Cape Town – Twitchy Steve Smith, stroppy David Warner.
Yes, there are no prizes for guessing which two Australian cricketers will command the most attention – and perhaps that’s putting it diplomatically? – from the South African public over the next few weeks.
A combination of factors ensures that: their indisputable brilliance as cricketers will make them logical, key prongs of the Aussies’ Twenty20 and one-day international challenge (three matches in each format) to their Proteas hosts.
But the spotlight on that pair, specifically, is only going to be more intense given the already well-publicised fact that both will be playing on these shores for the first time since their instrumental roles in the major, ball-tampering shenanigans of the Baggy Greens’ Test tour two years ago.
Legendary former captain of Australia Steve Waugh has already laid down the gauntlet by suggesting – at the Laureus Sports Awards in Berlin – that the duo will “welcome with open arms” the near-inevitable hostility they will receive from sections of the SA public.
Perhaps not without a hint of defiant partisanship, he said it would only motivate them to get busy in the runs column.
But just what is the history-based likelihood of the dashing – in their own, unique ways – stroke-players having a big bearing on the outcomes of the half-dozen skirmishes, beginning with Friday’s first T20 international at the Bullring (18:00)?
Statistically, it can be branded a relative comfort to South African fans that this visit doesn’t include a Test portion; the Australians are due here again for that format only toward the tail end of next season.
For the five-day landscape is where the belligerent Warner, 33, has traditionally most excelled against the Proteas.
In a career total of 84 Tests, with 7 244 runs at an average of 48.94, his average hikes considerably to 52.26 against South Africa … and an even more impressive 63.33 (a weighty 760 runs) in the six Tests against them specifically played on our soil.
By contrast, as far as T20 is concerned – the first point of focus on this safari – the left-handed opener fares slightly less effectively against the Proteas than he does overall: whereas his total tally of runs in 76 T20 internationals is 2 079 at 30.57, it dips a touch to an average of 29.90 against SA (and 28.50 in this country itself).
That is despite his memorable international debut, for a T20 clash, against a Johan Botha-led South Africa at Melbourne in now faraway January 2009, when his withering 89 off 43 balls earned him the player-of-the-match laurel and was hugely responsible for the comfortable 52-run victory.
Warner does, however, sport significantly better stats in ODIs against South Africa (943 runs from 20 matches at 47.15, a little better than his career average of 46.27) and that average swells to a particularly eye-opening 61.25 from the eight productive clashes for him in our country.
While 30-year-old Smith has particularly glowing Test batting career figures (7 227 runs at 62.84), he interestingly fares more modestly against South Africa, than overall, in all three international formats.
In the Test environment, he averages 41.53 against the Proteas, and 41.10 just in South Africa.
The comedown in ODIs is less pronounced: career average 42.96; average against the Proteas 41.07 (and on SA pitches themselves a modest 29.50).
At T20 level, Smith has struck 577 career runs from 36 appearances at 27.47, whereas against South Africa it drops to 21.50 (from six matches, and all of them played in this country).
His best T20 score against the Proteas is 44 at Newlands in March 2016.
What does all this say?
Perhaps just that Quinton de Kock’s SA charges should be wary of falling into a trap of getting either too cowed by, or wrapped up in, the understandable hype surrounding the duo.
They are playing Australia, after all, and not just Steven Peter Devereux Smith and David Andrew Warner …
Published at Tue, 18 Feb 2020 18:10:38 +0000