England v South Africa, 3rd Investec Test, Lord's August 15, 2012

A favourite ground for England's batsmen

Kevin Pietersen's absence will be a huge blow, but the rest of England's current batsmen also have superb records at Lord's

England haven't lost their last 13 Tests at Lord's, winning six and drawing seven; South Africa haven't lost here since their readmission, winning three out of four; at stake is the No. 1 ranking in Tests, which England can retain only if they win; then there's the small matter of Andrew Strauss' 100th Test match, and his 50th as captain; and the Kevin Pietersen saga, which has forced England to go into a must-win game without their best batsman … a Lord's Test is usually the highlight of the English season but, given all the events surrounding the match and what rides on it, there's even greater significance this time around. So can South Africa handle the pressure of a high-stakes game and come out on top, or will England regroup after all their off-field controversies?

Despite all that has happened in the last week, Andrew Strauss and company should like the fact that they've returned to Lord's for this important clash. Lord's used to be a high-scoring, draw-friendly venue not very long ago - it hosted six consecutive drawn games from 2006 to 2008 - but in the last eight Tests, there have been seven results, and only one draw. England have won six out of seven, and though some of the opponents haven't been top-class - three of England's six wins have been against West Indies and Bangladesh - they've also beaten Australia, Pakistan and India.

Lord's has generally been a good ground to bat first, and that's been even more apparent in these last seven years: five of England's six wins have come when batting first. (Click here for the results at Lord's since 2006.) On four of those five occasions, though, they've lost the toss and been asked to bat first, only to respond with first-innings scores of 446 (versus Pakistan), 377 (West Indies), 505 (Bangladesh) and 474 (India). The overall innings-wise runs per wicket during this period suggests batting first is the best option here.

Runs per wicket in Tests at Lord's since 2006
Period 1st inngs 2nd inngs 3rd inngs 4th inngs Overall
2006-2008 (6 Tests) 58.33 30.68 46.84 45.00 44.16
2009 onwards (8 Tests) 41.14 25.42 34.47 36.77 34.05

South Africa will be pleased on two counts that they won't have to bowl at Pietersen: he has been England's best batsman in the series so far, with 219 runs at 54.75, but he also has a tremendous record at Lord's. In 23 innings there, he has 1228 runs at 61.40, with five hundreds, including an unbeaten 202 against India last year, and 152 when he last played South Africa here in 2008. The good news for England is that the rest of their batsmen have terrific records as well at this ground, with Strauss, Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad all averaging more than 50 in Tests at Lord's. Trott has scored at least a half-century in each of his five Tests at this ground.

England's batsmen at Lord's
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Andrew Strauss 17 1541 55.03 5/ 6
Kevin Pietersen 14 1228 61.40 5/ 3
Alastair Cook 13 1078 51.33 3/ 7
Ian Bell 11 858 66.00 3/ 5
Jonathan Trott 5 669 83.62 2/ 3
Matt Prior 9 662 55.16 3/ 2
Stuart Broad 8 465 51.67 1/ 3

On the other hand, South Africa's top batsman, Jacques Kallis, has had meagre returns here: in three innings at Lord's, he has scored 20 runs. The batting hero for South Africa here has been their captain, Graeme Smith, who has scores of 259, 8 and 107 in his three innings. Smith is one of only three batsmen - Graham Gooch and Don Bradman are the others - to notch up 250-plus scores in a Lord's Test.

Like their batsmen, most of England's bowlers have done well here too. James Anderson has consistently been among the wickets and took a five-for against India last year. Broad claimed 11 wickets and the Man-of-the-Match award in his most recent bowling performance here, against West Indies earlier this season. Graeme Swann has had a fair amount of success here too, with 27 wickets in seven Tests.

The only bowler among the current lot who has struggled here is Tim Bresnan: in three Tests against relatively weak batting teams, Bresnan has taken five wickets at 66. With Bresnan struggling for wickets in this series as well, and with Steven Finn and Graham Onions doing well at Lord's in their limited opportunities, there could be a case for England to leave out Bresnan this time around, especially because both Finn and Onions also have good stats at Lord's in recent county games. Since playing against Sri Lanka here last year, Finn has taken 26 wickets in five first-class matches at Lord's, at an average of 18, while Onions took 10 for 73 against Middlesex at this ground in April.

England bowlers in Tests at Lord's
Bowler Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
James Anderson 11 46 28.10 59.8 3/ 0
Stuart Broad 8 36 27.75 51.4 1/ 1
Graeme Swann 7 27 24.62 51.8 1/ 0
Steven Finn 3 17 22.76 36.3 1/ 0
Graham Onions 2 10 19.30 24.9 1/ 0
Tim Bresnan 3 5 66.00 136.0 0/ 0

The choice of third fast bowler might be uncertain, but it's clear that Swann will certainly play, after missing out at Headingley. In the last eight Tests here since the beginning of 2009, spinners have done reasonably well, averaging 36.88, compared to the fast bowlers' average of 32.43.

Fast bowlers and spinners at Lord's since 2009
Bowler type Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Fast/ medium fast 8 198 32.43 57.2 10/ 1
Spin 8 62 36.88 66.6 2/ 0

The last time South Africa played here, their bowlers didn't have such a happy time: England batted only once and declared at 593 for 8. Dale Steyn had figures of 1 for 117 while Morne Morkel did a little better, taking 4 for 121. South Africa were forced to follow on, but ultimately saved the Test comfortably, scoring 393 for 3 in their second innings. A similar result this time around will suit the visitors perfectly, for it will mean they'll take over as the No. 1 team in Test cricket.

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