Stats analysis on South Africa March 10, 2007

All-round strength

South Africa's recent run of successes means they'll go into this World Cup as one of the favourties to lift the trophy. Cricinfo analyses the chances of Graeme Smith's side.

Shaun Pollock: outstanding at the start of the innings with new ball in hand © Getty Images

With a 14-5 win-loss record in their last 20 one-day internationals and the title of best ODI team in the world - which they recently wrested from Australia - South Africa are clearly the in-form team going into the World Cup. For many years they have played bridesmaid to Australia, but with the Australians' one-day form dipping of late - and a spate of injuries adding to their woes - the time might be ripe for a new World Cup winner. South Africa could well be that champion, but only if they manage to shrug off the choker's tag and win when it really matters.

That's something they've failed to do in the four World Cups they've played so far. In 1992 they were distinctly unlucky with the rain rule in the semi-finals (though it helped them earlier in the tournament against Pakistan), but in 1996 and 1999 they slipped at crucial moments, and their 2003 home campaign ended in utterly shambolic fashion. Despite those reverses, South Africa's win-loss ratio of 2.11 (19 wins, 9 defeats) in World Cups is second only to Australia's 2.35. (Click here for South Africa's World Cup results, and here for more detailed South Africa stats in the tournament.)

All-round solidity

The next table illustrates why South Africa have been so utterly dominant of late - they have scored at a brisk rate throughout their innings and strung together significant partnerships to ensure they have plenty of wickets in hand going into the slog. Though their top order failed to fire for much of the time this season, they still have impressive averages and scoring rates during each stage of the game.

Moreover, the South African attack has been awesome, allowing the batsmen little leeway. The difference in averages and scoring rates between the South African batsmen and their counterparts from other teams tells the story. The numbers for the first 20 overs indicates that South Africa often have the match sealed then itself.

SA v opposition, in their last 20 ODIs
SA - Runs per wkt SA - Runs per over Opp - Runs per wkt Opp - Runs per over
Overs 1 to 20 39.10 5.06 25.06 3.97
Overs 21 to 40 47.11 5.11 28.19 4.52
Overs 41 to 50 32.62 8.50 22.85 6.60

Amazing depth

South Africa have traditionally been a side which has competent batsmen almost all the way down to No.11, and this unit is no different. The stands for the first six wickets all average more than 35, while partnerships for wickets seven and eight have been pretty handy as well.

The opposition batsmen, meanwhile, have struggled a bit: check out the average runs per wicket for the fourth wicket. While the South Africans average around 128 for their last five wickets, they've restricted the opposition last five to just 72.

Partnerships for & against South Africa in last 20 ODIs
Wicket For SA - Average 100s/ 50s Against SA - Average 100s/ 50s
First 42.22 4/ 0 28.90 1/ 2
Second 42.56 2/ 1 31.75 1/ 4
Third 35.94 0/ 4 39.75 3/ 3
Fourth 44.44 1/ 5 12.55 0/ 0
Fifth 36.06 1/ 2 47.88 1/ 2
Sixth 42.08 2/ 2 15.69 0/ 1
Seventh 28.75 0/ 3 14.87 0/ 0
Eighth 35.80 1/ 0 11.85 0/ 0
Ninth 9.00 0/ 0 18.30 0/ 1
Tenth 14.00 0/ 0 11.82 0/ 0

AB de Villiers had a wretched home series during the Tests, but he bounced back superbly during the one-dayers, and has been South Africa's best ODI batsman over their last 20 matches. The ever-consistent Kallis is next in line, while Mark Boucher's stats indicate just how vital he is to South Africa's cause recently.

The only worry is the form of Graeme Smith, the captain. He has been in a bit of a slump recently, with Zaheer Khan, especially, having plenty of success against him. The runs by the middle and lower order has ensured that Smith's failures haven't affected the team results much.

South Africa's batsmen in the last 20 matches by the team
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
AB de Villiers 15 654 54.50 0/ 6
Jacques Kallis 15 566 47.16 1/ 3
Mark Boucher 15 548 42.15 1/ 3
Herschelle Gibbs 17 497 41.41 1/ 3
Shaun Pollock 14 324 36.00 0/ 2
Justin Kemp 15 344 31.27 1/ 2
Graeme Smith 16 419 27.93 0/ 4
Loots Bosman 8 202 25.25 0/ 1
Ashwell Prince 2 41 20.50 0/ 0

Lethal with the new ball

If the batting inspires confidence, the bowling does even more of the same. Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini form arguably the best new-ball of this World Cup - Ntini's pace and fire have fetched him 20 wickets in the first 20 overs, while Pollock's nagging accuracy and the corridor line have fetched him 24. Couple that with a mind-boggling economy rate of 2.75, and it's easy to understand why they will start as the best new-ball attack.

If Pollock is Smith's go-to man with the new ball, then Andrew Hall, with his ability to reverse-swing the old ball, could well be a key figure during the slog over. His numbers during the slog suggests he will often be bowling during the end of the innings.

South African bowlers in the last 20 ODIs (since March 3, 2006) - at the start ( first 20 overs) and death (last 10 overs)
Bowler Total wickets First 20 overs
wkts, average
Econ Last 10 overs
wkts, average
Makhaya Ntini 27 20, 21.90 4.00 7, 18.71 6.28
Shaun Pollock 26 24, 14.25 2.75 2, 16.50 4.12
Andrew Hall 13 4, 51.25 4.34 9, 11.11 5.25
Andre Nel 10 7, 27.57 3.89 3, 32.00 7.38
Jacques Kallis 8 5, 18.60 5.41 3, 30.67 9.20
Charl Langeveldt 5 3, 38.00 3.84 2, 42.00 7.00
Roger Telemachus 4 1, 39.00 4.10 3, 31.00 7.85

The one thing that hasn't been considered here though is the fact that 16 of South Africa's last 20 matches have been played at home. Their overseas record obviously isn't as good as their numbers at home, but here's even more heartening news for the South African fans - they've won ten of their last 11 matches in the West Indies. A similar run in the World Cup could well see South Africa walk away with the trophy on April 28. (Click here for South Africa's record in the West Indies.)

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo