Proteas

Proteas’ batsmen: A struggle against big guns

2018-03-06 14:35
AB de Villiers (Gallo)

Cape Town – Former national captain Shaun Pollock has pinpointed the key reason behind South Africa’s alarming batting inconsistency of late … and statistics back him up.

He said on SuperSport commentary at an advanced stage of the controversy-plagued first-Test defeat to Australia at Kingsmead that the cream of the Proteas’ stroke-players “are not getting enough runs against the big boys”.

While plenty of centuries had been registered against the likes of Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka during home series in recent times, the all-rounder noted, big scores were increasingly becoming less common against tougher foes.

It is probably safe to assume that Pollock was referring primarily to matches against fellow members of the customary “big four” in current Test cricket: Australia, India and England.

Using those three opponents as a yardstick, and in a period beginning with the away series against India in November 2015, research by Sport24 shows that Pollock is largely on the mark in his theory.

The phase includes completed home and away Test series against both India (lost away, won here) and England (lost both), as well as an away series against the Aussies (won) and the opening setback in the current series in Durban.

Considering that all are players who have previously boasted both known ability and loftier standards against the very best attacks in the world, the Proteas’ five most stalwart batsmen in recent years – AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock – have certainly under-delivered against the three other top-tier nations over the past two and a half years or so.

Naturally it is not completely fair to simply strip away all runs registered against lesser foes -- they’ve still got to be made, and you would expect the best players to cash in as heavily as possible under such circumstances.

Another mitigating factor is that the surfaces presented on the tour to India in late 2015 were widely condemned as near lotto-like, big-turning minefields in most instances.

Yet in all of the time under assessment here, no single, seasoned SA batsman can be said to have genuinely set a proper strength-versus-strength series routinely alight.

Perhaps De Kock can be deemed an exception in the 2-1 triumph Down Under, where he made critical runs in the first two, series-settling Test matches -- 84 and 64 at Perth and 104 in Hobart – before losing some lustre in the Adelaide dead-rubber defeat.

Similarly, Amla made several big scores in the home series reverse to England, although more than 200 runs came in the final Test which was also a “dead” clash by then.

Otherwise, though, our core batsmen have not put stamps on headline series in the manner that might be expected, often in relation to rich prior exploits.

Here are all the innings against the other three superpowers from SA’s five streetwise, supposed front-liners at the crease since the 2015 series in India (certain matches or whole series have been missed by some):

Dean Elgar (current career average 41.10):

India away: 37 &16 (Mohali), 38 (Bengaluru), 7 & 18 (Nagpur), 17 & 4 (Delhi)

England home: 118* & 40 (Durban), 44 (CT), 46 & 15 (Jhb), 20 & 1 (Centurion)

Australia away: 12 & 127 (Perth), 17 (Hobart), 5 & 0 (Adelaide)

England away: 54 & 2 (Lord’s), 6 & 80 (Nott’m), 8 & 136 (Oval), 0 & 5 (Manchester)

India home: 0 & 25 (CT), 31 & 61 (Centurion), 4 & 86* (Jhb)

Australia home, ongoing: 7 & 9 (Durban)

RUNS: 1,096 at 33.21

Hashim Amla (current career average 48.58):

India away: 43 & 0 (Mohali), 7 (Bengaluru), 1 & 39 (Nagpur), 3 & 25 (Delhi)

England home: 7 & 12 (Durban), 201 (CT), 40 & 5 (Jhb), 109 & 96 (Centurion)

Australia away: 0 & 1 (Perth), 47 (Hobart), 5 & 45 (Adelaide)

England away: 29 & 11 (Lord’s), 78 & 87 (Nott’m), 6 & 5 (Oval), 30 & 83 (Manchester)

India home: 3 & 4 (CT), 82 & 1 (Centurion), 61 & 52 (Jhb)

Australia home, ongoing: 0 & 8 (Durban)

RUNS: 1,226 at 35.02

AB de Villiers (current career average 50.05):

India away: 63 & 16 (Mohali), 85 (Bengaluru), 0 & 9 (Nagpur), 42 & 43 (Delhi)

England home: 49 & 37 (Durban), 88 (CT), 36 & 0 (Jhb), 0 & 0 (Centurion)

India home: 65 & 35 (CT), 20 & 80 (Centurion), 5 & 6 (Jhb)

Australia home, ongoing: 71* & 0 (Durban)

RUNS: 750 at 35.71

Faf du Plessis (current career average 44.07):

India away: 0 & 1 (Mohali), 0 (Bengaluru), 10 & 39 (Nagpur), 0 & 10 (Delhi)

England home: 2 & 9 (Durban), 86 (CT), 16 & 14 (Jhb)

Australia away: 37 & 32 (Perth), 7 (Hobart), 118* & 12 (Adelaide)

England away: 19 & 63 (Nott’m), 1 & 0 (Oval), 27 & 61 (Manchester)

India home: 62 & 0 (CT), 63 & 48 (Centurion), 8 & 2 (Jhb)

Australia home, ongoing: 15 & 4 (Durban)

RUNS: 766 at 25.53

Quinton de Kock (current career average 39.81):

England home: 5 (CT), 129* & 9* (Centurion)

Australia away: 84 & 64 (Perth), 104 (Hobart), 24 & 5 (Adelaide)

England away: 51 & 18 (Lord’s), 68 & 1 (Nott’m), 17 & 5 (Oval), 24 & 1 (Manchester)

India home: 43 & 8 (CT), 0 & 12 (Centurion), 8 & 0 (Jhb)

Australia home, ongoing: 20 & 83 (Durban)

RUNS: 783 at 35.59

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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