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Neck To Neck: Comparing The 5-Pronged Pace Attack Of India And South Africa

Posted by Saksham Mishra in Specials, Sports
January 29, 2018

There was much talk about the lively pitch and the swing on offer at the Wanderers ahead of the third Test match between India and South Africa. Owing to the green top, both the teams decided to go in with five pacers in their teams. This was one of the few occasions in the history of the game when no spinner featured in either team.

For India, it is only the second occasion when they have gone in with a spin-less attack. The only other time that India played with only the pacers was at Perth six years ago. In 2012, the team had fielded Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Vinay Kumar against Australia.

Given that both teams have five pacers each, it would be interesting to compare and contrast them one-on-one.

1. Bhuvneshwar Kumar Vs Vernon Philander

Both Bhuvneshwar and Vernon are kings when it comes to swing bowling. Apart from Jimmy Anderson, these two are the finest swing bowlers around in international cricket. If they have conditions on their side, their effectiveness increases manifold.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar   Vernon     Philander
Matches        21         50
Wickets        63         188
Average        26.09         21.82
Economy         2.94         2.70
Strike Rate          53.1        48.56

*in Test matches

Bhuvi is a little less experienced than Philander when it comes to Test matches. However, as opposed to Philander who mostly uses the out-swinger, Bhuvi mixes his out-swingers and in- swingers a lot better. His wrist position is also such that it is very hard to pick up as compared to Philander.

Winner – Bhuvneshwar Kumar

2. Mohammed Shami Vs Kagiso Rabada

In the ongoing series, Shami has blown a bit hot and cold. He has struggled to find his rhythm. However, when he has settled in his spell, he has picked up wickets in clusters. On the other hand, Rabada has been a lot more consistent.

Mohammed Shami   Kagiso   Rabada
Matches        29        25
Wickets        104        114
Average        29.86        22.25
Economy        3.39        3.36
Strike Rate         52.7        39.6

*in Test matches

Rabada is the number one Test bowler in the world for good reason. He is just 22 years old and is five years younger than the 27-year old Shami. Of all bowlers in this series, he has generated the maximum pace and has also looked the most threatening.

Winner – Kagiso Rabada

3. Ishant Sharma Vs Morne Morkel

Ishant Sharma and Morne Morkel are two bowlers who make the utmost use of their heights. They hit hard lengths, just short of the good length. Being tall, this length is naturally suited to them. Their heights makes it highly probable for the ball to steeply rise, even from the good length.

Ishant Sharma Morne Morkel
Matches       80       82
Wickets       231        289
Average       36.13        28.24
Economy       3.24         3.11
Strike Rate       66.7        54.4

*in Test matches

It looks like both Sharma and Morkel are past their prime. Both are no longer considered the leaders of their bowling attack. While Morkel has been plagued by injuries, Ishant has not been able to cement his spot in the side. Comparing both of them, Morkel has an edge as he generates more pace than Sharma, and can consistently hit the 140 kilometres per hour mark.

Winner- Morne Morkel

4. Jasprit Bumrah Vs Lungi Ngidi

The Freedom series has been most special for two young bowlers. While Bumrah made his Test debut in the first match of the series, Lungi Ngidi had to wait for one more match. Both these young talents announced their arrival in the 5-day format by picking up a 5-for.

Jasprit Bumrah  Lungi Ngidi
Matches        3           2
Wickets        14           9
Average        25.21           17.22
Economy        3.14           2.90
Strike Rate        48           35.50

*in Test Matches

Having played more international and franchise cricket as than Ngidi, Bumrah is a lot more mature. Also, he has a bit more pace and several variations in angles which Ngidi lacks. However, keeping the bowling averages and strike rates in mind, Lungi Ngidi is comfortably ahead of Bhumrah at this point in time.

Winner – Lungi Ngidi

5. Hardik Pandya Vs Andile Phehlukwayo

Instead of playing Ashwin and Keshav Maharaj, both teams decided to go in with Hardik Pandya and Andile Phehlukwayo, respectively. Both these pace bowling all-rounders lend balance to their sides. While it is clear that Phehlukwayo is a bowling all-rounder, Pandya is yet to find his calling.

Hardik Pandya   Andile  Phehlukwayo
Matches        5            3
Wickets         7            9
Average        34.14            11.88
Economy         3.18            3.37
Strike Rate         64.2            21.1

*in Test matches

After taking three wickets in the first match at Cape Town, Pandya has not been able to break through with the ball in hand. Phehlukwayo, on the other hand, took the two valuable wickets of Pujara and Pandya in the first innings itself.

Winner – Andile Phehlukwayo


Featured image sources: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images, Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images