The last time a South African batsman hit a Test hundred on Indian soil was in February 2010. The last time both R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja went for more than three runs per over in the same innings on home soil (with a minimum qualification of 20 overs) was never.
You probably least expected it when South Africa went into stumps on Day 2 at 39/3, but the floodgates opened in a rare attack on the Indian spin bastion that has gripped all comers over the past four years; 349 runs were belted for the loss of just five wickets on the third day's play at Vizag — easily the best single-day return for any visiting team in nearly five years of Virat Kohli leading the Indian Test team — as Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock silenced, at least briefly, the raging Ashwin-Jadeja combine.
Whichever parameter you use, whichever yardstick you hold for comparison, Elgar and de Kock's blaze of glory stands out — and will, in all likelihood, continue to stand out for a long, long time given India's measure of dominance at home.
South Africans choke harder than usual in India?
The sample size might be of just the one series, but so horrific was that last four-Test rubber, in 2015, for the Proteas, that they couldn't be blamed for nursing wounds even as they re-embarked on these shores a whole four years later.
This decade had begun with a series where Hashim Amla alone scored three hundreds in four innings, in a riveting two-match contest where the spoils were shared. But from those highs, South Africa plummeted to the dustbowl-induced pits of 2015 — a series where six of their seven innings ended in scores below 200 (the only exception? 214); where only twice did any of their batsmen do so much as cross a half-century (and not once if you weren't called AB de Villiers); where India twice won matches by over 100 runs despite barely managing 400 match runs in total themselves.
So when Aiden Markram was followed by Theunis de Bruyn who was followed by (night-watchman) Dane Piedt in the brief passage the visitors batted on the second evening, you could have been forgiven for assuming another capitulation was on the cards.
This is no country for touring parties?
At least it really hasn't been in the Kohli years.
Prior to this Vizag Test, 23 Tests had taken place in India since MS Dhoni handed over the reins to his successor-in-waiting. That there has been only one solitary Indian defeat in this time-period is a frequently-flouted stat, but in the detail lies the true devil that is the rambunctious Indian tiger at home.
Only 15 times had visiting batsmen registered hundreds, and only 16 times had visiting pairs registered century partnerships. In 23 Test matches. Yes.
Furthermore, there had been all of three instances in these 23 Tests of visiting teams recording more than one century in a single innings. And only one instance of there being more than one 100+ stands in the same innings.
You get the drift. (Just the way visiting batsmen usually don't.)
Elgar and de Kock can't quite digest Asia?
Dean Elgar didn't even average 25 per innings in Asia pre-Vizag; Quinton de Kock? Not even 20.
Elgar, perhaps the only regular face in the Proteas top-order since the retirements of Messrs Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, had only once crossed 50 in 18 innings in the subcontinent, managing 24.29 per knock. He'd saved his worst for 'those' four Tests in India in 2015, a brutality that ended with 137 runs from seven innings at an average of 19.57.
De Kock didn't have the same Indian scars, having never played a Test here before, but nine innings across Sri Lanka and Bangladesh had brought with them the measly returns of 177 runs at 19.66. Like Elgar, he too had only mustered a single 50+ score in his Asian travails.
Ashwin and Jadeja feast on left-handers?
Partially true — because the whole truth is that if it's at home, Ashwin and Jadeja feast on any and all batsmen there are!
The breakdown tells you all you need to know (all numbers pre-Vizag): Ashwin's 234 wickets at home come at an average of 22.68 — improving further to 139 wickets at 21.70 since 2015. Jadeja? 144 home wickets at 19.70; 117 at 19.67 since 2015.
Ashwin more or less maintains his average against left-handed batsmen, getting a wicket for the loss of every 21.77 runs — but with 68 such scalps, almost half his tally of wickets at home since 2015 is made up by southpaws (including Elgar four times out of seven in 2015).
You'd expect this would be the one facet where Jadeja slips a little below the radar, because left-handed batsmen enjoy facing their left-arm spin, don't they? 36 left-handed breakthroughs at 23.77 since 2015 — perhaps they don't enjoy facing this left-arm twirler all that much. Ask Alastair Cook: dismissed six times in 10 innings by Jadeja when England came visiting in 2016.
Lies, damn lies, statistics, eh?
Well then. What did all of those numbers weigh up to on the day? Call it an aberration, call it a statistical anomaly, or call it what it truly was - EXCEPTIONAL. In more ways than one.
Elgar had faced 201 balls, or 33.3 overs, from Ashwin and Jadeja during the 2015 tour, and got out five times for a total of 72 runs; at Vizag, he took the duo for 110 runs from 180 balls before finally falling to Jadeja. De Kock, too, clipped the spin twins for 73 runs off 93 deliveries. Combined total? 183/2, from 45.3 overs.
FYI: Ashwin and Jadeja are playing their 29th Test together on home soil. In 54 previous innings, there had been only four instances where both of them conceded more than three runs per over — and none if you put a minimum-overs-bowled criterion of 20.
Elgar and de Kock's sixth-wicket partnership of 164 saw the pair take 3.90 runs an over; in the last four years, there has been just one century stand by a visiting pair in India that came at a healthier scoring rate.
Elgar and de Kock, between them, had one hundred and one fifty in 27 Test innings in Asia. And remember, as pointed earlier, no South African had reached three figures in a Test on Indian soil since Hashim Amla's twin tons in the Kolkata Test of 2010.
You could use the most flowing of words and wax eloquent on the efforts of South Africa's opener and 'keeper on Day 3 at Vizag, but in some cases, on some days, the numbers do tell you all there is to know.
Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock, on Day 3 of the Visakhapatnam Test of 2019. They're going to bring this one up a fair amount of times in the near and distant future.
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