December 18, 2015

A bowling paradise where Amla and de Villiers thrive

South Africa presents the most challenging conditions for batsmen, but you wouldn't know that from the recent home form of their top two batsmen
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The draw percentage in Tests in South Africa is lower than in any other country in the last ten years © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Tough for batsmen
Pitches in many parts of the world are becoming more batting-friendly, but South Africa remains a country where, by and large, pitches still consistently offer assistance to fast bowlers. There is swing, seam and bounce on offer, which makes South Africa the most challenging country to score runs in in Test cricket over the last several years.

Since the beginning of 2006, only six out of 47 Tests have been drawn: the draw percentage of 12.77 is the smallest among all countries that have hosted at least ten Tests during this period. The average of 31.22 runs per wicket is also the least among all countries.

Kingsmead, which is the venue for the Boxing Day Test, has produced a decisive result in each of the eights Tests since 2006, with South Africa winning only three and losing five.

Centurion and Johannesburg have had only one draw each, out of 19 Tests they have hosted in ten years. (Click here for ground-wise results list in South Africa since January 2006.)

Since 2010, Hashim Amla averages 58 in home Tests © Getty Images

All that pace, swing and movement has generally made life difficult for opening batsmen in South Africa: their overall average partnership of 31.41 in the last ten years is the lowest among all countries that have hosted at least ten Tests. South Africa's openers have themselves struggled in home conditions, averaging 31.14 per partnership, compared to 31.64 by the overseas teams; seven of the 11 century partnerships in South Africa during this period have been by overseas teams.

The four South African openers who have played 12 or more innings at the top of the order during this period all have sub-40 batting averages: Graeme Smith (37.22 in 72 innings), Alviro Petersen (34.29 in 26 innings), AB de Villiers (17.46 in 15 innings) and Herschelle Gibbs (16.66 in 12 innings). Alastair Cook has done reasonably well here, though, scoring 287 runs in seven innings at an average of 41.

Opening stands in each country, in Tests since Jan 2006 (Min 50 p'ships)
Host Country P'ships Ave stand 100 p'ships
 South Africa  173  31.41  11
 Sri Lanka  179  32.96  9
 New Zealand  142  34.97  8
 West Indies  156  36.10  12
 England  257  37.86  19
 U.A.E.  82  40.27  11
 Australia  200  40.72  19
 Bangladesh  125  42.84  12
 India  160  46.92  19

No longer struggling at home
While conditions in South Africa have generally been difficult for batting, their two best batsmen have come to terms with them and have been outstanding in home Tests over the last few years. Overall, both have a lower average at home than away: Amla averages 48.71 at home, and 52.64 in away and neutral venues, while de Villiers averages 47.98 in home Tests, and 55.23 in away and neutral venues. However, the overall numbers for both batsmen are deceptive, for both have picked up their home stats in the last few seasons.

In the last six years, AB de Villiers has made ten centuries at home © Associated Press

Since the beginning of 2010, Amla has averaged 58 in home Tests, up from 40 in the period before that. In seven out of nine series since 2010, his average has exceeded 50; in nine home series before 2010, only three times did his average go beyond 50. In two home series against Australia in the last five years, he has averaged 59.75 and 51.60, which is a fair indication of how far his batting has come along.

With de Villiers, the contrast between his recent years and the earlier period is even more stark: before 2009, his home average in 26 Tests was a mediocre 30.34; in five out of nine series during this period, his average was less than 30. Since the start of 2009, though, his home average has more than doubled, to 66.07, with seven where he averaged more than 50, out of ten. He has scored ten hundreds in his last 28 home Tests, compared with just two in his first 26.

De Villiers' home average of 66.07 since the beginning of 2009 is higher than his away average of 54.92, while Amla's away numbers are still better than his home stats since 2010, but only marginally. Since the beginning of 2010, de Villiers and Amla are comfortably the two top run scorers in Tests in South Africa.

Hashim Amla in home Tests
Period Tests Runs Average 100s
 Till Dec 2009  22  1444  40.11  5
 Jan 2010 onwards  23  1917  58.09  6
 Overall at home  45  3361  48.71  11
AB de Villiers in home Tests
Period Tests Runs Average 100s
 Till Dec 2008  26  1244  30.34  2
 Jan 2009 onwards  28  2643  66.07  10
 Overall at home  54  3887  47.98  12
Hashim Amla in home and away Tests since Jan 2010
Home/ away Tests Runs Average 100s
 Home  23  1917  58.09  6
 Away  26  2384  62.73  10
AB de Villiers in home and away Tests since Jan 2009
Home/ away Tests Runs Average 100s
 Home  28  2643  66.07  10
 Away  26  2087  54.92  4

Head-to-head battles to watch out for
South Africa's top two batsmen and England's top two bowlers have played three Test series against each other, which means there is a fair amount of head-to-head data among them. Amla is in the throes of a batting slump at the moment, but he can take some comfort from his stats against England's two leading bowlers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

Amla's numbers against James Anderson are phenomenal © PA Photos

Against Broad, Amla averages 75.33, while his average against Anderson is a whopping 127; the last time the two played each other - in England in 2012 - Amla took 109 runs from 164 balls off Anderson, without being dismissed once. In that series Broad didn't dismiss him either, conceding 86 from 155 balls. Amla was in sublime form in that series, though, scoring 482 runs at 120.50, which is a far cry from the form he has displayed recently.

De Villiers has been superb against Anderson as well, but he has struggled against Broad, being dismissed seven times at an average of 20. In the series in South Africa in 2009-10, Broad dismissed de Villiers four times conceding 58 runs, while in 2012 in England he had figures of 2 for 26 against de Villiers. If Broad comes anywhere close to replicating those figures this time around, England should be well on their way to having a good series.

Among England's current squad, Cook is the one batsman who has had plenty of batting against South Africa's current top bowlers. His overall numbers are pretty impressive against Dale Steyn, but not so good against Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander. The last time England toured South Africa, Morkel had figures of 4 for 60 against Cook, while Philander dismissed him three times conceding 45 in England in 2012. Given these stats, Cook will surely not mind the fact that Philander has been ruled out of the first two Tests of the series.

James Anderson v Amla and de Villiers
Batsman Runs Balls Dismissals Average
 Hashim Amla  254  429  2  127.00
 AB de Villiers  193  393  2  96.50
Stuart Broad v Amla and de Villiers
Batsman Runs Balls Dismissals Average
 Hashim Amla  226  437  3  75.33
 AB de Villiers  140  282  7  20.00
Alastair Cook v SA's pace attack
Bowler Runs Balls Dismissals Average
 Dale Steyn  147  329  3  49.00
 Morne Morkel  175  428  6  29.16
 Vernon Philander  45  104  3  15.00

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ali on December 20, 2015, 6:47 GMT

    Why does any article now a days on cricinfo become a battle ground between fans from India and South Africa on the recent series? That is gone, done and dusted and lots have been written on it. This is something else. Amla and De Villiers are outstanding batsmen. Two of the very best in the world. One series does not make them bad cricketers and neither does it make our spinners the best in the world! It has become a fad now to generalise pitches in Australia, SA and England as greentops and hard to bat one. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not all pitches. Adelaide, India vs Australia was not a green top and neither was Sydney and Melbourne. Only Brisbane was fast. England on our last tour, only Lords was a green top and I think we won? Trent Bridge was a batting paradise where Bhuvaneshwar Kumar scored two half centuries and Binny scored another! Johannesburg on our last tour was also not so fast as it is usually. Rahane and Kohli scored centuries there.

  • Clement on December 20, 2015, 0:35 GMT

    The openers really have to do better. It is tough to bat in SA but Stiaan and Elgar should really do better. Hash also has to recover his form but I think only time in the middle will do that so hopefully he bats long enough to improve his scores. Faf is hot and cold. He too needs to step up and do more than be a duck farmer. Beyond that, SA has a better team overall and I think playing England will seem like relief after the tour to India.

  • Phillip on December 19, 2015, 8:28 GMT

    Lets hope Hash gets back into form.Come on Hashim buckle up.

  • Mohsin on December 19, 2015, 4:39 GMT

    @Diamond2017...Suppose SA play India now on typical SA tracks & SA pacers were to bowl to Ind batsmen & den to their own batsmen. We know SA batsmen will beat Ind batsmen most of time. But, India look to even d contest wid better spinner dan SA. Now, suppose Ind spinners were to bowl to SA batsmen at Nagpur & den to their own batsmen. SA batsmen wud hav surpassed Ind total most of d time. I know dis is hypothetical but just wanted to prove dat Ind had way better spinners & SA had better pacers & batsmen. But, Nagpur/Mohali didn't allow d in-game contests between SA pacers & Indian batsmen or SA batsmen & Indian spinners. We saw d ball reached d keeper on d 2nd bounce when Morkel tried to dig in short in d 1st morning at Nagpur/Mohali. Jadeja is more dangerous dan Ashwin on Nagpur/Mohali tracks. What do we conclude when Kohli gets out 4/6 times to pace bowlers on such tracks?

  • Mohsin on December 19, 2015, 3:43 GMT

    @Diamond 2017...The big picture that came out of the series is Indian batsmen are as bad, if not worse, vs decent spinners. SA only needed Tahir to land his deliveries on a good length consistently which he failed & SA couldn't create enough pressure to pick wickets from either end. Which confirmed that he can't be trusted to be the lead spinner in Tests. Delhi was a normal track. But, Mohali/Nagpur negated not only SA pacers but batsmen from both sides also. One look at the team-sheet before the series began, u know which team had better spinners. SA hoped to compensate their lack of quality spinners with accurate pacers & experienced batters. But, batting on such tracks was a lottery & the game was reduced to a spinners v spinners contest.

  • R on December 18, 2015, 23:19 GMT

    I usually do not retaliate in forums but couldn't stop myself this time...

    @CricketView

    AB averages 45 in Aus, 54.5 in Eng, 45 in Ind, 44 in NZ, 42 in SL and 88 in UAE...

    Amla averages 58 in Aus, 75.5 in Eng, 63 in Ind, 47 in NZ, 38 in SL and 78 in UAE...

    If this is inability to play spin, I don't know many better players of spin!!! In fact, if all players (in the last 15-20 years) had played equal matches in conditions that swing (Eng/NZ), bounce (Aus), both (SA) and spin (Sub-continent), these two would have the highest average (not my guess, stats say so)!!!

    I feel you have started watching cricket from Ind-SA series... Welcome to the club!!!

  • Pranshu on December 18, 2015, 21:55 GMT

    @MOHSIN9975 - You need to look at the bigger picture when you talk about Nagpur/Mohali. India outbatted and outballed SA completely, thats why they won the match. SA the world no1 team could not cope and did not want to score 3 runs per over when they had two days left in the 4th match instead they blocked everything and still lost. In short whatever be the pitch SA tried everything but failed. India had only one proper spinner Ashwin (Jedeja is not a spinner, like Kumble) and SA had Tahir (Harmer still unknown), we know who did the job better. Period.

  • Clinton on December 18, 2015, 21:33 GMT

    @ CricketView...Let it go, your team won 3-0. Enough said.

  • Jason on December 18, 2015, 19:53 GMT

    Kingsmead has not been, in recent times, the green mamba it used to be.

  • Muzammil on December 18, 2015, 18:58 GMT

    lol i love how the rebuttals "it's only difficult for 30 overs" and that "stats don't give you the full story" was swiftly debunked by another statistic gem by Mr Rajesh here in the comments section. kudos.

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