Numbers Game

The complete batsman

AB de Villiers has conquered different formats and different conditions, and his Test average of 61.67 in the last eight years makes him the best in this format as well

S Rajesh
S Rajesh
13-Nov-2015
AB de Villiers has done so many astounding acts in one-day internationals that his Test numbers sometimes get lesser attention than they deserve. Admittedly, some of his achievements in ODIs are truly mind-boggling: he has scored five centuries when coming in to bat after 25 overs - only Virat Kohli, with two such hundreds, has managed this feat more than once; he holds the record for fastest ODI 50, 100, and 150; he is the first batsman to have a 50-plus ODI average at a strike rate of 100 or more after playing 50-plus innings; and since the beginning of 2009, he has an ODI average of 66.73, at a strike rate of 108 (the next-best average, with a 3500-run cut-off, is 57.61).
AB de Villiers has been streets ahead of anyone else as an ODI player over the last seven years, but his record in Tests is quite stunning as well, especially over the last eight years. His overall aggregate of 7685 Test runs is third among South African batsmen, after Jacques Kallis (13,206) and Graeme Smith (9253). He is one of only three South African batsmen to score 3000-plus Test runs at a 50-plus average - Kallis and Hashim Amla are the others.
De Villiers' Test career has so far been one of two parts. In the first third, which lasted from his debut in 2004 till 2007, he averaged 36.36 from 33 Tests, and scored three centuries in 60 innings, two of which came against a fairly weak West Indies attack in 2005. In 12 innings against Australia he averaged 23.25, and in ten against Pakistan his average dropped to 22.37. The team was still experimenting with where he fitted in best - he batted at No. 6 in 20 innings, but also opened the batting 34 times.
Since the beginning of 2008, though, his stats have changed quite dramatically: the average has risen to 61.67, and the rate of scoring hundreds has improved from one every 20 innings to one every 5.8. He has scored runs against every opposition except Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. (In six innings against those two teams he has scored 76 runs at an average of 15.20.) Against all other teams, though, he averages at least 48 during this period; in 25 innings against Australia he averages 61.90, while in 11 innings in Australia the average is 57.66. At the same time, his stats in the subcontinent are outstanding too: he averages 60.95 in Asia since 2008, and 58.03 in the continent overall, which is among the best for an overseas batsman in Asia in the last 30 years.
AB de Villiers' Test career
Period Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
 Till Dec 2007  33  2073  36.36  3/ 13
 Jan 2008 onwards  66  5612  61.67  18/ 24
 Career  99  7685  51.92  21/ 37
Home improvement
Perhaps the biggest difference, though, are his stats at home. For most players, playing at home is an opportunity to boost the average. South Africa, though, presents arguably the most challenging conditions for batsmen: in the last 11 years, the overall batting average there is 29.50, which is lower than in all countries except Zimbabwe. The average in England is 31.38, in Australia almost 34, and in India 35.12. The pace, bounce and seam movement consistently on offer in South Africa is more than in any other country, and leave alone overseas batsmen, even the home batsmen have struggled to cope. Till 2007, de Villiers' average in 22 home Tests was 30.08; in away Tests in the same period he averaged 48.
Since then, though, he has tightened his game and his improvement is clearly visible in his home stats: since 2008, his home average has lifted to 63.04, which is more than double the number till 2007. He has 11 centuries from 32 home Tests during this period, compared with one in his first 22 home games. His overall home average of 47.98 is still lesser than his overall away average of 56.68, and remarkably similar to the stats for Amla, who averages 48.71 at home, and 55.67 away.
AB de Villiers, in home and away Tests
  Home Away
  Tests Runs Average 100s Tests Runs Average 100s
Till Dec 2007 22 1113 30.08 1 11 960 48.00 2
Jan 2008 onwards 32 2774 63.04 11 34 2838 60.38 7
Better than everyone else
In the last eight years, de Villiers' average of 61.67 is the best among the 27 batsmen who have scored at least 3500 runs in Tests. The difference between him and next-best isn't as vast as it is in ODIs, though, with two others - Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Younis Khan - averaging more than 60 as well, while Kumar Sangakkara and Amla have averages of more than 58.
During this period, de Villiers averages more than 50 in each innings of a Test - 61 in the first, 69.51 in the second, 57.44 in the third, and 51.07 in the fourth. With a 500-run cut-off in each innings, Younis is the only other batsman with 50-plus averages in each innings during this period. Younis and de Villiers also average more than 80 in wins during this period, the only two to do so with a 2500-run cut-off.
Best Test averages since Jan 2008 (Min 3500 runs)
Player Mat Runs Average 100s 50s
 AB de Villiers  66  5612  61.67  18  24
 Shivnarine Chanderpaul  59  4573  60.97  13  23
 Younis Khan  46  4300  60.56  16  10
 Kumar Sangakkara  63  6368  58.42  22  28
 Hashim Amla  67  5771  58.29  20  23
 Angelo Mathews  54  3909  51.43  7  22
 Sachin Tendulkar  57  4555  51.17  14  20
 Graeme Smith  58  4683  50.90  15  20
 Misbah-ul-Haq  51  3681  50.42  7  31
 Jacques Kallis  54  4007  50.08  16  12
 Michael Clarke  85  6822  49.79  23  20
Champion at No. 5 and 6
With Kallis occupying the No. 4 slot for a long time and Amla batting above him, de Villiers has batted at No. 5 or 6 through most of his Test career, and is easily one of the most prolific batsmen in those positions in Test history. Among batsmen who've scored at least 4000 runs at those positions, only two - Michael Clarke and Chanderpaul - have a higher average, and difference between their averages and de Villiers' is less than a run. Given the form de Villiers has been in recently, it's quite likely he will move up to the top of this list in the not-too-distant future.
Best Test averages at Nos. 5 and 6 (Min 4000 runs)
Player Inngs Runs Average 100s
 Michael Clarke  131  6788  59.02  23
 Shivnarine Chanderpaul  200  9411  58.45  26
 AB de Villiers  118  6047  58.14  18
 Garry Sobers  94  4509  55.66  15
 Andy Flower  96  4372  55.34  12
 Steve Waugh  221  9919  54.50  30
 Ian Bell  98  4084  52.35  15
 Allan Border  133  5627  52.10  15
At ease against pace and spin
Throughout his career, de Villiers' defensive technique, his hand skills and his nimble footwork have allowed him to tackle both pace and spin equally comfortably. Over his entire career, he averages more than 50 against both, with similar scoring rates as well - 3.33 against pace, 3.18 against spin. Since 2008, his averages against both have gone up to more than 63. (These averages are higher than his overall average as they exclude his run-out dismissals.)
AB de Villiers v pace and spin
  Since Jan 2008 Overall
  Dismissals Average Dismissals Average
v Pace 53 63.13 95 52.16
v Spin 35 63.91 48 55.93
Head-to-head battles
When England tour South Africa later this season, de Villiers will get an opportunity to settle scores with Stuart Broad, who is the only bowler to dismiss him more than six times in Tests. Not only has Broad dismissed him that often, he also has a superb average against de Villiers, conceding just 20 runs per dismissal. On England's last tour there, in 2009-10, Broad dismissed de Villiers four times, conceding just 58 runs (average 14.50). Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson have dismissed de Villiers pretty often too, but de Villiers has a healthy average against both. Against Sreesanth, though, de Villiers has lost more battles than he has won, while he is also the only batsman Reon King, the former West Indies fast bowler, dismissed more than twice in his Test career.
Among the bowlers who have struggled against de Villiers are three offspinners, Nathan Lyon, Harbhajan Singh and Saeed Ajmal. (R Ashwin has figures of none for 46 against him, and Graeme Swann 2 for 98.) Broad's new-ball partner, James Anderson hasn't had much success either, with unflattering figures of 2 for 193. On the 2009-10 tour he had figures of 1 for 55 against de Villiers, while Broad had far more success.
Bowlers who have dismissed de Villiers most often in Tests
Bowler Runs Dismissals Average SR
 Stuart Broad  140  7  20.00  49.50
 Peter Siddle  273  6  45.50  45.83
 Mitchell Johnson  259  5  51.80  48.17
 S Sreesanth  103  5  20.60  43.33
 Reon King  48  4  12.00  33.67
 Monty Panesar  92  4  23.00  49.17
 Shane Warne  34  4  8.50  39.00
Bowlers off whom de Villiers has scored 150+ runs in Tests
Bowler Runs Dismissals Average SR
 Peter Siddle  273  6  45.50  45.83
 Mitchell Johnson  259  5  51.80  48.17
 Nathan Lyon  229  1  229.00  54.33
 Harbhajan Singh  207  2  103.50  52.50
 James Anderson  193  2  96.50  49.00
 Sulieman Benn  184  3  61.33  51.00
 Saeed Ajmal  166  0  -  43.00
 Brett Lee  159  3  53.00  53.50
 Daren Powell  159  1  159.00  57.50

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