July 13, 2012

Jacques Kallis' English challenge

His Test average in England is 29.30, which is 27.48 lower than his career average. Can he make amends this time?

By all accounts, Jacques Kallis' stats as a Test batsman are spectacular: he averages 56.78 over a period of 152 Tests, with 42 hundreds - second-best to only Sachin Tendulkar's 51 centuries. He has scored a Test century versus every opposition he has played against, and in every country except Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

However, every modern batsman has at least one Achilles heel (though for Tendulkar, it isn't as glaring as for other batsmen - he averages at least 40 in every country, and more than 40 against every opposition; perhaps it's his fourth-innings stats - only three centuries in 56 innings). Ricky Ponting averages 26.48 in 14 Tests in India; Brian Lara has a surprisingly low average of 34.55 in 17 Tests against India, and 36.90 in seven Tests in New Zealand; Inzamam-ul-Haq struggled against Australia (31.40 in 14 Tests) and South Africa (32.27 in 13), unarguably the two best bowling attacks when he played.

For Kallis, the problem has been, it would seem from his stats, tackling conditions in England: in 12 Tests there, he averages 29.30, with a solitary century in 20 innings. Admittedly that's a surprising stat, given Kallis' technical proficiency at the crease. The seam and swing in England usually demand a tight technique, but you'd expect Kallis to pass that examination - he has the most watertight technique among current batsmen, and a superb temperament to go with it. However, for some reason, he has struggled to be at his best in England. He has played three Test series there, and ironically he was at his best in the first, in 1998, when he was far from the accomplished accumulator he is today. In fact, of his four 50-plus scores in Tests in England, two were achieved in his first three innings there, including his maiden century in the country, which was only the second of his Test career. Since then, his performances in England have been terribly disappointing: 393 runs in 17 innings at an average of 23.11, with two fifties, and a highest of 66.

Against the same opposition in home conditions, though, Kallis has excellent stats - 1293 runs in 16 Tests at 53.87, with six centuries and five fifties. They're reminiscent of Ponting's numbers against India, though the home-and-away contrast for Ponting is even higher: he averaged 86.04 against them in 15 Tests at home, and 26.48 in 14 matches in India.

England have also been Kallis' toughest ODI opponent. He averages only 31.93 in 38 matches against them, compared to a career ODI average of 45.26. Against them in England, that average drops further, to 30.25.

Jacques Kallis in Tests, in England and elsewhere
  Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
In England 12 586 29.30 1/ 3
Outside England 140 11,793 59.56 41/ 52
v England at home 16 1293 53.87 6/ 5

Kallis' Test average of 29.30 in England is among the lowest for overseas batsmen who have batted in the top five in the line-up, and played at least ten Tests there since 1960. The two batsmen with lower averages during this period are Pakistan's opener Mudassar Nazar (career average 38.09) and West Indies' Alvin Kallicharran (career average 44.43). Doug Walters was another who struggled with the swing in England: he averaged 48.26 over a 76-Test career, but in England his average dropped to less than 30. In 21 Test innings in England when he batted in the top five, his average was 29.85; his overall average in England was even lower - 25.68, with a highest of 88 in 30 innings. Among those who've played in the last decade, the two prominent names are Matthew Hayden and Mahela Jayawardene - both average less than 35 in England despite having career averages of more than 50.

Lowest averages for overseas batsmen in the top five in England since 1960 (Qual: 10 Tests)
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Mudassar Nazar 10 402 28.71 1/ 2
Alvin Kallicharran 11 465 29.06 0/ 3
Jacques Kallis 12 586 29.30 1/ 3
Doug Walters 12 597 29.85 0/ 5
Graeme Wood 12 690 31.36 2/ 2
Bruce Edgar 10 575 31.94 0/ 6
Carl Hooper 14 620 32.63 1/ 4
Mahela Jayawardene 10 614 34.11 2/ 2
Michael Slater 10 586 34.47 1/ 3
Matthew Hayden 10 552 34.50 1/ 1

In terms of difference between a batsman's overall average and his average in England, Kallis' 27.48 is the highest among all batsmen who've played at least six Tests in England. Close on his heels is another all-time great, Kumar Sangakkara, who also has a technically sound game. He averages 30.59 in England, and more than 56 over his entire career. Among current players, there are two more in the list below: Virender Sehwag's six Tests have fetched 278 runs at 27.80, which is well below his career average of 50.80. And then there's Michael Hussey, another well-equipped batsman technically who you'd expect to have a much better record in England: in seven Tests there (including two against Pakistan) he averages 31.36, well below his career average of 50.07.

There are some other old-timers as well, including two of the three Ws from the West Indies. Everton Weekes had a career average of 58.61, but in 16 innings in England, he managed only 33.31, including ducks in three of his last four innings there. Clyde Walcott averaged 56.68 over his 44-Test career, but in 16 innings in England, he touched 40 just twice.

Superb elsewhere, poor in England (Qual: 6 Tests in Eng)
Batsman Overall Tests Average Tests in Eng Average Diff in ave
Jacques Kallis 152 56.78 12 29.30 27.48
Kumar Sangakkara 110 56.73 9 30.59 26.14
Everton Weekes 48 58.62 9 33.31 24.11
Polly Umrigar 59 42.22 8 18.20 24.02
Virender Sehwag 96 50.80 6 27.80 23.00
Clyde Walcott 44 56.69 9 34.00 22.69
Doug Walters 74 48.26 18 25.69 22.57
Herbie Collins 19 45.07 6 23.00 22.07
Aubrey Faulkner 25 40.79 10 20.47 20.32
Chandu Borde 55 35.59 7 16.67 18.92
Pankaj Roy 43 32.56 9 13.71 18.85
Michael Hussey 73 50.07 7 31.36 18.71

Kallis' stats in England are also surprising given that most of his team-mates have done pretty well here. Among the other batsmen in this South African squad who've played Tests in England before, only Jacques Rudolph has a lower average. Graeme Smith has been outstanding, with 1083 runs at 72.20, including two double-hundreds in his first three Test innings in England. In fact, Smith scored more runs in those three innings (277, 85, and 259) than Kallis has in his 20 Test innings in England. If Smith has another good series, he'll take over from Bruce Mitchell as the leading South African run scorer in Tests in England.

Current South African batsmen in England
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Graeme Smith 9 1083 72.20 4/ 1
AB de Villiers 4 384 64.00 1/ 1
Hashim Amla 4 275 45.83 1/ 1
Jacques Kallis 12 586 29.30 1/ 3
Jacques Rudolph 5 132 14.67 0/ 1

Kallis will have an opportunity to improve his stats in England over the next few weeks, but he'll be up against a top-class bowling line-up. Among them will be James Anderson, who has dismissed Kallis six times in 12 Tests; the only bowler who has dismissed him more often is Shane Warne - seven times in 18 matches. (Click here for the list of bowlers who've dismissed Kallis most often in Tests.)

Of the six times that Anderson has nailed Kallis, four have been in England, at an average Kallis won't be proud of. The next few weeks will give him an opportunity to rectify this stat as well.

Kallis v Anderson in Tests
  Runs Balls Dismissals Average
In England 65 176 4 16.25
In South Africa 80 161 2 40.00
Overall 145 337 6 24.16

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