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Neck and neck: comparing the 5 prong pace attack of India & South Africa

Bhuvneshwar Kumar (centre) had a fantastic series for India
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (centre) had a fantastic series for India

There was much talk about the lively pitch and the swing on offer at Wanderers ahead of the 3rd Test between India and South Africa. Owing to the green top, both teams decided to go in with five pacers in their team. 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 only quicks 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.

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 20 50
Wickets 59 186
Average 26.45 21.82
Economy 2.99 2.70
Strike Rate 52.9 48.56

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 Vernon.

Winner- Bhuvneshwar Kumar

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.

Mohammad 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

Rabada is the no 1 Test bowler 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 the maximum pace and has looked the most threatening.

Winner- Kagiso Rabada

Ishant Sharma vs Morne Morkel

Ishant Sharma and Morne Morkel are two bowlers that make utmost use of their height. They hit hard lengths, just short of good length. Being tall, this length is naturally suited to them. Their height 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

It looks like both Sharma and Morkel are past their prime. Both are no longer considered the leader 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 kmph mark.

Winner- Morne Morkel

Jasprit Bumrah vs Lungi Ngidi

The Freedom series has been most special for two young bowlers. While Bumrah made his Test debut in the 1st Test 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 five-fer each.

Jasprit Bumrah Lungi Ngidi
Matches 3 2
Wickets 12 8
Average 24.67 15.38
Economy 3.29 2.86
Strike Rate 45.42 32.50

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

Winner- Lungi Ngidi

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 side. 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

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 two valuable wickets of Pujara and Pandya in the first innings itself.

Winner- Andile Phehlukwayo

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