Hattrick in Australia – A home away from home for South Africa?

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With South Africa’s victory of an innings and 80 runs over Australia at Hobart, the tourists have achieved a rare feat of registering three Test series wins on a trot in their visit Down Under and thus emulated the West Indian feat that dates back to the 1980s.

One of the salient features of Test cricket is about its unique home and away format. And if one were to look farther, then it’s quite understandable that more often than not in a series it is the hosts that make merry while the tourists run for cover.

To back my above statement, let’s go through a piece of statistics which says that considering all series of 3 or more Tests in the last decade, only 22 out of 75 of those have been won by the visiting sides. More to the fact, only 6 of those 22 has resulted in a margin of 2-0 or 3-1 to the tourists. To decipher further, 4 of those away series wins by a margin of 2 Tests or more have come in West Indies – which shows how tough it is to beat quality sides in their own den. In all, 9 of those 22 away wins came either in the Caribbeans or the New Zealand – the two nations who did fail to put themselves up as a major force in the longest format in recent times.

Coming to the feat of Faf Du Plessis and his men, their foundation to this juggernaut kicked off when Graeme Smith’s team won the 2008-09 series in their Australian tour – that series coincidentally too was bagged with a game to spare. A record chase of 414 in Australia gave the visitors an early lead at Perth before they wrapped up the series at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground by nine wickets. South Africa was almost through to saving their third in Sydney when an inspired Mitchel Johnson salvaged some pride for the hosts in dismissing rival captain Smith who came in to avoid the defeat at no.11 with a broken finger. The 2-1 win was South Africa’s first ever in Australia on the back to three successive away defeats that also without a Test win on Australian soil for over 15 years.

South Africa visited Australia for the first time in 1910 and their first two tours Down Under were before the World Wars – the results being demolitions of 1-4 and 0-5 respectively at the hand of the hosts. The visitors then drew three series in the land of their Commonwealth brothers on either sides of the anti-apartheid ban. Then the first series victory post three losses was followed by another series victory in 2012-13 when the Proteas wrapped up the Tests by 1-0 margin.

After a draw in the very first game at Sydney, South Africa had their back against the wall at Adelaide when A B DeVilliers and later Faf Du Plessis thwarted the gruesome Australian attack for close to five sessions to earn a draw and survive themselves in the series. 248/8 off 148 overs is what the famous score card read at the end of the match. In the final game at Perth which was also the farewell game of former Aussie skipper, Ricky Ponting, Graeme Smith and his boys made it a forgettable one for the hosts with a crushing victory by 309 runs.

The third consecutive series win was achieved this summer when South Africa overcame a poor show of first two days to defeat Australia by 177 runs and followed it up with a one-sided pounding at Hobart. After a week-long break, the two sides will lock horns at the final test at Adelaide which would also be the first day-and-night affair between the nations in the format. A win at Adelaide will make South Africa the first ever side to whitewash Australia in a home Test series of at least 3 matches.

A list of most successful visiting sides to tour Australia in history is illustrated in the following table.

Margin Touring side Season
5-1 (6) England 1978-79
4-1 (5) England 1911-12
4-1 (5) England 1928-29
4-1 (5) England 1932-33
3-1 (5) England 1954-55
3-1 (5) West Indies 1984-85
3-1 (5) West Indies 1988-89
3-1 (5) England 2010-11
2-0 (6) England 1970-71
2-0 (3) West Indies 1979-80

 

Apart from these 10 sides from either England or West Indies, 9 other visitors have won series away to Australia by a margin of 1-0 or equivalent. There have been a total of five instances when Australia had failed to win a single Test in a home series of 3 or more games – apart from the two given in table. Australia lost to South Africa 0-1 in 2012-13 and the remaining two series remained 0-0 stalemates one each to visiting India and New Zealand sides respectively.

Apart from a whitewash, a loss at Adelaide would make Australia lose 3 Tests at a home series without winning one in the same and a pathetic streak of consecutive defeats in more than three decades. No doubt, it would be even more humiliating for a side ranked number one as late as in August to suffer consecutive whitewashes on the aftermath of their disastrous tour of Sri Lanka.

Photo by NAPARAZZI

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