By Jaideep Varma and Jatin Thakkar
Was it conservatism or pragmatism that made Graeme Smith delay his declaration on the last day till his team was ahead by 388 runs? Whatever it was, it cost South Africa a 2-0 win in the series perhaps. In these T20 times when strange numbers adorn scoreboards every once in a while, time-honoured standards have perhaps ceased to have much meaning. And yet, it is interesting that despite all the risk-taking that goes on in T20 cricket, no Test captain is willing to even mildly jeopardise a Test series lead at any cost.
These are the highest impact players from the absorbing New Zealand-South Africa Test series that just concluded.
The highest impact bowler often is the highest impact player in a Test series (perhaps demonstrating the old adage about bowlers winning Test matches) and this one has not been an exception. Vernon Philander’s 21 wickets at 16 runs apiece, given the context of his series-defining performance, registers a whopping 5.62 on the IMPACT scale (that rare occasion when a player’s Series IMPACT exceeds 5). Besides taking wickets of all shapes and hues (top, middle or lower-order) Philander also had the highest Pressure Building IMPACT in the series (impact of taking quick wickets in succession which registers pressure on the opposition).
The highest impact batsman in the series averaged 44 in the series while there were 5 batsmen who averaged more than him and 3 batsmen who tallied more runs than him. AB de Villiers’ innings of 83 in the second Test was the main reason why he had the highest impact with the bat, as it turned out to be a series-defining innings in the only result match of the series.
Dale Steyn, with 9 wickets (at 27 runs apiece), was the 3rd highest impact player – again, there were 3 bowlers who had higher wicket tallies and better bowling averages than him, but Steyn figures here because of his bowling in the decisive 2nd Test (5-80). Interestingly, he had the highest Economy IMPACT in the series.
Mark Gillespie was New Zealand’s highest impact player – the third-highest impact bowler in the series (after Philander and Steyn) – he took 11 wickets at 23 apiece. Interestingly, he broke the most partnerships in the series (Partnership Breaking IMPACT).
Kane Williamson was New Zealand’s highest impact batsman – his innings of 77 in the decisive second Test (which his team lost) and unbeaten 102 in the third Test (where he saved New Zealand from a 0-2 series loss) suggests the arrival of perhaps a major player. It is always notable when a young batsman absorbs pressure successfully…and Williamson absorbed the most pressure in this series amongst batsmen from both sides (his Pressure IMPACT of 1.20 almost double that of the second-highest on this count - AB de Villiers.)
Morne Morkel was the third-highest impact South African bowler in the series (10 wickets at 23 runs apiece; IMPACT 2.03) – he was outstanding in only one innings of the series when he got 6-23 in 17 overs in the last innings of the series (all the 6 wickets to fall in the innings were his) but still could not bring South Africa victory, as Kane Williamson (and later, to a smaller extent, van Wyk and Bracewell) could not be removed. Interestingly, Morne Morkel was also the only player who came really close to having an all-round impact in the series (crossing an IMPACT of 1 in both batting and bowling) – and even he very narrowly missed it (Batting IMPACT 0.98).
Graeme Smith made the most runs in the series (282 at an average of 56) – he was particularly outstanding in the first drawn Test (60% of his series runs came in this match itself) and his series performance was notable for the partnerships he built right through.
Doug Bracewell was the last player in the series to cross an IMPACT of 2. His 9 wickets at 38 apiece (Bowling IMPACT 1.65) was complemented by some useful tail-end batting twice (especially the 20 in 59 balls he made in the last innings of the series to save the match for New Zealand with Williamson).
The highest impact batting performances of the series –
AB de Villiers’ performance in the 2nd Test (83 when the score was 88-6 at one stage, match very much in balance – the 68-run first innings lead he helped South Africa get was the key difference; Batting IMPACT 6.88 – this also eventually became a series defining effort).
New Zealand’s highest impact performance was also the second-highest batting performance of the series - Kane Williamson in the 3rd Test (39 and 102 not out in 228 balls after coming in to bat at 1 for 2 in the second innings and saving the 3rd Test; Batting IMPACT 7.33 on a match level – but not series defining, as his team lost).
The highest impact bowling performances of the series –
Vernon Philander in the 2nd Test (4-70 and 6-44 in the match; Bowling IMPACT 6.42 – a series defining effort).
For New Zealand, it was Doug Bracewell’s bowling in the 1st Test (2-52 and 3-70 in the match; Bowling IMPACT 3.49).
All in all (for players who played more than 1 Test) 5 South African players registered an IMPACT over 2, for New Zealand, there were 3 such players. It partly reflects the margin by which South Africa won. While New Zealand’s Team IMPACT of 1.65 vis-à-vis South Africa’s Team IMPACT of 2.13 in the series somewhat completes that picture.
So, the better side won, and will perhaps soon go on to regain their no. 1 position in Test cricket (depending on how much England struggle in Sri Lanka). New Zealand’s biggest gain was their young guns firing salvos of much promise.
To have two 21-year-olds bat out time to save a Test match – the future can’t be so bleak – despite the T20 hijinks.
For more information, please go to www.impactindexcricket.com