The Proteas' unsavoury stats

2008-09-05 12:01

Rob Houwing

Cape Town - There are statistics and damned lies. And sometimes there are just very, very damning statistics.

Unfortunately the latter applies in terms of the Proteas' key "numbers" from the 0-4 NatWest ODI Series debacle in England, which probably only saw South Africa cling to No 2 in the world because of the Cardiff abandonment of the fifth match.

The averages for the series paint a painfully handsome picture of England's resurgence as a one-day force, while all they do for the weary and injury-bedevilled Proteas is add to the egg already on their faces.

When last, after all, would the South African averages for any ODI tournament have featured just two half-centuries? When last would the country's leading run-scorer - Herschelle Gibbs, for the record - have posted only 136 from five completed innings at 27.20? Take away his 74 at Lord's and the ageing stroke-player would have had as appalling a series as any of his batting colleagues.

Best batsman from a personal average point of view was Hashim Amla (83 runs at 41.50) but sadly he only came into the reckoning after the series had already started. At least he could show a strike rate of 86.45 and definite signs that he ought to become a more permanent ODI fixture.

For the rest it was unrelentingly grim reading: Jacques Kallis 68 runs at 17.00 - and a strike rate of 55.73 which summed up his wretched struggle - AB de Villiers 55 runs at 13.75 and JP Duminy 64 at 16.00.

The last-named player is becoming a bit of a longer-term worry: Duminy had rightly been earmarked as an essential batsman in all SA codes for the future but the little left-hander is now 24, has played all of 33 ODIs, and managed only three 50s in 28 ODI career innings.

English commentators

He may just have brighter prospects at Test level, as he is not the sort of instinctive boundary-clubber who will win one-day internationals through weighty individual scores.

Then there is Mark Boucher: some English commentators reckon that the wicketkeeper operating at No 6 in ODIs makes the Proteas a batsman light. With his own lack of success in the NatWest Series, it is now 16 ODI innings since he last registered a half-century.

Tempering that, though, is the fact that Boucher does remain one of few South African middle- to lower-order batsmen with the know-how to find the boundary ropes often, and his career strike rate remains 83.93.

That is an important tool as South Africa come to terms with life after known six-hitting "finishers" like Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusener and even Johan van der Wath.

Similarly, say what you like about Gibbs' increasingly irritating inconsistency and seemingly singular determination not to take adult responsibility in an umbrella sense, but he remains one of precious few potential match-winners at the top of the Proteas' ODI order - his own strike rate remains in the mid-80s. The bowling averages from the English ODI series also say an awful lot about the Proteas' pickle for the immediate future. They are topped by off-spinner Johan Botha for economy rate - the key ODI criterion - at 4.89 and with his less-than-regal four wickets (average 23.25) he was joint top wicket-taker for South Africa with Kallis.

Unceremonious treatment

England's man of the series Andrew Flintoff, remember, grabbed 10 wickets at an incredible 12.90 and economy rate of 4.20.

With his unceremonious treatment from even the likes of Matt Prior, who is certainly no IVA Richards, Makhaya Ntini did his fading overall ODI track record no favours: he has now "travelled" for six or more runs to the over in six of his last 11 matches, and four times above seven.

The mysteriously ponderous-paced Andre Nel was 0/78 from three completed matches in the series at 5.25 and, as he contributes little in the field and even less with the bat, you would think he's ripe for the guillotine, too.

Dale Steyn? Talk of the Test world he may have been until very recently, and fittingly so, but in ODIs this blitz bowler now shows only 18 scalps from 18 appearances (average near 40) at an expensive economy rate of 5.74 - yet another major worry for Mickey Arthur and company.

We need to remember that the great Allan Donald was once fast and loose, too, but after his own first 18 ODIs he had at least grabbed 31 scalps.

Yes, it is evident that particularly keen eyes will be cast over players in domestic one-day competitions this summer ...

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