November 5, 2010

Awesome Amla

Over the last year Hashim Amla has been unstoppable in a format many thought he wasn't suited for

When Hashim Amla made his Test debut six years ago, few would have thought he'd be such a force in one-day internationals later in his career: after all, dogged defence was his preferred mode, and he demonstrated that in his first Test innings at home, when he scored 1 off 31 deliveries in Durban in 2004. In fact, South Africa's selectors seemed to have slotted him as a specialist Test batsman: in the first 40 months of his international career, Amla played 22 Tests and zero ODIs.

In the last 12 months, though, plenty has changed. So much so that Amla is the leading ODI batsman in 2010, and has scored runs almost at will in the format. In 13 ODI innings this year he has scored five hundreds and three fifties, and averages 82.16 at a strike rate of 103.13.

That form has rubbed off on his Test cricket as well, and 2010 has been his finest year as a Test batsman too, with an average of 79.60 in seven Tests. Over the last three years, Amla's fortunes in Test cricket too have improved considerably compared to the period before 2008: he averages almost 55 during this period and has scored runs in almost every series. His only disappointment, quite surprisingly, was in the West Indies earlier this year, when six innings fetched him only 122 runs.

Hashim Amla in Tests
Period Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Till Dec 2007 18 1042 32.56 44.70 3/ 5
Jan 2008 onwards 28 2341 54.44 50.68 7/ 11
Career 46 3383 45.10 48.67 10/ 16

However, it's as an ODI batsman that Amla has truly been a revelation - both with his consistency and his strike rate. Admittedly these are early days in Amla's career in this format, but he has racked up some amazing numbers so far. Among batsmen who've scored at least 1500 runs, Amla's average is easily the highest, though this also needs to be tempered with the fact that the next three batsmen in the list below have played at least four times as many matches as Amla has.

Highest ODI averages (Qual: 1500 runs)
Batsman ODIs Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Hashim Amla 35 1834 61.13 92.53 6/ 9
Michael Bevan 232 6912 53.58 74.16 6/ 46
Michael Hussey 148 4427 52.70 88.31 2/ 33
MS Dhoni 172 5733 50.28 88.34 7/ 37
Zaheer Abbas 62 2572 47.62 84.80 7/ 13
Viv Richards 187 6721 47.00 90.20 11/ 45
Glenn Turner 41 1598 47.00 68.05 3/ 9
Jacques Kallis 305 10,904 45.81 72.69 17/ 79
Sachin Tendulkar 442 17,598 45.12 86.26 46/ 93
Gordon Greenidge 128 5134 45.03 64.92 11/ 31

What Amla has achieved in 2010 is still spectacular, though - he has been dismissed below 30 only once in 13 innings, while his lowest strike rate in an innings this year has been 84.46, when he scored 87 off 103 balls against India in Ahmedabad. In all other innings he achieved a strike rate of at least 90, and on eight occasions he scored at faster than a run a ball.

The two Michaels, Hussey and Bevan, and MS Dhoni are immediately after Amla in the table above, and all of them had spectacular starts to their ODI careers. However, one huge difference between Amla and these batsmen is that while Hussey, Bevan and Dhoni batted down the order in most of their ODI innings, Amla has almost always opened (with only a couple of innings at No. 3). Batting down the order has meant many more not-outs, which boost the average: after 34 innings, Amla's aggregate is at least 500 more than the three batsmen listed below, but while Amla has been not out only four times so far, Hussey was unbeaten 18 times in his first 34 innings, while the corresponding numbers for Bevan and Dhoni were 15 and 11.

After 34 innings in ODIs...
Batsman Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Michael Hussey 1308 81.75 99.01 1/ 9
Michael Bevan 1122 59.05 76.17 0/ 7
MS Dhoni 1204 52.34 106.45 2/ 6

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Amla's ODI batting has been his all-round composure: he handles pace and spin with equal ease, and he is as comfortable batting in the first 15 overs as he is when the field is spread out. The two tables below list his numbers at various stages of an ODI innings, and against pace and spin. In the first 15 overs he has been outstanding, averaging more than 100 and scoring at more than six runs per over. In the middle overs the average and strike rate drop a bit, but he still keeps the runs coming at a fair clip. He plays far more dot balls - almost 50% of the total balls he faces - in the first 15, which is entirely understandable since the field is in close during this period. What's also outstanding is his dot-ball percentage in the middle overs - 32.68% - which means he scores off nearly 70% of deliveries during this period.

Amla at each stage of an ODI innings in the last year (since Nov 2009)
Period Runs Balls Dismissals Average Run rate 4s/ 6s Dot balls
First 15 overs 667 649 6 111.16 6.16 84/ 4 315
16.1 to 40 519 560 10 51.90 5.56 30/ 1 183
40.1 onwards 34 30 0 - 6.80 3/ 0 8

The dot-ball stat also indicates his comfort levels with spin bowling, which is mostly used in the middle overs of an innings. In fact, there is little to choose between Amla's numbers against pace and spin - the difference in average is less than a run, and the run rates are very similar too.

Amla against pace and spin in ODIs since Nov 2009
Type Runs Balls Dismissals Average Run rate 4s/ 6s Dot balls
Pace 787 785 9 87.44 6.01 90/ 4 362
Spin 433 454 5 86.60 5.72 27/ 1 144

And then, of course, there's Amla's record in Tests in the last three years. It's also an indication of South Africa's batting strength that despite him averaging 54.44, he is only third in the list of their batsmen in terms of averages. And of the six specialist batsmen who've scored more than 1000 Test runs for South Africa during this period, the one with the lowest average is Jacques Kallis - that's a stat that deserves a separate column of analysis.

South African batsmen in Tests since Jan 2008
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Graeme Smith 27 2588 61.61 9/ 10
AB de Villiers 28 2159 59.97 7/ 10
Hashim Amla 28 2341 54.44 7/ 11
Ashwell Prince 23 1331 49.29 5/ 4
Neil McKenzie 17 1225 47.11 3/ 3
Jacques Kallis 28 1844 43.90 6/ 7

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 7, 2010, 1:58 GMT

    @bhaloniaz: Another anti-sachin. Don't worry son, your time will also come when you stop criticising Sachin and start following him, The humbleness of the man himself is sufficient. He has so many records to his name tht ppl like you don't admit it. You expect more and more from him and stop admitting that he is the greatest batsmen...When you are comparing Sachin with all these batsmen why are you comparing his early career rather than his over-all career.? Note that accumulating the risk and capitalising is an art, No one can handle the pressure of the game and be rock-solid for more than 20 years...He will remain the greatest batsmen and no one can ver dream of coming to the range of bradmans and sachins...If you are so very anti-Sachin go n perform in the middle...

  • Dummy4 on November 6, 2010, 22:37 GMT

    Kudos to Amla but it isn't exciting to see the game of cricket making it so difficult for bowlers the world over. It doesn't pay to be a genuine pace bowler as much as it used to. Not many would realise, it is also a reason for the relative decline of Australian and Pakistan cricket (apart from other structural reasons) and the relative rise of India and Sri Lanka.

    It makes me respect Dale Steyn so much more that he is doing what he is doing in this era. How I miss the likes of Allan Donald and Curtly Ambrose steaming in. Even Shoaib Akhtar in his earlier days. Some of his spells from the 1999 World Cup (and this is not even test cricket) were just so exciting.

  • niaz on November 6, 2010, 15:32 GMT

    The greatness of South African batsmen lies in their ability to play pace and spin. Unfortunately when great batsmen are compared, the famous one gets picked. To me Lara, Miadad, Gavasker, Kallis were all better batsmen than Sachin, but Sachin was picked for the World eleven. Sachin was not as successful against the quality pace early in his career. Amla seems to have the same quality of Sachin, accumulate without taking much risk. Many teams now have great batting depth: SA, SL, IND, AUS. Even Eng/PK can field a decent batting order. To me India's batting advantage is over estimated, specially outside india,India does not have an advantage in batting.

  • Umair on November 5, 2010, 17:11 GMT

    Note in the last table the absence of Duminy. Ian Chappell called Duminy the next Ponting, but he has failed to deliver.

  • Manasvi on November 5, 2010, 14:55 GMT

    These are early days but I believe that Amla is the next "great" batsman to have emerged. In the 90s we had quite a few of them such as Lara, Tendulkar, Dravid, Kallis, Inzamam, Yousuf, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, etc emerging. The last 5 years have seen no "great" batsmen coming forth and I think Amla's performances over the last 2 years have been amazing. In my book, he is an even greater batsman than Kallis who himself is a great player.

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2010, 14:39 GMT

    Its just a purple patch.. Law of averages will catch him soon...

  • Mark on November 5, 2010, 13:38 GMT

    The post bouncer era has resulted in a number of batsmen with very high averages and strike-rates yet despite not being able to pull or hook worth a darn.

    Since batting (against fast bowlers) is the easiest and least technically demanding it's ever been in all of recorded cricket history, it's hard to be impressed by numbers.

    Nowadays, T20 is the only format in which the batsman is forced to play the bouncer.

  • Nataraj on November 5, 2010, 13:06 GMT

    Amla is having a dreem run in ODI and Test since 2008. During his early days of carrier he was strugling, but now he is batting like a champion and he is like wall for SA.

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2010, 12:02 GMT

    i wud rate him a batsmen even BETTER than his statistics... his shots are simply incredible and gimme goosebumps... his off-side shots are 2nd 2 none... WHAT A PLAYER!!!

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2010, 11:31 GMT

    all you can say is wata player. all those who doubted him as a one day player can eat humble pie. wat about an ipl contract now???

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