Result all but guaranteed
England suffered their first home defeat in two years when they went down by an innings at The Oval. It was also England's second innings defeat against South Africa in home Tests since 2000 and their seventh such loss in the same period at home. In 189 overs, England managed to pick up just two wickets while conceding 637 runs. South Africa's triumph seems even more emphatic when one considers that it was just the fifth occasion a team won a Test after losing just two wickets. The second Test of the series, to be played at Headingley, will be crucial for both teams given that the No.1 ranking is at stake. After taking the lead, South Africa have gone on to lose the second Test in home series against India and Sri Lanka. However, they will be confident this time going into Headingley, a venue where they have beaten England on their previous two visits.
Over the years, draws have been extremely rare at Headingley. In the last 28 Tests at the venue (since 1980), only three have been drawn. The draw percentage in the same period (0.10) is the lowest among all venues that have hosted ten or more Tests. Furthermore, in ten Tests since 2000, there has not been a single draw. Although England have a 5-4 record at Headingley (since 2000), they have struggled against the top teams losing heavily to South Africa (2003 and 2008) and Australia (2009). The draw percentage at Headingley (11.11) is nearly half the corresponding figure at The Oval (21.73%). Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, which have also been bowler-friendly venues, have higher draw percentages of 23.80 and 30.00. Flat pitches and inclement weather have meant that both Lord's and Old Trafford have had very high percentages of draws (32.50 and 41.17%). Given that none of the last four Tests at Headingley have gone into the fifth day, the odds are heavily stacked in favour of a result.
England's rise to the top of the world rankings was primarily because of their successful run in home Tests. Their last series loss at home was against South Africa in 2008. Since then, they have gone on to beat Australia and the three major subcontinent teams (excludes Bangladesh). Their best win-loss ratio at a home venue (since 2000) is 6.00 at Old Trafford. Lord's has also been a very favourable venue for the hosts; they have won 14 and lost just three of the 25 matches played (win-loss ratio of 4.66). England had previously never been defeated by South Africa at The Oval but the innings loss in the first Test blotted their otherwise solid record at the venue. While their win-loss ratio is greater than two at both Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, it is much lower (1.25) at Headingley. Since 2000, they have lost both their Tests against South Africa and suffered innings defeats twice (against India and Australia). However, Headingley is also the only home venue where England have managed to chase down a 300-plus target successfully (against Australia in 2001).
Between 2002 and 2007, teams enjoyed a very comfortable run in the first innings in Headingley Tests averaging 62.35 runs per wicket. The stats, however, have completely changed in the last three Tests at the venue. The first-innings scores in the last three matches at Headingley have been 203, 102 and 88 (average of 13.10). Overall, since 2000, teams average 36.58 in the first innings with ten centuries and nine fifties. Pace bowlers have been far more successful than spinners at Headingley in the first innings. While the fast bowlers have picked up 85 wickets ay 33.29, spinners have managed just four wickets at a very high average of 110.25. There has been no drastic fall in the second-innings average in recent Tests as was the case with the first-innings performances. The overall average in the second innings (36.32) is marginally behind the corresponding figure in the first innings. Pace bowlers continue to dominate the wicket tally but spinners have a much bigger say in the second innings (16 wickets at 36.18). The averages in the third and fourth innings fall considerably to 27.14 and 28.53 respectively.
In the third and fourth innings, batsmen have struggled to come up with the big scores and have managed only three centuries (across both the innings) in the ten Tests since 2000. Surprisingly, the performance of spinners has fallen away in the third innings (average 39.30). Not only have pace bowlers picked up 90% of the wickets to fall in the third and fourth innings, they have also maintained excellent averages of 24.71 and 28.19 respectively.
|Innings number||Runs per wicket||100/50||Pace (wickets/avg)||Spin (wickets/avg)|
Considering that England have not been at their best at Headingley, it comes as no surprise that most of their batsmen have ordinary records at the venue. Kevin Pietersen is an exception though; he has scored 435 runs in three Tests at the venue at an average of 87. At other home venues, he has 11 centuries in 44 Tests at an average of 51.49. Andrew Strauss, who regained some form with two centuries in the series against West Indies, fell for a duck in the first innings at The Oval. He has also struggled at Headingley averaging 32.71 in four Tests. Alastair Cook, Strauss' opening partner, has been far more prolific in the last two years but has been unable to replicate the same performance at Headingley (average of 32.00). Both the openers have considerably higher averages at other home venues as compared to their records at Headingley. Ian Bell, who fought a lone battle in England's second innings at The Oval with a dogged half-century, has also had his problems at the Headingley. In four Tests at the venue, he averages just 24.85. In sharp contrast, he averages a highly impressive 60.93 in 37 Tests (ten centuries) at other home venues in the same period.
The three century scorers in the first Test for South Africa have not had a good run at Headingley. While Smith and Kallis average 21 and 17 respectively from two Tests, Amla managed 38 in the only innings he has played at the venue. However, AB de Villiers, who did not get to bat in the first Test, top scored with 174 in South Africa's ten-wicket win on their previous tour in 2008.
|Kevin Pietersen||Other home venues||44||3553||51.49||11/15|
|Andrew Strauss||Other home venues||48||3146||40.33||7/16|
|Alastair Cook||Other home venues||41||3104||47.75||10/13|
|Ian Bell||Other home venues||37||2803||60.93||10/15|
None of the England bowlers has made an impact in the matches played at Headingley so far. James Anderson had ordinary outings against Australia and South Africa and averages 75. Stuart Broad has done much better though picking up seven wickets at an average of 30.42. On the other hand, both Steyn and Morkel picked up seven wickets each the last time they played at Headingley. Given their venue record and the poor display in the first Test at The Oval, the pressure will firmly be on England going into the second Test as a loss would ensure South Africa's ascent to the top of the Test rankings.
Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan is a sub-editor (stats) at ESPNcricinfo