England v South Africa, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley August 1, 2012

A marked improvement needed

Match facts

Thursday, August 2
Start time 1100 (1000 GMT)

Big picture

The equation for England going into the second Test is simple: if they're going to beat South Africa, they will need to play at least ten times better than they did at The Oval. An average of 31.25 runs per wicket might not look too bad during a wet English summer but it was dwarfed by South Africa scoring 637 for 2 in their one innings on a dry, sun-baked track. Turning two wickets into 20 against such obduracy is a trick that will take some pulling off.

It is almost a year since England ascended to the top of the rankings with an innings victory over India in the second week of August but, despite talk of establishing a dynasty, the crown has never been far from slipping. Many would say that South Africa have not needed the ICC's imprimatur to be recognised as Test cricket's best side but victory at Headingley will seal the series and confirm their rise to No. 1 anyway.

While Graeme Smith has again revelled in his role as England's tormentor, Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower have faced fresh questions about tactics, skill levels and the balance of the side. It may be that England had one on day and four off days but that is not a switch that can just be flicked. The much-vaunted attack's plan of "bowling dry" was enough to send many watchers to the bottle, as South Africa showed how to resist temptation; while on a flat track, the batsmen arguably performed worse. They're accustomed to brickbats but for the bowlers this represents a fresh challenge.

South Africa have not won consecutive Tests since early 2010 but they look to be in a comfortable place, the team happy to lark about in fancy dress on their first night in Leeds. Having crushed England on the same weekend that Ernie Els won The Open, South Africa's Olympians currently lead Great Britain on the medals table, after Chad le Clos pipped no less a swimmer than Michael Phelps to gold in the pool on Tuesday. Perhaps they are unbeatable?

Form guide

England LDWWW (Most recent first)
South Africa WDWDW

Watch out for...

The fifth man to occupy No. 6 in the batting order, James Taylor is undoubtedly the smallest (he's 5ft 4in). After the middling efforts of Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior, Jonny Bairstow and Ravi Bopara, the weight of expectation might not be great but Taylor has long been marked out for international cricket and his every stroke will be closely studied. An unbeaten 163 in his last first-class innings suggests a slow start to life at Nottinghamshire is behind him.

Alviro Petersen is the South Africa player under most scrutiny after a lean tour in which he has scored 42 runs. He also averaged just 21 from 11 first-class innings for Essex earlier in the season. Nevertheless, Petersen has produced under pressure before, having already scored two Test centuries this year to defy his critics and in opening partner Graeme Smith he has the perfect example of how to succeed in England.

Pitch and conditions

After England were severely burned by preparing a dry, dusty pitch at The Oval, there is a definite green tinge to the second track of the series. The forecast for Leeds over the next five days is patchy, with rain and overhead cloud likely to feature, though whether that will benefit England or South Africa more is open to debate.

Team news

England have a rightly praised record of stability in selection so the presence of Taylor, confirmed as Bopara's replacement, may well be the only change. Rotating in one of Steven Finn or Graham Onions - probably for Tim Bresnan - or playing an all-pace attack are other options, though it was against South Africa at Headingley in 2008 that England broke a record, six-Test run of picking the same XI by including Darren Pattinson, so don't rule out a surprise.

England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ian Bell, 6 James Taylor, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn

Vice-captain AB de Villiers doesn't believe South Africa should make any changes to the team that bent England so severely out of shape at The Oval and, with Smith back after completing a round trip home to attend the birth of his daughter, a familiar line-up is expected for the second Test. JP Duminy and Jacques Rudolph, like Petersen, have not spent a great deal of time in the middle but confidence in their ability remains.

South Africa (probable) 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 Jacques Rudolph, 7 JP Duminy, 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir

Stats and trivia

  • England's most recent Test win in Leeds came against West Indies in 2007.
  • South Africa have only lost once in four Tests at Headingley since readmission, winning on their last two visits by 191 runs and 10 wickets.
  • Dale Steyn's seven wickets in the first Test took him past Jacques Kallis to fourth in South Africa's standings, with 279.
  • Kallis' best bowling figures in Tests (6 for 54) came at Headingley in 2003.
  • August 1 is Yorkshire Day, though even that may not be enough to keep Bresnan in the England side.


"There is a steely determination among the troops to show we are better than we were last week. It's going to take a lot of guts but I am confident we have that."
England captain, Andrew Strauss, wants his team to come out fighting

"It's important that we don't get too far ahead. They have the capabilities of beating us and we are trying not to get too caught up in what is going on across the fence."
South Africa captain, Graeme Smith, warns against complacency

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo