May 28, 2010

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

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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