As South Africa head into their final Test of the series against Pakistan, they could well be without two of their superstar batsmen in the line-up. Skipper Faf du Plessis, their sheet anchor in the side, and fresh off the back of a ton in the New Year’s Test is suspended owing to over rate issues and will not make it to the XI for the Johannesburg Test. Hashim Amla could also miss the Test courtesy a blow he suffered on the arm off Mohammad Amir at Newlands.On paper, this should be a big blow to South Africa but if we analyze how the two South African batsmen have performed last year, then the Proteas might not miss their services too much.
2018 has been a terrible year, not only for Amla and Du Plessis, but also for their wicket-keeper batsman, Quinton de Kock.
Some quality fast bowling and series wins against India and Australia have masked the horrendous batting form of the South African trio.
Du Plessis, despite a recent hundred, had a wretched 2018 and his average, that was 55.34 between 2016 and 2018, went down to 28.45, boosted by that last ton at Newlands.
Amla is yet to recover from his dry spell and his average from 2018 stands at an appalling 26.8. This was over 47 in the 2016-18 period where he was one of South Africa’s most reliable batsman.
There have been calls to drop De Kock from red ball cricket after his evident weaknesses against spin and poor form of late. His average since 2018 stands at 23.73. This has dropped significantly from 46.92 between 2016-2018.
Du Plessis has 12 scores of below 20 since the beginning of 2018 in his 22 Test innings, which is well more than half the number of knocks. Amla’s corresponding figure is 11 in 22 matches, which translates to scores below 20 in half the number of games. De Kock’s numbers are even poorer with a score of 20 or below 11 times in 19 matches while a corresponding 50-plus score has come just thrice.
The dead rubber is an opportunity for De Kock to play his fearless brand of cricket but the other two (if Amla doesn’t play) will have to bide their time and rectify their temperament and form ahead of the next series.
Du Plessis has a fighting hundred in tough conditions to take confidence from while Amla will have to seek inspiration from his overall career record, which is still outstanding.
Can the big three turn it around and hold South Africa together in the tours to come? With the World Test Championship commencing in a few months, time is running out for them.
First Published: January 10, 2019, 5:11 PM IST