India vs South Africa | The Indian Pace Battery - Unsung Heroes At Home
India registered their biggest ever win over South Africa in Test cricket – as they beat them by an innings and 137 runs at Pune to clinch another home series victory.
India has now created a record of winning 11 consecutive home series – their streak started with the 4-0 win over Australia in 2012-13. The previous record was held by Australia who had two steaks of 10 consecutive series victories – 1994 to 2001 and then 2004 to 2008.
While R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have decimated batting line-ups of all the visiting teams in this period, the efforts of the Indian pacemen cannot go unrecognized. They have provided the ideal support to the Indian spinners getting crucial breakthroughs with the new ball and then coming back and breaking partnerships reversing the old ball.
We look at some numbers which define the performance of the Indian pace attack in these 11 home series’ victories.
COMPETING WITH THE BEST IN THE WORLD
The Indian pace bowling unit has combined to take 169 wickets in 31 Tests in these victorious 11 home Test series. Their average of 27.88 and strike rate of 56.7 places them on par with their counterparts in New Zealand (27.05, 53.2) and Australia (26.87, 53.9) during this period– this is a phenomenal effort by India’s pace bowlers given that conditions in India do not aid fast bowling.
Yet, to be able to compete with home fast bowlers in Australia and New Zealand where the wickets have pace, bounce and movement, is a fantastic achievement.
The Indian fast bowlers also have been very restrictive and disciplined creating pressure from one end – this, in turn has helped the likes of Ashwin and Jadeja to attack from the other. The combined economy rate of the Indian pace attack at home in this period is just 2.94 – the best amongst all the major Test playing nations (barring Zimbabwe and West Indies).
While Umesh Yadav has been the leading wicket taker amongst the Indian pacers in this period, it is Mohammed Shami, who with 48 wickets in just 13 Tests, has been the pick of the fast bowling unit.
His average of 23.72 is better than the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in South Africa, Tim Southee in New Zealand, Stuart Broad in England and Josh Hazlewood in Australia.
His strike rate of 46.2 is better than the likes of Kemar Roach, Trent Boult, Morkel, Vernon Philander, Broad, Southee and Hazlewood in more helpful home conditions.
Shami has been brilliant in the opposition second innings – on day 4 and 5 with the pitch offering wear and tear and variable bounce – it has suited his kind of bowling – accurate and hitting the stumps and with pace. He has picked 24 wickets at 18.04 at a strike rate of 34.9 in the second innings in India in this period.
Yadav and Bhuvneshwar, like Shami, also have a much better record in the second innings (average of 20.4 vs 30.61 and 14.54 vs 34.25). Interestingly, while Yadav has great returns when he has been opened with the new ball – 13 wickets at 17.23, Shami has been at his best when he has opened but as the second new ball bowler.
Shami and Bhuvneshwar have the best record against opposition openers in this period. While Shami averages 3.75 and 7.2 against openers and non-striker openers, the corresponding average for Bhuvneshwar is 13.57 and 5.
18 of Bhuvneshwar’s 27 dismissals in this period have been either bowled or leg before wicket – the maximum percentage of such dismissals amongst the Indian fast bowlers – a measure of his line and length and accuracy.
Ishant has a considerably better record against right-handers averaging 19.04 as opposed to 25.66 against left-handers.
THE MOST DOMINATING PACE ATTACK IN INDIA
Indian fast bowlers have had a better bowling average and strike rate than their opposition counterparts in all but one of the 11 series under consideration. The South African pacers led by Morkel and Kyle Abbott in 2015-16 is the aberration.
This is an exceptional record given the quality of fast bowlers who have visited India in this period – the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, James Pattinson and Peter Siddle, Trent Boult and Matt Henry, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
The strike rate difference between the fast bowling units of the two teams was the highest – 109 – in the recently concluded series between India and South Africa.
The average difference of 54.08 was also the second highest after West Indies in 2013-14.
With a unit comprising of Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander, this is no mean achievement. Yes, it shows how good the Indian batsmen were but also highlights the stellar performance of the Indian fast bowlers.
STRIKING WITH NEW BALL, MORE THAN 50% WICKETS AND CONSISTENCY
The Indian pacers picked up wickets with the new ball in both the innings against South Africa in Pune. Yadav and Shami had sent the Proteas’ top 3 packing within 10 overs in the first innings while Ishant and Yadav dismissed Aiden Markram and Theunis de Bruyn within 6 in the second innings.
This quality of picking wickets with the new ball has defined the performance of the Indian fast bowlers in this period.
In as many as 29 of the 61 innings the Indian pace attack has made a breakthrough (picked at least one wicket) in the first 15 overs. This, in turn, has put the opposition middle order on the back foot and under severe pressure. The Indian spinners have then run through opposition sides.
Thus the likes of Ashwin and Jadeja have fed off the hard work done by the Indian fast bowlers with the new ball.
Not only have the fast bowlers delivered the new ball but also been effective later when the ball has reversed – in 13 innings they have picked at least one wicket with the old ball (between overs 45-70).
Overall, nearly two-thirds of the wickets (63.31%) taken by the Indian fast bowlers have been of the top-middle order (1-6) – an indication of the quality of wickets they have picked.
While mostly they have been a very effective support cast, on occasions they have also played a leading role – in 13 innings they have picked at least half the opposition wickets to fall.
The Indian pace battery has also been very consistent and have maintained their high standards series after series. In as many as 15 of the 31 Test matches, the Indian pace attack has combined to have a bowling average of less than 28.
In 9, they have had a bowling strike rate of less than 50.
In as many as 6 of the 11 series in this period, their average has been less than 28 and in 5 of them their strike rate less than 50.
It is not a coincidence then than the Indian pace attack at home in this decade has been the most potent (in terms of wicket-taking) only after the 1990s (strike rate of 59.7 vs 56.5)
While Ashwin and Jadeja take all the accolades, it is the Indian pace attack which has quietly but efficiently gone about their business, day in and day out and played a pivotal role in this record winning streak for India.