Numbers Game

The ODI run-fest in South Africa

Since the start of 2012, the average run rate in ODIs in South Africa is 5.66, which is next only to the rate in India

S Rajesh
S Rajesh
Key stats on ODIs in South Africa since January 2012, October 7, 2016

ESPNcricinfo Ltd

In recent times South Africa has presented some of the toughest conditions for batsmen: the pitches usually have a fair covering of grass, and offer plenty of seam movement and bounce for fast bowlers. In ODIs, though, much of this changes: the grass is shaved off, but the pitches still retain true bounce, making them excellent batting surfaces on which you can hit through the line of the ball without worrying about seam movement or uneven bounce.
That has been in evidence in the ongoing South Africa-Australia ODI series, with both teams, and especially the home side, making huge scores: Australia's 294 in the first game was chased down with more than 13 overs to spare, while South Africa made 361 in the second, and successfully chased 371 in the third. In three matches the average run rate has been 6.99, the second highest so far in any ODI series of two or more matches. (The highest is 7.15, in the England-New Zealand series last year.) A part of the reason could be the absence of Australia's top bowlers for this series, but that doesn't explain the economy rates of some of the top bowlers who are playing in this series - Dale Steyn's is 7.33, Kagiso Rabada's 6.66, and Adam Zampa's 7.52.
In the last five years, the scoring rates in South Africa have gone up significantly, to 5.66. The only host country with a higher run rate - among countries that have hosted 25-plus ODIs since the start of 2012 - is India, where the rate is 5.70. During this period, there have been eight totals in excess of 350, which is the joint highest, along with India. Seven of those have come in the last couple of years, which indicates how batting-friendly conditions have been in South Africa recently.
South Africa wasn't always such a great country for ODI batting, though. In the period between 2005 and 2011, the run rate here was 5.10, which was lower than those in India, New Zealand, Pakistan, England and Australia.
ODI run rates in each country since Jan 2012
Host Country ODIs Runs per wkt Runs per over 350+ totals
 India  30  37.55  5.70  8
 South Africa  37  34.66  5.66  8
 New Zealand  68  33.34  5.60  6
 England  62  33.03  5.49  6
 Australia  74  32.46  5.45  6
 Sri Lanka  51  32.08  5.42  1
 Bangladesh  52  29.54  5.09  0
 U.A.E.  59  29.77  4.95  2
 West Indies  42  28.36  4.91  0
 Zimbabwe  45  31.40  4.88  1
In the last few years, though, batsmen have relished ODI conditions in South Africa as much as they have probably disliked them in Tests. That is most apparent in the opening partnerships: in Tests the average opening stand since the start of 2012 is 31.37, which is lower than the average in all countries except Sri Lanka; in ODIs, the average is 42.53, which is second highest among all countries, after India's 44.01. The run rate in opening stands has been 5.42, which is higher than in all countries except Sri Lanka and New Zealand.
In Tests the early overs with the new ball are usually a period when bowlers inflict plenty of damage in South Africa. That doesn't seem to be the case in ODIs, where the average runs per wicket in the first 15 overs is 39.19, which is better than the average in all countries except India. The run rate is only 4.83 - Sri Lanka, New Zealand and England have all done better - but that picks up in the middle overs, to 5.69, which is the highest among all teams.
On the truer pitches of South Africa, these overs represent the best scoring opportunities for the batting teams, unlike in the subcontinent, where pitches often slow up and make it difficult for batsmen to force the pace. The last ten haven't been as prolific, relatively, but the middle overs have ensured the overall run rate stays extremely high. In the ongoing South Africa-Australia series, the two teams have been going at 6.53 in the middle overs.
ODI numbers by phase of innings, in each country since Jan 2012
Host First 15 - RR Average 15.1-40 - RR Average 40.1-50 RR Average
 India  4.83  42.15  5.49  41.5  8.03  28.06
 South Africa  4.83  39.19  5.69  41.18  7.45  21.55
 England  4.86  36.91  5.44  35.84  7.37  23.62
 Sri Lanka  5.01  36.68  5.25  35.49  7.35  20.72
 New Zealand  4.97  36.44  5.38  37.46  7.95  23.59
 Zimbabwe  4.13  35.18  4.68  32.89  7.35  25.02
 Australia  4.68  35.09  5.34  40.21  7.59  20.66
 Bangladesh  4.50  34.79  4.93  33.57  7.06  19.22
 U.A.E.  4.42  34.09  4.74  32.67  6.82  20.81
 West Indies  4.20  29.72  4.77  33.30  6.98  20.11
These have been tough times for bowlers in South Africa, but some of them have risen to the challenge, taken wickets and kept the runs in check. South Africa have a 23-12 win-loss record at home during this period, and while the batsmen have scored a bucketful of runs, the bowlers have perhaps been the bigger heroes, restricting opposition line-ups in batsman-friendly conditions.
Dale Steyn has had a wretched series against Australia so far, conceding 198 runs in 27 overs (economy rate 7.33), but he has a stellar record in home ODIs during this period, taking 36 wickets in 22 games at an economy rate of 4.51. In all but six of those matches he has gone at under 5.50 an over. Imran Tahir has been superb in the middle overs, going at 4.87 per over while taking 19 wickets at 28.63. All the eight top wicket-takers during this period have strike rates of fewer than 33 balls per wicket, and have gone at less than 5.50 per over. Those numbers have had a huge role to play in South Africa's outstanding home record over the last five years.
Leading wicket-takers in ODIs in South Africa since Jan 2012
Player ODIs Overs Wickets Average Econ rate
 Dale Steyn  22  190.2  36  23.86  4.51
 Lonwabo Tsotsobe  18  150.5  31  24.22  4.97
 Imran Tahir  18  153.4  28  27.78  5.06
 Morne Morkel  17  143.4  27  27.37  5.14
 Ryan McLaren  13  97.4  24  21.45  5.27
 Vernon Philander  10  72.0  16  20.87  4.63
 Kagiso Rabada  10  88.0  16  28.93  5.26
 Wayne Parnell  10  72.5  14  28.00  5.38

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