Pakistan in South Africa 2012-13 February 25, 2013

A rarely-seen dominance

South Africa, often guilty of relaxing mid-way through a series, produced a dominant display reminiscent of Australia's run in their heyday

Despite South Africa's successful run in recent years, the ruthlessness that was a characteristic of the dominant Australian team in the 2000s had been missing. However, in their 2012-13 home summer, they produced a performance that set them apart from the rest of the Test teams. After demolishing New Zealand 2-0, they proceeded to blank Pakistan 3-0. Three of those five wins were innings victories. Surprisingly, this is only the third time since readmission that South Africa have won three or more Tests in a series. In comparison, Australia have 24 such series wins in the same period. They also became only the second team after Australia (four times) to whitewash Pakistan in a series of three or more matches since 1991.

Pakistan's brittle batting, under the scanner before the start of the tour, collapsed in the first and third Tests. However, the visitors will gain some confidence from being far more competitive in Cape Town, in conditions that could be similar to those in the UAE, where they play South Africa later this year.

South Africa have been exceptional in away Tests, last losing a series in Sri Lanka in 2006. However, they had problems in closing out series at home. In home series (three-plus matches) between 2009 and 2012, they won four and lost three Tests (one series win). They had the better batting and bowling stats in each of the three series but were unable to win convincingly.

In the series against Pakistan, however, the average difference (between the batting and bowling averages) also translated into a resounding 3-0 result. Among the four series, the average difference against Pakistan (16.80) is the highest. Although Sri Lanka managed to win the second Test in Durban, the average difference was still quite high (16.23). Against India and England (both 1-1 draws), the average differences were much lower (8.54 and 7.64 respectively).

South Africa in last four home series (three-plus matches)
Opposition Result Bat avg Bowl avg Avg diff
Pakistan 3-0 (SA) 37.05 20.25 16.80
Sri Lanka 2-1 (SA) 41.23 25.46 16.23
India 1-1 37.93 29.39 8.54
England 1-1 38.62 30.98 7.64

Pakistan managed to dismiss South Africa only three times in the series, so it was a surprise that South Africa's openers averaged only 20.40. However, Pakistan's openers also struggled against the high-quality pace attack, managing only 151 runs (average 12.58). The average of the opening batsmen in the series (16.13) was the second-lowest in a series since 1970 (minimum of 20 innings played). The middle-order (Nos. 3-5) stats were clearly dominated by South Africa. The hosts averaged 54.92 to Pakistan's 26.00 and had three more fifty-plus scores.

AB de Villiers, the Player of the Series, and Hashim Amla ended as the top two run-getters. De Villiers became only the eighth wicketkeeper overall (and second from South Africa) to score over 350 runs and have more than 15 dismissals in a series. South Africa's lower middle-order batsmen (Nos. 6-8) also averaged more than their Pakistan counterparts but failed to score a century.

Batting stats for both teams in the series
Batting position SA (Runs/avg) Pakistan (Runs/avg) SA (100/50) Pakistan (100/50)
Openers (1-2) 204/20.40 151/12.58 0/1 0/0
3-5 714/54.92 468/26.00 2/4 1/2
6-8 372/37.20 390/22.94 0/3 1/1
9-11 71/11.83 114/8.76 0/0 0/0
Overall 1361/34.89 1123/18.71 2/8 2/3

Perhaps the most striking aspect of South Africa's bowling dominance was that the top wicket-taker in each of the three matches was different. While Dale Steyn, the highest wicket-taker in the series, produced his best bowling display (11 for 60) in the first Test in Johannesburg as Pakistan were dismissed for their lowest Test score (49), Vernon Philander and the debutant Kyle Abbott picked up nine wickets each in the next two Tests. While South Africa's pace bowlers picked up 53 wickets at 17.32, the Pakistan fast bowlers managed only 19 wickets at 45.89. Saeed Ajmal, who produced a fantastic bowling performance in the second Test in Cape Town, ended with 11 wickets at an average of 33.18.

Bowling stats for the teams in the series
Bowler type SA (wkts/avg) SA (5WI/10WM) Pak (wkts/avg) Pak (5WI/10WM)
Pace 53/17.32 4/1 19/45.89 1/0
Spin 6/38.16 0/0 16/30.31 1/1
Overall 59/19.67 4/1 37/37.86 2/1

The opening partnership for South Africa was moderately successful as the aggregate of 187 runs from five innings (average 37.40) suggests. For Pakistan, however, the opening stand hardly contributed. In six innings, the openers aggregated a total of 72 runs (average 12.00) for the first wicket. The average opening stand (12.00) was the fifth-lowest for Pakistan (min six innings). The visitors had slightly better second-wicket stats but fell well behind in terms of the averages for the fourth and fifth-wicket partnerships. The fifth-wicket partnership yielded both the century stands for Pakistan and they ended with a far superior average. One of South Africa's century stands was a seventh-wicket partnership between de Villiers and Philander in Centurion. In contrast, Pakistan's sixth and seventh-wicket stands put up virtually no fight (averages of 9.83 and 14.00 respectively).

Partnership stats in the series
Wicket SA (Runs/avg) SA(100/50 stands) Pak (Runs/avg) Pak (100/50 stands)
1 187/37.40 0/1 72/12.00 0/0
2 97/19.40 0/1 127/21.16 0/1
3 219/43.80 0/2 110/18.33 0/1
4 345/86.25 1/2 138/23.00 0/1
5 99/24.75 0/1 400/66.66 2/0
6 152/38.00 0/2 59/9.83 0/0
7 184/61.33 1/0 84/14.00 0/1
8-10 162/18.00 0/1 225/12.50 0/1

Mohammad Hafeez had a most forgettable series aggregating a total of just 43 runs in six innings. It was the lowest tally by a Pakistan opener in a Test series (min six innings). Steyn dominated Hafeez in the series, dismissing him four times while conceding just five runs. Steyn also tasted success against Younis Khan dismissing him three times (average 15.00). Philander, who picked up nine wickets in the second Test, dismissed Asad Shafiq three times in 111 balls (average 14.33). Ajmal, easily Pakistan's best bowler, had a good run against Jacques Kallis, whom he dismissed three times in 40 balls (average 21.00). Kallis, however, played his part as a bowler too, dismissing Azhar Ali twice while conceding just 11 runs.

Bowler v Batsman stats in the series
Bowler Batsman Dismissals Avg Balls per dismissal
Dale Steyn Mohammad Hafeez 4 1.25 9.50
Dale Steyn Younis Khan 3 15.00 45.66
Asad Shafiq Vernon Philander 3 14.33 37.00
Saeed Ajmal Jacques Kallis 3 7.00 13.33
Jacques Kallis Azhar Ali 2 5.50 20.50

Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan is a sub-editor (stats) at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Omar on February 27, 2013, 12:33 GMT

    To Iqbal Qasim, please drop Hafeez from test side, he is a utility player in ODI and T20's but even if he spends a full year in SAF playing domestic cricket, he won't last Steyn one over so get him out of test side ASAP unless you need him as a 3rd spinner in subcontinent conditions. Say goodbye to Umar Gul, the guy seriously lacks mental strength and is just not good enough for test matches. If Asif and Amir were around, Gul would have been used as a 3rd seamer but not with this attack.

    Please give ultimatum to Misbah and WI tour and SAF return tour should be his last as neither age nor form is with his side. Ask Azhar Ali to develop some strokes, test matches are not won by staying for 100 min rather scoring a hundred and the faster to score, the better it is. And last but not the least, when selecting fast bowlers for tour, see their speen on a speed gun rather than checking them out bowling 120k/h in a test match.

  • X on February 27, 2013, 9:45 GMT

    It is laughable that supporters of subcontinental teams say "You can only judge player x or y (or indeed whole teams) when he does well on Asian pitches." And then in the very next breath they argue SA, AUS and ENG pitches are unsporting for Asian batsman. SA has an excellent record in Asia, whether on Indian or Pakistan tours so arguing that they can only be judged when "they've toured Asia" is completely irrelevant. Philander has the best bowling stats for a century but you're arguing that as lovers of the game we should entirely ignore the feat because none of them have been taken in Asia. Here's a novel idea, why not just applaud a team that has beaten all comers, home and away?

  • Herman on February 27, 2013, 5:36 GMT

    I think the Aussies at the height of their powers under Ricky Ponting would have spanked the current SA team... Purely because SA would still of had no idea how to play Shane Warne...

  • Tahir on February 27, 2013, 2:45 GMT

    I remember ICC objected and warned Sri Lanka for a pitch which was turning spitefully for its spinners on the first day of test match between SL and Australia. But whenAustralia, England and South Africa make unsporting pitches which excessively assist hosting team's bowlers then ICC becomes blind and deaf. ICC is filled with bunch of lunatics who are thriving on India's money. We need another Kerry Packer to sort ICC out.

  • Tahir on February 27, 2013, 2:35 GMT

    This SA team is nothing compared to what Ricky Ponting team was. The real dominance was dished out to England 5-0.... remember that. And all that on sporting wickets or wickets which were not alien to English team.

  • Corne on February 26, 2013, 19:53 GMT

    Ravikb, Australia has played 51 test series in that time that had 3 or more tests, SA had 46 series of three test series in that time, but the diffrence is in the number of series OZ had with more than three tests.

    SA - 12 series with more than 3 trsts OZ - 24 series with more than 3 tests, and then most of those were 5 test series.

    It is a lot easier to win 3 tests in a series when you play 5 test series, than it is to do it when you mostly play 3 tests maximum, it means you must whitewash just about every opponent to get 3 wins.

  • johnny on February 26, 2013, 13:26 GMT

    I think the south african media,fans and commentary team are going a little overboard with this series win against pakistan.Pakistan is the worst cricket team in which a bowling attack can be judged,because their batting is so pathetic.They are without doubt the worst batting line up in international cricket.So I am a bit amuse when I hear the south african media comparing the sa team to the west indies of the 80's.South africa is no where near what the west indies was then.

  • Ravi on February 26, 2013, 11:15 GMT

    "Surprisingly, this is only the third time since readmission that South Africa have won three or more Tests in a series. In comparison, Australia have 24 such series wins in the same period." This clearly shows that how ruthless Australia were. Can SA manage the same ruthlessness? Only time will tell. It all depends on how Philander performs in sub-continental conditions and finding a good spinner who can run through the opposition on a 5th day in the sub-continent.

  • Paul on February 26, 2013, 10:56 GMT

    Incredible dominance. Pakistan never looked like threatening. SA truly are an amazing unit at the moment, for the last 5 years or so, they have been right up there as the best team, just never had the matches to prove it. There has to be more Test Cricket, it is amazing to watch. T20 and even ODI cannot provide the drama a test can. Please ICC, schedule more Test Cricket.

  • sachit on February 26, 2013, 7:35 GMT

    SA truly deserve this - nuff zed, they were great for a long time but this is the height of their dominance. Critics may point out their shortcomings in ODI/T20, but they have dominated the traditional format of the game. The test for them will be in Asia, if they come out on top, like the Aussies did during their glory days, they will truly be hailed as greats.

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