Stats: Can South Africa, You Can Find A Path To India's Spinner? > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Stats: Can South Africa find a way past India's spinners?
"I think it's never an easy tour coming to anywhere in the subcontinent, let alone India. It's full of challenges, but if we can conquer those challenges it will be really rewarding", South Africa's opening batsman Aiden Markram remarked ahead of the three-match Test series against India. While visiting sides like England and New Zealand have breached frontiers in Sri Lanka and UAE in the last 12 months, India remains a nearly unconquerable bastion.
After losing to England in 2012-13, India have won all the ten series they played at home winning 23 of the 29 Tests and losing just one. A series win against South Africa would take them to 11 consecutive series wins at home surpassing the current record of ten by Australia, which they achieved twice - between 1994-95 & 2000-01 and again from 2004 and 2008-09.
Most consecutive series wins at home
Not just in the current decade, India has been a tough place for the touring teams in the past 30-odd years. In the 46 bilateral series they played at home since the start of 1987-88 home season, they have dropped just three rubbers. One side which had reasonable success touring India in this period was South Africa. They won five of the 16 Tests they played in Indian shores which is the joint-most among all teams alongside Australia who also have registered five wins, but in 25 attempts. All three of India's innings defeats at home in this period have come against South Africa - in Bengaluru in 2000, in Ahmedabad in 2008 and in Nagpur in 2010.
South Africa's previous tours to India
In an era of extreme home dominance, South Africa was one side which did exceedingly well in tours away from home, not losing an away series in the eight years between 2007 and 2014. They visited Asia seven times in this period, winning three series and drawing four. Post-2015, it has been a completely different story though. In the eight Tests they placed in this period in this part of the world, they lost five with the three remaining being rain-affected draws.
The biggest issue for South Africa has been their batsman's incompetence against quality spin bowling on turning tracks which have been dished out to them frequently in their recent tours to these shores. During their successful stint in Asia between 2007 and 2014, South Africa had four batsmen averaging upwards of 60 - Hashim Amla (75.85), Jacques Kallis (66.77), AB de Villiers (60.52) and Graeme Smith (59.57).
Among the six batsmen in the squad to have played previously played in Asia, none barring Theunis de Bruyn average more than 30 in this part of the world. De Bruyn, who played just a solitary Test in Sri Lanka, scored 104 runs including a fourth-innings century of 101. Dean Elgar is the only other South African in the current squad to score a century in the sub-continent.
Barring De Bruyn, none of the other specialist batsmen averages more than 30 against spin in Asia and have been dismissed by spinners in the majority of their matches. Elgar has been dismissed against spin in 14 of his 18 innings, of which 11 have come against off-spin. Dilruwan Perera and R Ashwin have been his bugbears dismissing him five and four times respectively in Asia. Quinton de Kock wasn't part of India series in 2015 but in Sri Lanka, he got dismissed by off-spin six times - falling five times to Perera.
Faf du Plessis averages a dismal 22.38 in 12 Tests in Asia which drops to 21.19 against spin to whom he got dismissed 16 times in 19 innings. Nine of his dismissals have come against left-arm finger spin against whom he averages 17. In the Test series in India in 2015, Faf was dismissed by Jadeja four times and averaged just 4.25 against India's allrounder. Aiden Markram struggled against Rangana Herath's left-arm spin in his maiden tour to Asia getting out to the wily spinner four times in 53 balls and had an average of 4.25. Markram has shown some form in the lead up to the series hitting 161 against India A in Mysore before scoring another century against Board President's XI in Vizianagaram.
Focus on Ashwin & Jadeja
The Ashwin-Jadeja duo have been excellent as a pair especially in the sub-continent taking 315 wickets in 28 Tests they played together. In the last 24 months, neither of the two have taken a five-wicket haul in Test cricket and they are up against a team against whom they have had a good record. Ashwin will be the man in the spotlight having not played for India since Adelaide last year and he would want to make a statement soon enough with Kuldeep Yadav breathing down his neck.
The duo was devastating the last time South Africa toured India last time taking 54 of the 70 South African wickets to fall. Both are nearing major landmarks in their career - Ashwin needs eight wickets in his next Test to get to equal Muttiah Muralitharan to 350 Test wickets. Jadeja is two shy of 200 Test wickets and if he gets there in his next three Tests he will become the fastest left-arm bowler to 200 wickets.
Trouble at the top
Both India and South Africa have had troubles at the top of the order in the recent past. Since January 2018, South Africa average just 21.32 for the first wicket which is the lowest among all teams barring Afghanistan's 14.83 in this period. India, on the other hand, average only 29.30 in this phase for the first wicket with as many as seven different openers and as many opening combinations tried out. They haven't had a 50-plus partnership in their last five Test matches.
South Africa, despite the low returns have stuck with Markram and Elgar for the series. The same pair has opened in all but one innings for South Africa in the last 21 months. Markram averages 36.22 in the period while Elgar averages 30.32; while Markram would be keen to make a mark on his second away series after a dismal tour to Sri Lanka last year, Elgar would be under pressure to keep his place after a prolonged period of drought with the bat.
Opening partnerships for teams since 2018
Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal are set to open the innings for India in the upcoming series. While Rohit has played 27 Tests so far, he has never opened the innings for India. In the 60 first-class matches outside the Tests, he has opened the innings just thrice in 90 innings - all three knocks coming in the second innings when the chances of an outright result were minimal. In the practice game against South Africa, he opened the innings and was dismissed for a two-ball duck. Rohit has done exceptionally in home Tests averaging 85.44 in nine games including all of his three hundreds in the format. However, South Africa has been his bogey team in the format - in six Tests against the Proteas, he averages 12.41 with a high score of 47.
Agarwal has appeared in four Tests for India, all away, doing decently well hitting three fifties. The last time India has had two players opening the innings having never previously opened in a home Test match was way back in 1972-73 against England when Ramnath Parkar made his international debut opened alongside Sunil Gavaskar who was playing his first Test on home soil.
South Africa will be playing their first series in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship and the odds are heavily stacked against them. India bagged 120 points in their series win in the Caribbean and going by the current form they would be disappointed with anything less than the 120 points that are up for grabs.
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