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