At first glance, there aren't too many similarities between Faf du Plessis and David Warner. One made his mark in international cricket for playing one of the most dogged defensive innings seen in recent years, while the other barely has a defensive bone in his body. Du Plessis' fourth-innings 110 not out in Adelaide, spanning 466 minutes and 376 balls, was a flawless exhibition of old-fashioned batting to save a game, while one of Warner's early batting masterclasses was a blistering 159-ball 180 against India in Perth. In Tests, Warner is clearly ahead: he has played 60 Tests to du Plessis' 37, has scored more than twice as many runs as du Plessis, and has an 18-6 lead in terms of Test hundreds.
In ODIs, though, their numbers are remarkably similar historically and also recently: both have been in the news in the last few days for notching up huge scores in the 50-over format. Warner plundered 179 off 128 balls against a hapless Pakistan attack in Adelaide on January 26, and less than two weeks later, du Plessis topped him by six runs in Cape Town, taking the Sri Lankan bowlers apart in a 141-ball 185. These are the two highest individual scores in ODIs in nearly two years.
Both batsmen have been in scintillating ODI form for a while now, but the early years in the format were a struggle for both, which is especially surprising for Warner, given the way he usually bats. Till the end of 2013, both du Plessis and Warner had batted around 40 times in ODIs, and both had averages below 30; Warner had two hundreds from 38 innings, and du Plessis had none from 45. Since then, both have more or less doubled their averages, and the hundreds have flowed as well - eight from 52 innings for du Plessis, and 11 from 53 for Warner.
In the last three years, du Plessis' average of 58.24 is second only to AB de Villiers' 69.40, among the 24 batsmen who have scored 1500-plus ODI runs during this period. His strike rate has been pretty nifty too, at 90.25. During this period he has passed fifty 25 times in 52 innings, which is an excellent conversion rate of once every two innings; before 2014, he had seven in 45, an average of one every 6.4 innings. His consistency has also been exemplary against all opposition teams: he averages more than 40 versus all teams against whom he has batted more than once during this period, and more than 50 against seven out of nine teams.
Warner's numbers during this period are similarly impressive, though he did struggle against Sri Lanka on the 2016 tour.
Du Plessis' numbers prove that he clearly belongs among the elite group of ODI batsmen today. Many of them occupy the No. 3, as is obvious from the table below, but while all the others are high-profile names, du Plessis has seldom received the accolades that the others have. Admittedly, the others have all excelled in Tests as well, while du Plessis' Test form was patchy between 2013 and 2015 - he averaged 35.36 during this period, and had an especially wretched 2015. However, since taking over Test captaincy, his stats have improved significantly in that format as well: in his last eight Tests he averages 54.60, with two hundreds. He needs to maintain his Test form over a longer period, but in ODIs he clearly belongs in the top bracket, along with the likes of Warner, Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Joe Root.
Warner's recent highs in ODIs have been even higher than du Plessis'. In his last 15 innings, his scores have read as follows: 106, 48, 40, 50, 117, 6, 173, 24, 119, 156, 7, 16, 35, 130, 179 - a grand total of 1206 runs at an average of 80.40 and a strike rate of 110.33, with seven hundreds and a fifty. No batsman has ever scored more runs in a 15-innings stretch - the next best is Sachin Tendulkar's 1105 between April and October 1998. In fact, the aggregates for the others in the top five are within 25 runs of each other, while Warner is 101 runs clear of Tendulkar's aggregate, which illustrates the sort of dominant run he has had in ODIs recently.
Warner's seven hundreds is also the best by any batsman over a 15-innings period; before his current run, no other batsman had scored more than six.
In his last 12 innings, Warner has scored 1012 runs, which is the fewest successive innings in which a batsman has scored 1000-plus runs in ODIs: Tendulkar and Kohli had both achieved this in 13 innings.
And here are more Warner hot streaks: he has scored two hundreds in each of his last three ODI series - against South Africa, New Zealand and Pakistan. No other player in ODI history has achieved this, though a few - including Kohli and Amla - have achieved this in two series.
Also, Warner has three 150-plus scores in his last nine innings, which is easily the fewest innings in which a batsman has notched up three such scores. He has almost halved the previous record: Tendulkar achieved this in 17 innings in 2009-10, while Rohit Sharma managed it in 20 innings between November 2014 and January 2016.
Both Warner and du Plessis have been in the ODI form of their lives over the last couple of years. The challenge for them will be to keep this going at least till the conclusion of the Champions Trophy later this year.
With inputs from Shiva Jayaraman.