He has done it intermittently in the past, but this time, with the exclusion of Mark Boucher from the team, it seems the responsibility might be his on a more permanent basis. However, looking at his ODI batting stats when he has kept wicket, South Africa don't have a lot to worry about.

Amla's achievement
While de Villiers has been smashing bowlers around, another South African top-order batsman has quietly - and elegantly - announced that he is completely at home in the ODI format. Hashim Amla has played only 25 innings, but has already scored two hundreds and eight fifties, and averages an impressive 52.86 at a strike rate of 85.83. During the course of his century in the Antigua ODI against West Indies, Amla also went past 1000 ODI runs, in only his 24th innings, thus becoming the joint fifth-fastest to the landmark, and the quickest South African. Now all he needs to do is keep up his frenetic rate and South Africa will have one less worry for the 2011 World Cup.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

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Posted by sunny_gr on (May 29, 2010, 18:11 GMT)

A great delight to read this article. A wonderful Test series in England, great form against the Australians, simply a tide of runs since the past and a half year; and yet scarcely an article about him ever appeared until I began to think it was my own bias that made me regard De Villiers as a brilliant player, but I guess it turns out that he's just underrated. I agree with most comments, AB gets a rank higher when considering he hasn't played on pancakes as often as other batsmen, especially those from the subcontinent have. His selection as keeper has astounded me, he's doing a great job, no doubt, but batting should remain this player's priority, something which keeping doesn't allow for. And then his efforts in the field, entirely reminiscent of Rhodes; a shame he only can field behind the stumps now. Hopefully the SA selectors will reconsider the logic of their selection.

Posted by rv_subbu on (May 29, 2010, 16:58 GMT)

I am an amateur number cruncher. Right now I have to manually enter the data in a table and apply my formulae. Can you please write a column on how to download data from statsguru? I am sure taht would help members of the amateur statistician tribe...

RV

Posted by BellCurve on (May 29, 2010, 12:51 GMT)

@ hamwil80 - couldn't agree with you more. Indian batsmen have benefited from playing on ridiculously flat tracks in recent years. The Indian bowlers on the other hand got a seriously raw deal during this period. That's why I have long been advocating that these types of analyses should be adjusted to take into consideration at least 50% of the discrepancy between the relative strength/weakness of the team's batting unit compared to its bowling unit. If this adjustment is taken into consideration, De Villiers' achievements are even more impressive. I am still utterly perplexed as to why the Delhi Daredevils benched him for most of their IPL3 campaign. But that's cricket. A guy fails two or three times in the T20 casino and suddenly he is considered out-of-form or overrated.

Posted by riskrao on (May 29, 2010, 8:19 GMT)

devilliers have been exceptional in the past few years. since the double century that he scored in india his career has been taken to greater heights. he scored centuries in england, australia, india and have been performing consistently as the stats show the evidence. i actually request the south african cricket board that please release him from the wicketkeeping duties. devilliers and kallis are the stand out performers for sa. kallis blossomed in two disciplines in cricket, batting and bowling and managed to perform them well in tests, odi's and now in t20's for almost an decade and half. he managed to do that because the amt of cricket played in the 90's and 2000's are less compared to now. but for devilliers if he continue to keep wkts and play at no 4 and with the amt of cricket being played, i am afraid that he would be exhausted and cricket would miss a player of his caliber once for all. at last amla he has been fantastic, brilliant, fabulous, excellent over the past 3 years.

Posted by Shafaet on (May 29, 2010, 2:38 GMT)

Thumbs up to hamwii80's comment.

Posted by hamwil80 on (May 28, 2010, 14:11 GMT)

@bestbuddy, point taking. Though slight exaggeration: comparing the list of last 4 years on this page to career records, the improvements in Hussey, Ponting, and Tendulkar, and Dhoni are marginal if at all; and the fact that Kallis can feature at all on a list of Avg X strike rate is an indicment of the improvement in his game.

Posted by boris6491 on (May 28, 2010, 13:44 GMT)

Amla's consistency has been truly remarkable and the fact that he is continually defying the odds by showing he can succeed in ODIs by perhaps not scoring at blistering rates but very steady ones is really excellent. He won me over as a player a long time back due to his excellent temperament and amazing knack for consistency. These are the sort of players teams need and SA are truly fortunate to have a player of his class and ability. Hopefully, SA will use his ability to the best advantage.

Posted by bestbuddy on (May 28, 2010, 8:51 GMT)

@Hanwil80, you make a somewhat contradictory point. Yes kallis has gotten his strikerate up to almost 80, which is a pretty good achievement. BUT, look at the strikerates of his peers during this time. All except chanderpauls are higher (chanderpaul averages 7 runs more though) by at least 5 runs per 100 balls, which when you average 45-50 means he uses up 2-3 balls more an innings for the same score (and early on in an innings) as his peers, which can change a match, or put more pressure on the lower order when chasing a target.But to get back to the point, it is good to see AB's and Amla's achievements lately being noticed, great going guys :)

Posted by Perplexed on (May 28, 2010, 6:35 GMT)

Add to this the fact that when De Villiers is not behind the stumps he is an exceptional close-in fielder that saves many runs in each game, not even to mention his safe catching hands and the spectacular catches that he has taken.

If I remember correctly he had to make a decision soon after leaving school whether he wanted to pursue a career in rugby or cricket and fortunately for us he decided on cricket.

Now that is a true allrounder!

Posted by _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on (May 28, 2010, 6:11 GMT)

This guy deserved at least a nomination for player of the yr. last time they had the voting process. In terms of t-20, ODI and test performances...in many different conditions vs many different opponents starting from many different scenarios (not that they vary that much anymore...most pitches in the world do favour batting) he was for me the most prolific and consistent batsman in the world when you combined all 3 formats during that period. His stats from #4 in ODI's are outstanding and even now he isn't in his best form...he still scores 100's. Sad to see that they're aren't a few more articles on him and other such lesser heralded players of quality. Amla I think is real quality and very good at doing simple things 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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