Continuing in our series of pieces on each country’s ODI history, we finally reach South Africa- the last country in our series. From post-Apartheid 1991 to 2012 (before the start of the South Africa - England ODI Series), South Africa played 471 matches and won 294 with a win loss ratio of 1.84 (the highest amongst all the teams in ODI history – which is very interesting). Their highest score is 438, lowest 69. They have finished as semi-finalists thrice in the World Cup (1992, 1999, 2007) and won the ICC Champions Trophy in 1998.
We present three lists – of players, batsmen and bowlers. The minimum qualification to be on these lists is to have played 75 matches. A match is considered in this system only when there is a result, and if the player has bowled or batted, as the case may be.
Here are the highest impact ODI players in South Africa’s history.
Shaun Pollock emerges as the highest impact player in the history of South African ODI cricket and it is not hard to see why. His tally of series-defining performances, 10 in total, is the joint-third-highest by any player in the history of ODI cricket and is a great indicator of his ability to turn around matches single-handedly—something for which he has never been acknowledged in the way he should have been, normal considering the views of the experts who glorify players having more flair and dynamism rather than their consistency and steadiness. Pollock’s biggest weapon was his impeccable consistency which is brought out aptly by his failure rate of 17% — the lowest for any single-skilled player (he was not an all-rounder though he was reasonably close to being one) in the history of ODI cricket. His relatively decent batting skills and his more than average stint as South Africa’s captain also helps him cement the top spot.
Another of the most under-rated players of his generation, Jacques Kallis is the second-highest impact player for South Africa in their ODI history. His phenomenal all-round impact makes him the fifth highest impact all-rounder (Both Batting and Bowling IMPACT over 1) in the history of ODI cricket and his 8 SDs are also the third-highest for any all-rounder in the world (after Jayasuriya and Viv Richards). His effectiveness as an all-rounder can be understood in an even better manner if we break down his SD performances: out of his 8 SD performances, 3 have come as a batsman, 2 as a bowler and 3 as an all-rounder—a perfect spread.
Amongst all the captains in the history of ODI cricket who have an all-round impact (which is a feat in itself); only Clive Lloyd has a higher captaincy impact than Hansie Cronje. Cronje’s feat is even more remarkable considering Lloyd’s won 2 World Cups as a captain for West Indies whereas Cronje hasn’t won any major trophy. Cronje’s tally of 5 SDs also makes him cement his place as the third-highest impact South African player of all time. No one remembers him today as such a high impact ODI player, but only as a fine captain who cheated.
One of the game’s most destructive all-rounders, Lance Klusener makes his way at the 4th place on this list. His tally of 7 SDs in only 171 matches is awe-inspiring and shows his effectiveness as a big-match player for South Africa. In fact, he also has the best ratio of SDs and matches in ODI history for any South African player. The interesting thing here is that the Klusner’s most memorable performances (like in the semi-finals of the 1999 World Cup) will not be among those 7 SDs – which makes his record even more remarkable.
For a wicketkeeper-batsman, AB de Villiers has a Batting IMPACT second only to that of Adam Gilchrist’s but he has kept wickets in far fewer games than what Gilchrist did in his career. de Villiers’ status in the world list as well as South Africa’s list would increase much more if he manages to add more SD performances to his tally, which he is likely to, as his team’s rising fortunes coincide with his peak as a player.
Mark Boucher is the other wicket keeper who makes this list and even though he has a Batting IMPACT of less than 1, he has 2 SDs to his credit – not at all a common thing amongst wicket-keepers at all (except Gilchrist and MS Dhoni).
The list as a whole has a good mix of modern day players and also those from the older generation and shows the good transformation South African cricket has gone through. The relative high impact of all the 20 players also shows South Africa’s high level of competitiveness in international cricket since their re-admission. It is also to be noted that 3 of the current generation players (Morne Morkel, Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn) don’t feature on this list as the cut-off is kept at 75 matches. However, if it is lowered to 50, all three of them will find a place on this list due to their relative high-impact performances in their international careers so far.
Gary Kirsten’s steady and consistent performances at the top of the order for South Africa may have been overshadowed by his more illustrious team-mates but he is quite simply the highest impact South African batsman in the history of their ODI cricket. His position at the top is ascertained by his Runs Tally IMPACT (proportion of the runs scored) and his SD performances—both of which are the highest for any South African batsmen. The levels of consistency he achieved as an opener is also remarkable and his failure rate of only 45% (third-lowest for a South African batsman) is a testament to that.
Jacques Kallis has been a model of consistency and stability for the South Africans and his greatness as an ODI player is bared graphically here. It is interesting to note that Kallis has come under pressure the most number of times (second-most in world cricket) in South African ODI cricket history (160 times in his 311 matches) which he successfully absorbed a remarkable 49% of the times—an indicator as to why he is considered one of the most dependable batsman in the history of ODI cricket. For South Africa, Kallis tops three of the batting parameters, namely- Pressure IMPACT (4th-best in the world), Partnership Building IMPACT (4th-best in the world) and Chasing IMPACT (5th-best in the world). Clearly, Kallis certifies himself as a supreme ODI batsman but one gets a feeling that he could have achieved a lot more considering he has only 3 SD performances in his 311 ODI matches and it is perhaps the only factor which doesn’t make him count amongst the world’s best batsman in the ODI format at least (he is the 22nd highest impact batsman in the history of ODI cricket). However, all said and done it is also important to remember that he doubles up as an all-rounder for South Africa and that must have a role to play too.
The most striking part about AB de Villiers’ impact as an ODI batsman is his remarkable consistency, his failure rate of 41% is not only the best for a South African batsman but is also the 7th-best for any batsman in the history of ODI cricket (remarkable considering he had a poor start to his career where he scored only 199 runs in his first 11 innings).
Herschelle Gibbs in his autobiography continuously goes on making a point about him being a big-match player for South Africa and we can actually confirm this for him. His tally of 3 SDs as a batsman is the second-best (with Kallis) for any South African batsman and it is primarily because of his big-match temperament that he finds a place on this list.
Graeme Smith is not as prolific a batsman in the ODI format compared to his standards in the longer version of the game but the numbers still suggest his effectiveness which brings him to the 5th position on this list. The most surprising aspect though is the fact that he doesn’t even have a single SD as a batsman in this format of the game (quite different from Test cricket).
Boeta Dippenaar, Andrew Hudson and Jonty Rhodes all find a mention on this list and were all pieces of the jigsaw that made South Africa tick as a highly effective batting unit.
NOTE: If the cut-off is lowered to 50 matches (from 75), Hashim Amla becomes the highest impact batsman for South Africa in their history of ODI cricket. His Batting IMPACT of 2.47 (in 57 matches) would then also make him the 6th-highest impact batsman in the history of ODI cricket, amongst all countries.
The stories that unfold on various batting parameters are revealing.
When it comes to Runs Tally IMPACT (proportion of match runs made through career), the highest impact batsmen are Gary Kirsten, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers.
The highest Strike Rate IMPACT batsmen (highest strike rates relative to all the matches in their careers) are Lance Klusener, AB de Villiers and Jonty Rhodes.
The best Pressure IMPACT batsmen (those who absorbed the most pressure that came about due to fall of wickets) are Jacques Kallis, Hansie Cronje and Boeta Dippenaar.
The batsmen with the highest Partnership Building IMPACT (who built the most partnerships in the middle) are Jacques Kallis, Gary Kirsten and AB de Villiers.
The best Chasing IMPACT batsmen (who registered the highest impact while chasing a target) are Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers and Hansie Cronje.
The batsmen with the lowest failure rates (a failure is seen in this system as an inability to register an IMPACT of even 1 in a match) are AB de Villiers, Hansie Cronje and Gary Kirsten.
The Highest Impact Batting Performances in South Africa’s ODI history
1. G Kirsten – 118 not out off 127 v Pakistan, Nairobi, 1996 – Batting IMPACT 8.93
Chasing a target of 204 runs in this KCA Centenary Tournament final, both Gary Kirsten and Andrew Hudson provided a sound start to the South African chase with a stand of 77 runs before Hudson departed against the spin of Afridi to trigger a small collapse and soon South Africa were in a spot of bother at 125-
3. However, Kirsten in his usual calm and poised manner kept accumulating runs at the other end and along with Jonty Rhodes saw off the South African chase safely. Not one of the most breath-taking knocks but significant nevertheless.
2. HH Gibbs – 119 off 101 v New Zealand, Cape Town, 2007 – Batting IMPACT 8.09
With the series tied at 1-1 going into this final ODI encounter, the South Africans were given a tricky target of 239 runs to chase and it was Herschelle Gibbs who started dominating the proceedings from the word ‘go’. In an opening stand of 173 runs, his partner Graeme Smith scored only 51 runs, demonstrating the heavy run-scoring Gibbs indulged in during the chase. Gibbs departed soon after completing his century with South Africa needing a further 52 runs in 18.2 overs with 8 wickets in hand and his absence was immediately felt as both De Villiers and Duminy fell within a space from 20 balls to give South Africa a nervy ending to the chase which they eventually finished with five wickets and 28 balls in hand.
3. L Klusener – 99 off 96 v Sri Lanka, Lahore, 1997 – Batting IMPACT 7.96
Coming in after opener Andrew Hudson’s early departure at 18-1, Lance Klusener carted off in his own belligerent style even as the rest of the South African batsmen found run-scoring hard on a somewhat sluggish track. With South Africa at 109-4 and wickets falling in regular intervals around him, he finally got an able ally in the form of Hansie Cronje and stitched together a crucial partnership of 79 runs before Cronje departed leaving them a further 22 runs away from victory. Excruciatingly, Klusener fell short of his century by a run but by that time had made sure the tournament was to belong to the South Africans.
The above performances are all within the series/tournament context. When it comes to just match context, AB De Villiers’ 107 not out off 105 balls v West Indies (Delhi, 2011) registers as the highest impact batting performance in the history of South African ODI cricket. Herschelle Gibbs’ unbeaten knock of 108 off 92 balls v Sri Lanka (Kimberley, 2002) and Hashim Amla’s knock of 112 off 128 balls v Sri Lanka (Paarl, 2012) are the second and the third highest impact batting performances in a match context, respectively.
Overall, there are 8 pace bowlers and 2 spinners on this list (Pat Symcox and Johan Botha), not a surprise.
Given that (middle/lower-order) batting plays no part on this list, Allan Donald edges out Shaun Pollock as the highest impact bowler in ODIs for South Africa (9th best in world cricket). His high wicket-taking propensity—7th highest Top/Middle-order Wickets Tally IMPACT (proportion of wickets taken from nos.1-7 in most cases) in the world coupled with his 2 SD performances as a bowler takes him right up there on this list.
Shaun Pollock’s impeccable consistency and his ability to keep opposition batsmen under the wraps make him the second-best bowler for South Africa in their ODI history. In fact, his Economy IMPACT is the second-best in the world (after Joel Garner) and he is also the fifth-most consistent bowler (fifth-lowest failure rate) in the history of ODI cricket, his 5 bowling SDs just reconfirms his place amongst the best bowlers in the history of ODI cricket.
Makhaya Ntini’s prodigious effectiveness as a new-ball bowler for South Africa is brought out from his Wickets Tally IMPACT (proportion of wickets taken) which is the second-best for any South African bowler. It is also interesting to note that Ntini was a high impact replacement for Allan Donald (who is South Africa’s highest impact bowler) and again goes on to show how South Africa never suffered in their transition phases which explains their continuous good run of form in ODI cricket since their readmission.
It is perhaps surprising to see Andre Nel coming in at the 4th position on this list; however on a closer look it becomes very clear that he was a genuine article. His wicket-taking propensity comes to the fore with his Wickets Tally IMPACT (proportion of wickets taken) being the third-best for a South African bowler; his consistency (interestingly) is also the third-best for a South African bowler and alongwith his 1 SD puts him high on the list. Given his performances, it is also a bit surprising to see him play only 75 matches for South Africa.
It is interesting to see Jacques Kallis’ name feature on all the three lists for South Africa. His bowling exploits may not be as extensive as his batting ones but he has been mighty effective in filling up the 5th bowler’s slot for South Africa on a consistent basis in the ODI format. His numbers suggest that he was highly effective as a partnership-breaker (2nd-highest Partnership-breaking IMPACT for South Africa) and his 2 SDs as a bowler also indicates his ability of being a game changer through his bowling abilities (none more than the 1998 Champions Trophy final).
NOTE: If the cut-off is lowered to 50 matches (from 75), Morne Morkel (2.25) becomes the third-highest, Craig Matthews (1.97) the fifth- highest and Dale Steyn (1.65) the ninth-highest impact bowler for South Africa in their history of ODI cricket.
These are the highest impact players in all bowling parameters.
When it comes to Top/Middle-order Wickets Tally IMPACT (wickets taken from nos. 1-7 in most cases), the highest impact bowlers are Allan Donald, Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel.
Lower-order Wickets Tally IMPACT (batsmen nos. 8-11) – highest impact bowlers are Allan Donald, Fanie De Villiers and Andrew Hall.
The highest Economy IMPACT bowlers (lowest economy rates relative to all the matches in their careers) are Shaun Pollock, Fanie De Villiers and Andrew Hall.
The highest impact Partnership-breaking bowlers are Johan Botha, Jacques Kallis and Makhaya Ntini.
The bowlers with the highest Pressure Building IMPACT (taking quick wickets to put opposition under pressure) are Makhaya Ntini, Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock.
The bowlers with the lowest failure rate (a failure is seen in this system as an inability to register an IMPACT of even 1 in a match) are Shaun Pollock, Allan Donald and Andre Nel.
The Highest Impact Bowling Performances in South Africa’s ODI history
1. SM Pollock – 5 for 20 in 9 overs v England, Johannesburg, 2000 – Bowling IMPACT 7.42
On a pitch highly conducive for seam bowling, South Africa after being put to bat first crashed against the likes of Caddick and Gough to leave England chasing a paltry target of 150 runs to seal this Standard Bank tournament final. However, the English top-order in turn were bamboozled by the single-handed brilliance of Shaun Pollock who by the end of his first 8 overs had taken out the English top 5 and had reduced them to 45-5. Eventually, England went on to lose the encounter by a margin of 39 runs.
2. M Ntini – 5 for 31 in 10 overs v New Zealand, Melbourne, 2002 – Bowling IMPACT 6.38
New Zealand after having elected to bat first in this crucial VB series final encounter soon found themselves in the doldrums due to a sizzling display from Makhaya Ntini who continuously cut the ball in awkward angles to create trouble for the New Zealand batsmen. In his first spell he got rid of the New Zealand openers before coming back to finish off the New Zealand lower order to restrict them to a total of 190 runs. South Africa in reply, chased down the target with ease and 8 wickets to spare.
3. PL Symcox – 3 for 27 in 7 overs v Sri Lanka, Dhaka, 1998 – Bowling IMPACT 6.56
Chasing a stiff target of 224 runs off 34 overs in this rain-truncated affair, Sri Lanka got off to a whirlwind start thanks to Sanath Jayasuriya but soon lost their way and were struggling at 96-5 when off-spinner Pat Symcox ran through the rest of the line-up to leave Sri Lanka with no chances of orchestrating a recovery. In his 7 overs spell, Symcox accounted for Atapattu, Mahanama and Chandana to seal the deal for the South Africans.
The above performances are all within the series/tournament context. The highest impact bowling performance within a match context in South Africa’s ODI history is Makhaya Ntini’s 6-22 v Australia (Cape Town, 2006). Shaun Pollock’s 5-23 v Pakistan (Johannesburg, 2007) and his above mentioned bowling performance of 5-20 v England (Johannesburg, 2000) are the next highest impact bowling performances in a match context.
For more information, please go to www.impactindexcricket.com