South Africa's worst series defeat since readmission

ESPN Cricinfo

ESPN Cricinfo

Author 2019-10-23 14:31:23

Lungi Ngidi's bizarre dismissal on the fourth morning in Ranchi - caught off a ball which hit the non-striker - mercifully brought a quick end to what has been an utterly shambolic series for South Africa. With both bat and ball, they were completely outplayed in each of the three Tests, and that is reflected in the series stats. In several parameters, these are the worst numbers for South Africa since their return to international cricket in 1992.

The overall series numbers

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There have been two other series of at least three Tests, since their readmission, in which South Africa have lost every game, and both were against Australia - at home in 2005-06, and away in 2001-02. But they weren't outplayed in this manner, in terms of the difference between their batting and bowling averages. In fact, this was the first time since 1936 that South Africa lost successive Tests by an innings.

Over these three Tests in India, South Africa averaged 23.01 with the bat, and 76.92 with the ball. The difference a whopping 53.91, which is the largest ever for them in any series since their readmission. In fact, it's almost twice as much as the next-highest difference of 27.67 in the 2006 series in Sri Lanka, when Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene had that massive partnership of 624.

The 10 series with the highest difference have all either been in India, Sri Lanka, or against Australia, illustrating the opponents/countries which have been the toughest for them.

The wickets mismatch

South Africa took 25 wickets in the entire series, while India took all 60 that were on offer. The difference of 35 is the highest ever in South Africa's history. Since their readmission, that difference had never exceeded 22 before this series; in fact there is only one other series when the difference has gone beyond 20 (when the opposition team took more wickets than South Africa). In the 94 series South Africa have played since their readmission (including one-off Tests), only 26 times have opposition team taken more wickets than South Africa.

Apart from failing to take wickets, the bowlers also struggled to keep the Indian batsmen in check: India's overall run rate for the series was 4.03, making this only the third series since 1992 when South Africa have leaked more than four runs per over. The two previous instances were both against Australia, in 2002 and 2012.

Pacers take a beating

Traditionally, pace has always been South Africa's strength. In 94 series since their readmission, only 11 times has the opposition pace attack taken more wickets than they have, while there have been 24 instances of opposition fast bowlers finishing with a better average. However, the difference has never been as vast as in this series, in terms of average, wickets taken or strike rate.

While India's fast bowlers took 26 wickets at 17.50, South Africa's managed just 10, at 70.2. The difference of 52.70 is easily the worst, more than twice as bad as the next-highest difference (in series where the seamers of each team have bowled at least 10 overs). The top six in this list is dominated by series against Australia.

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In terms of wickets taken by fast bowlers in a series, the difference of 16 is four more than the next-highest difference of 12, when South Africa toured New Zealand in 2016-17. Back then, New Zealand's seamers took 33 wickets in three Tests at 29.78 to South Africa's 21 at 38.8. (However, South Africa's pace attack was rescued by Keshav Maharaj, who took 15 wickets at 19.93, far-cry from his meagre haul of six wickets at 85.66 in this series.)

The strike rate difference in this series was 96.50, which means South Africa's seamers bowled 16 more overs per wicket than their Indian counterparts. That is an additional hour of bowling per wicket. Again, it's comfortably their worst performance in a series since readmission.

The disappearing top order

Over the three Tests, South Africa's average partnership for the top five wickets was 17.10, compared to India's 91.05. India's top five had six century partnerships and three other 50-plus stands in 20 attempts, compared to one half-century and century stand for South Africa. The difference was embarrassing.

Again, never has South Africa's top order been outplayed so thoroughly in a series since their readmission. The previous highest difference in average partnership for the top five wickets in a series for South Africa was 32.27, which is less than half the current difference of 73.95. In terms of ratio, India's top five wickets scored more than five times the runs per partnership, compared to South Africa.

South Africa's lower order did much better in comparison, averaging 28.93 runs per partnership. The difference of 11.83 is the second-highest for South Africa since readmission (in series where each of top and lower orders have had at least 10 partnerships). The largest difference of 12.24 was also against India, in the home series of 1996-97. Had the top order shown some of the fight exhibited by the lower order, South Africa would have at least made the Indian bowlers work much harder for the 3-0 scoreline.

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