Perhaps numbers never do reveal the full story, but they tell a large part of it. Every Friday, The Numbers Game will take a look at statistics from the present and the past, busting myths and revealing hidden truths:
Most batsmen are more prolific in Tests than in one-day internationals. The reasons are obvious - in Tests, there is no premium on the overs available, and consequently, there is ample time to play at one's own pace, with no need to manufacture risky strokes to up the scoring rate. There are, however, a few players for whom it doesn't quite work that way - Test matches require prolonged periods of concentration as a batsman, and the ability to spend long periods at the crease to build innings; in Tests, there are more fielders around the bat, bowlers have fewer restrictions imposed on them, and pitches are more likely to offer them some assistance - all of this means more opportunity for the bowlers to take wickets. Michael Bevan could never quite cut it at the Test level despite his amazingly prolific record in ODIs, and it seems Boeta Dippenaar is travelling the same route.
After the 123 he made in Barbados in the third one-dayer against West Indies, Dippenaar's ODI average has gone up to nearly 45, while his Test match average languishes at 31. As the table below shows, the difference of more than 13 between the ODI and Test average is easily the highest among batsmen who have made at least 1000 runs in both forms of the game. For Bevan, the difference was a whopping 24.51, but he only managed 785 runs in the 18 Tests he played. In fact, there's another player from the ongoing series who is in the top ten of the list - Ramnaresh Sarwan has a fairly healthy average of nearly 42 in Tests, but his ODI stats are even better: 2668 runs at an average touching 47.
Since making his international debut more than four-and-a-half years back, Dippenaar has provided glimpses to suggest that he is the real deal, but he has never gone on to translate it into consistent scores. His first Test century came in only his fifth match, a rain-affected game against New Zealand at Johannesburg, but that gave his career no momentum at all - his highest score in his next 13 innings was 29. His recent form has been more encouraging - 505 runs in his last eight Tests at 42, but it's as a one-day batsman that Dippenaar has made his mark of late.
He got to his first ODI century in only his 62nd match, against Pakistan in 2003-04, and since then he's had an excellent run, scoring 751 runs at an average of 53.64, with two hundreds and five fifties. Many reckon Dippenaar may not be the man for the job at the top of the order, but it's tough to argue with the numbers he's racked up as in opener: his last nine innings at that position, dating back to the Standard Bank Triangular Tournament in 2001-02, read 74*, 81, 7, 110*, 58, 74, 56, 60*, and 123 - 643 runs at a staggering average of 107.16. Some of those knocks have come against fairly useful attacks too: in three of those games, he quelled an attack which included Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami and Umar Gul. (Click here to check Dippenaar's stats as an opener.)
In fact, South Africa have had a pretty good time of it at the top of the order in both forms of the game. Since 2004, the opening stand in ODIs yields 36.19, next only to Australia (40.97) and New Zealand (40.72).
However, in Tests the numbers are even more incredible. Smith and Herschelle Gibbs formed an outstanding pair, averaging 69.21 in 42 innings, but even that has been upstaged in the last few months, when AB de Villiers has joined Smith to open - the pair average 92.73 in 11 innings, with four century stands. Little wonder then, that South Africa are on top of the pile in terms of first-wicket partnerships in Tests since 2000.