England v South Africa, 1st Investec Test, The Oval, 5th day July 23, 2012

The most comprehensive Test victory

For only the fifth time in Test history, a team won a match losing only two wickets

The most stunning aspect of South Africa's win at The Oval is that they won a Test match against arguably the best bowling attack in the world losing just two wickets. Last season, this attack had decimated India's much-hyped batting line-up, averaging 25.55 runs per wicket over four matches. Against South Africa in this game, they took two wickets for 637 runs, an average of 318.50 runs per wicket. England's batsmen, on the other hand, averaged 31.25 in the match. The difference of 287.25 is the highest in a Test which has produced a result, which makes this the most comprehensive win ever.

In fact, for South Africa, this is sweet revenge for the humiliation they had suffered at Lord's in 1924 in a Test match with similar numbers: England racked up 531 for 2, and dismissed South Africa cheaply on either side of their batting effort. In that game, South Africa had averaged 25.65 runs per wicket compared to England's 265.50; the difference between the two averages was 239.85, which was the previous record for the highest difference between averages in a decisive Test.

Biggest difference in runs per wkt between winning and losing teams
Winning team Runs per wkt Losing team Runs per wkt Difference Venue, year
South Africa 318.50 England 31.25 287.25 The Oval, 2012
England 265.50 South Africa 25.65 239.85 Lord's 1924
West Indies 263.33 Pakistan 34.22 229.11 Kingston, 1958
Sri Lanka 237.67 Zimbabwe 22.95 214.72 Bulawayo, 2004
South Africa 235.00 Bangladesh 20.50 214.50 Chittagong, 2003
England 229.50 India 19.05 210.45 Edgbaston, 1974

This is only the fifth time in a Test that a team has won a Test losing two wickets. For South Africa, this was the second such instance - they'd beaten Bangladesh in a similar manner in 2003 - but the last time any team had inflicted this humiliation on an opposition not named Bangladesh was in 1974, when England thrashed India by an innings and 78 runs at Edgbaston, scoring 459 for 2 in their only innings. In fact, England and South Africa are the only teams to win Tests losing two wickets: England achieved these results against South Africa (1924) and New Zealand (1958). South Africa, though, are the only side to achieve this overseas - all three of England's wins have come at home.

Winning a Test match for the loss of two wickets
Team Opposition Result margin Venue, year
South Africa England Innings and 12 runs The Oval, 2012
South Africa Bangladesh Innings and 60 runs Chittagong, 2003
England India Innings and 78 runs Edgbaston, 1974
England New Zealand Innings and 71 runs Headingley, 1958
England South Africa Innings and 18 runs Lord's 1924
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More stats

  • Dale Steyn's second-innings haul of 5 for 56 is his first five-for in a Test in England. It improves his career record against England to 38 wickets in nine Tests at an average of 32.05. Of his 18 five-wicket hauls, 14 have led to victories, while three have come in draws and one in a defeat. (Click here for Steyn's Test career summary.)

  • South Africa's win is their 12th in England, but their first at The Oval in 14 attempts. It's also their sixth by an innings against England, and the second such result in that country.

  • Hashim Amla won his fourth Man-of-the-Match award, and his first against England. His previous three had been against Pakistan and India (twice).

  • This was the first taste of a Test defeat for Tim Bresnan, after 13 wins and a draw in his 14 previous Tests.
With contributions from Travis Basevi

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Cricinfo on July 26, 2012, 20:27 GMT

    @Aneeshmoha, yes statistically speaking SA might have been the most successful side but we were talking about the number of games played. Keep in mind that if SA had played more games and become no 1, the going would have been that much tougher for them. e.g. if SA go to SL as a no 3 side and manage a 1-1, they would probably stay on the same number of points but if they manage such a result as a no 1 side, they might well end up losing some points. Point being, as you climb the rankings, the win ratio required is higher to maintain your ranking which is not necessarily made any easier by playing more games. This only confirms the general saying in life that it's hard to reach the top but harder even to stay there.

  • Anees on July 26, 2012, 16:56 GMT

    @tests_the_best with all due respect over the last 4 years SA have lost 1 series only 1 and that was against Australia. SA have beaten or drawn with everyone most of those away from home including pakistan india and australia. Stats don't liemeaning statistically SA are the most successful team over the last for years purely on the basis that they've only lost 1 series. Name another team over the same period with a better record.

  • Geoffrey on July 26, 2012, 11:28 GMT

    I love how no-one is now talking about the birth place of a couple of players in the England side. I think as an England fan one can judge how well we are doing when people start trotting (pun intended) out that old chestnut. I hope to see it again by the end of next test.

  • John on July 26, 2012, 7:44 GMT

    @Muttee on (July 25 2012, 08:44 AM GMT) It was a shock that our batting was so bad and obviously I give full credit to the Pak bowlers but alot of the wickets weren't to unplayable deliveries. Also (and I know it's different conditions etc)but Pak spinners didn't do so well against SL afterwards. It's hypothetical of course but I'd still say our batsmen were woeful

  • Muttee on July 25, 2012, 8:44 GMT

    @JG2704: no disrespect to Pakistani batting but compared to English batting, they were at best mediocre. Both bowling line-ups had to bowl at different sides, Pak bowlers had a much tougher task and don't you think it was the bowling that made them look bamboozled rather than just plain abysmal batting. the aggressive fields set for Ajmal and Rehman put so much pressure and they just couldn't read his doosra at all. I wouldn't blame your batting on that, if you had seen it ball by ball you would know it was your batting;s failure but it was the class of bowling that made your batting look pedestrian.

  • shahid on July 25, 2012, 5:32 GMT

    The best bowling attack in the world?? How can some one make such claims about English bowling unit. They have no world class bowler and some what better figures from Andersen are only because he plays most of his game on swing friendly home wickets.

  • Andrew on July 25, 2012, 1:09 GMT

    @unregisteredalien - classic! @Aneesmoha - lack of games does not neccessarily mean lack of points, unless it coincides with NOT playing lowly ranked sides relative to other top sides.

  • Cricinfo on July 24, 2012, 20:32 GMT

    @Aneesmoha, agreed SA played less games than eng and aus but how can you be sure that if they had played more, they would have only won/drawn those games? Loss in those games would have negatively impacted SA's ranking. Of the more games that eng played, 5 were is asia where they lost 1-4. Am sure eng would easily have settled for playing less games if that would have wiped out the 1-4 blot on their otherwise impressive record till that time.

  • Anees on July 24, 2012, 19:45 GMT

    All those talking about the rankings regardless of the formula used SA have played. 11 less games than England and are 9 points behind. They have played 13 less games than Australia and are only 3 points behind. They have played the 3rd least amount of tests after NZ and Bangladesh. This SA team should win or draw 80-85% of the games or series they compete in. So seriously who is the best team in the world.

  • John on July 24, 2012, 19:40 GMT

    @Jeremy Bradshaw on (July 24 2012, 08:54 AM GMT) The ranking system is not meaningless at all. Sure we beat Australia in 2010/11 but if you look at results of both teams since against common opponents and both teams beat India 4-0 , but Aus won in SL whereas Eng drew , Eng beat WI at home 2-0 and Aus beat WI away by the same margin. Aus drew away to SA late last year which looks at this point to be trumping Eng's home series vs SA. Eng deserved to get to number 1 , mainly from their 4-0 win vs Ind and 3-1 away win in Oz but we have to say that if/when we lose this series the number 1 will deservedly go to SA and we can't really begrudge Aus going ahead of us if we're getting beaten so regularly

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