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

The most comprehensive Test victory

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

S Rajesh

July 23, 2012

Comments: 49 | Text size: A | A

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
Click here for the statsguru page.

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

RSS Feeds: S Rajesh

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by tests_the_best on (July 26, 2012, 21:27 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.

Posted by Aneesmoha on (July 26, 2012, 17:56 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.

Posted by Hammond on (July 26, 2012, 12:28 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.

Posted by JG2704 on (July 26, 2012, 8:44 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

Posted by Muttee on (July 25, 2012, 9:44 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.

Posted by Zahidsaltin on (July 25, 2012, 6:32 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.

Posted by Meety on (July 25, 2012, 2:09 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.

Posted by tests_the_best on (July 24, 2012, 21:32 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.

Posted by Aneesmoha on (July 24, 2012, 20:45 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.

Posted by JG2704 on (July 24, 2012, 20:40 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

Posted by JG2704 on (July 24, 2012, 20:40 GMT)

@Muttee on (July 24 2012, 07:57 AM GMT) Sorry , I disagree. The Pak bowling attack is decent but our batting was diabolical in UAE. If Broad and co bowled at our batsmen they'd have reaped similar rewards

Posted by tests_the_best on (July 24, 2012, 20:23 GMT)

@jeremy - I think the ranking system is actually quite efficient considering all the teams and home/away combinations it has to take into account. If eng fall below aus after this series, it doesn't contradict the previous ashes result in any way because a lot of other things happened in between. e.g. aus defeated sl in sl but eng just managed a draw over there, there was also the whitewash in uae. In general, the relative ranking of eng/aus or for that matter between any 2 teams is not solely governed by the series results between those 2 sides. As for the general perception about who really looks to be no 1, that also matches quite well with the icc rankings. If sa clinch this series, they are going to be no 1 and no one would dispute that ranking. Post whitewashes in eng/aus, ind have moved from no 1 to 4/5, which matches quite well with how most people would rate the current indian side.

Posted by Major_Hammad on (July 24, 2012, 18:11 GMT)

Congrates to South Africa on huge victory. Also Congrates to Legend Amla and Steyn specially, Kallis, Smith, Morkel and Imran Tahir also performed very well. England poor bowlers exposed again against quality batsmen and Eng poor batting line exposed again Quality bowlers.

Posted by Aneesmoha on (July 24, 2012, 15:21 GMT)

Correction 11 less games than england

Posted by Aneesmoha on (July 24, 2012, 15:19 GMT)

To all those talking about rankings here is some food for thought. regardless of the formula which is points accumulated divided by the number of games played. South Africa are 9 Ranking points behind England and 3 ranking points behind Australia even though they have played 9 less games than England and 13 less than the Aussies. SA have also played the 3rd least amount of tests on these rankings behind Bangladesh and NZ. this is where the rankings are flawed. just saying of those 9 or 13 tests this current SA team should win or draw 70% of them....

Posted by unregisteredalien on (July 24, 2012, 14:58 GMT)

@ Jeremy Bradshaw and Hammond, the fact that you're more concerned about where Australia stands, both before and after this series, suggest a complete lack of faith in England's ability to bounce back against SA and some deep-seated fear/resentment of Australia after many years of defeat at their hands. You might as well lighten up and just try to enjoy the cricket because it looks like it'll be all downhill for England from here.

Posted by indiarox4ever on (July 24, 2012, 14:00 GMT)

"The ranking system is just a formula, whichever way they tweak it can produce a different #1, so I think it's meaningless. If SA win this series England will fall below Australia, which clearly shows its shortcomings after the hammering England handed out in Oz" ------- I think you got it all wrong. The ranking is not based on a teams performance against any one team but its general performance over a period, against the different teams it has played. Quite often it happens in triangular tiurnaments that Team-A beats Team-B, Team-B beats Team-C and Team-C beats Team A. This does not imply that all teams are 'better' or 'worse' than the other teams. The Oz team can very well whip the English in their next meeting. In fact with the English tails between their legs even Bangladesh would be raring to have a go at them and yes in FORTRESS ENGLAND

Posted by Samdanh on (July 24, 2012, 13:01 GMT)

@Hammond: What happens in SA-Aus series in Aus later, we will have to wait and see. But it is surprising to see you forgetful of how well Aus played in the very recent series against SA in SA, to square the series.

Posted by Samdanh on (July 24, 2012, 12:52 GMT)

Euphoria of ODI series win over Aus dead now. Shocking defeat. Expected England to do better. What did not surprise me is the flat wicket that was laid out. Had opposition been any of the subcontinent teams, it would have been a different surface. England too have started doing this right from 2009 series against Aus - example is the Oval Test wicket which started taking turn from day one. They could have not done that now as SA has a good spinner. England have to start playing better for the series to be well contested. It is as simple as that

Posted by Meety on (July 24, 2012, 11:54 GMT)

@Chris Campling - ahh, I took it that he said "...India and SA is definately..." oops! @Sehwag3rd300 - my apologies!

Posted by Hammond on (July 24, 2012, 11:43 GMT)

Don't really know how I will feel when South Africa flick the Australian team away like a fly this coming summer. Oh hang on- there is a German word for it- Schadenfreude. Then again, it won't be that much of an achievement, even England thrashed Australia at home.

Posted by Gregg22 on (July 24, 2012, 11:05 GMT)

Gary is going to take this team to the top of the rankings in all formats. Mark my words. Rankings certainly aren't always truly reflective of a teams worth, but winning almost, if not all the time certainly is. Philander to shock England in second test. They are going to focus on Steyn and Morkel mostly but haven't seen what he's capable of. Predict another five for the Vern at Headingley

Posted by   on (July 24, 2012, 10:16 GMT)

I meant to say "if SA win this series 3-0, England will fall below Australia"...

Posted by   on (July 24, 2012, 9:54 GMT)

The ranking system is just a formula, whichever way they tweak it can produce a different #1, so I think it's meaningless. If SA win this series England will fall below Australia, which clearly shows its shortcomings after the hammering England handed out in Oz!

I think we all know who the best side in the world is at the moment, even before this test match I'd have said it was South Africa - class side - and I'm English. That's not to say England can't fight back, and I think the one-sided nature of this match was an aberration - but on balance SA are stronger no doubt.

Posted by   on (July 24, 2012, 9:43 GMT)

2/637 and that includes a duck! This on the back of Tino Best blasting 95 against the English not long ago.

Posted by harshthakor on (July 24, 2012, 9:27 GMT)

Arguably this is South Africa's best test match victory after their return to cricket in 1991.Defeating the world's best rated test team by an innings by only losing 2 wickets is a mammoth achievement.It could well be the best individual test win of South Africa.In this form I would back the springboks to win the series 3-0.They could well become an all-time great side.

Heartiest congrats to South Africa!The remaining test matches will be a true test of their temperament as in the past they have faltered at later stages in test series after starting off with a bang.

Posted by ATIMAYANK on (July 24, 2012, 9:04 GMT)

The best bowling attack thing is a joke. England are a joke outside england and no one ever took their number one ranking seriously. Was just a matter of time till they are playing at home. Out side home even Bangladesh would play better. And for sure England cant even beat bangladesh in bangladesh now. They simply cant play on slow and low pitches. South Africa surely deserve to be number one again. Kallis is the best allrounder ever!

Posted by Muttee on (July 24, 2012, 8:57 GMT)

World's best bowling attack? i thought at the start of the year Pakistan already showed them they are a better bowling attack then England then how can you rate them number one? SA are number1 bowling attack in seaming and Pakistan in spinning terms. England are at best the number three in both. I don't see them coming back in this test as they won't be able to take 20 wickets in any of remaining matches this series. Good luck SAF

Posted by Hammond on (July 24, 2012, 8:49 GMT)

South Africa certainly DO NOT look like the number 3 test side in the world. That said, there are two tests to go. 10 days of cricket is a long time.

Posted by rmsingh on (July 24, 2012, 8:29 GMT)

Great performance by SA and I would love them to win 2-0 or 3-0. But lets not get too far ahead. The next match is in Headingley and as in past SA is capable of getting bowled out for less than 100 there and give Eng a sniff...Wish Gary keeps them grounded and focussed !!!

Posted by   on (July 24, 2012, 5:40 GMT)

England is the overrated team.. SA s s world's best test team.. I am sure they will win this series 3-0.

Posted by Sackz on (July 24, 2012, 5:38 GMT)

Amazing compilation of stats! Well done.

Posted by   on (July 24, 2012, 4:09 GMT)

@ meety - sehwag3rd300 (and that will be something to see) may not have written much, but he (or she) did not say that india are the best team in the world under any conditions, he said south africa are. and, as a south africa supporter, that was good to read, and even more fun to watch. but england remain a very good side, and things could well turn round 180 degrees at headingley. i hope they don't, naturally, but the oval was a bit of a freak result, and england will be back - without bopara and bresnan, i would think. bopara is out of his depth and bresnan depends on luck for his wickets (eg his "bowling" of smith). time to blood james taylor, i think; he won't do any worse

Posted by Meety on (July 24, 2012, 2:50 GMT)

@Greatest_Game - yep, an innings & 12 runs is flattering. @Sehwag3rd300 - LOL! That is the funniest thing EVER written on this site! I seriously hope that was MEANT to be funny, if not, it is quite... sad to e deluded into thinking "India... is definetly the best test team cuz they r currently the only team in world team that can dominate in any conditions." Really don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Posted by   on (July 24, 2012, 2:07 GMT)

Now that is Licks!!!!!!! Well done South Africa. I hope you dedicate this to Boucher.

Posted by Just_love_it on (July 24, 2012, 1:52 GMT)

Defeat of THE SO CALLED #1 TEST SIDE with so called BEST Bowling attack WHO CAN take 20 wickets on ANY track against any side by say 40 runs or by few wickets on their HOME turf n condition can be understand and forgiven but just 2 wickets vs 20 wickets and 637 vs 625(2 innings) runs !!! COME ON give me a break that's not remotely consider #1 in any sports. I thought pitch was SO FLAT as claimed by English fans/writer otherwise SA could have wrap this test within 3 days. Anyway THANK GOD this undeserving SO called #1 side will soon be push down the table by much more deserving team soon.I seriously think something wrong with ICC ranking system.

Posted by worldnet5 on (July 23, 2012, 23:42 GMT)

Amla has never played against Zimbabwe. Remember, it is easy to score against England et al.

Posted by Sehwag3rd300 on (July 23, 2012, 23:14 GMT)

i love u SA one of my favorite teams other than my home team india and SA is definetly the best test team cuz they r currently the only team in world team that can dominate in any conditions

Posted by bharath74 on (July 23, 2012, 22:57 GMT)

Side effects of Kirsten may include Vertigo, Loss of consciousness and lack of desire to win.

Posted by tests_the_best on (July 23, 2012, 22:52 GMT)

@Paul Carey - You really had to bring up that stat to make eng loss look better? You might want to consider that the 1974 indian side was not a no 1 side and they were playing away unlike eng which got belted today on their own turf.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (July 23, 2012, 22:15 GMT)

The standard expression of a test result as "Team X won by an Innings and XXX Runs" just cannot convey the magnitude of this result. To truly understand the most comprehensive test win ever, how should the result read? " South Africa won by an Innings plus 8 wickets and 12 runs," or "South Africa won by 18 wickets and 12 runs."

Posted by   on (July 23, 2012, 21:25 GMT)

What then is all this talk about ' Fortress England?' South Africa came and and conquered a feeble opposition. When the chips were down there was not a man to defend the fort. South Africa's tails are up and we may see a whitewash, perhaps?

Posted by   on (July 23, 2012, 21:19 GMT)

Who has the best bowling attack??? SA's top 3 are steyn, philander and morkel - 1,7,10 in the rankings. So how can you make a statement that England has the best bowling attack? And watch Tahir outbowl Swann again and again...

Posted by   on (July 23, 2012, 20:58 GMT)

SA beat Eng like a eel. I'm surprised at Eng.

Posted by   on (July 23, 2012, 20:28 GMT)

A thumping reverse, for sure - but rather than absolute run differential, % difference is a better reflection of the gap. Here England's best win, in which India scored just 8.3% of England's runs per wicket, remains more comprehensive than Engalnd's worst loss, in which they managed a comparatively healthy 9.8% of South Africa's runs per wicket...

Posted by Highflyer_GP on (July 23, 2012, 20:27 GMT)

Against the best bowling attack? The one that took 2 wickets in this match?

Posted by Winsome on (July 23, 2012, 20:02 GMT)

I've got to say, I think I've found my new favourite player. Amla is beyond sublime as a shotmaker. So easy and relaxed at the crease but so precise.

Posted by kellow on (July 23, 2012, 19:55 GMT)

Interesting stats but I think the England bowling attack is over-rated. SA boasts 3 of the top 6 ranked bowlers in tests (1st, 4th and 6th) while England's best is only 5th.

SA also have 4 of the top 6 ranked test batsmen, and AB de Villiers didn'e even have an opportunity to imrove his ranking.

SA also have the no. 1 ranked all-rounder in tests.

Posted by henrystephen on (July 23, 2012, 19:54 GMT)

Talk about being brought back to earth. Stunning result. I wonder how many of the other matches mentioned were lost by the favourite..

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.
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