England v Australia, 2nd Test, Edgbaston
August 3, 2005
A win-the-toss-and-bowl venue
What the numbers say about Edgbaston the Test venue
Shane Warne: five away from a century of Test wickets in England
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If Lord's was the perfect venue for Australia to start off their Ashes campaign, then Edgbaston might not be a bad one for England to mount a fightback. In 40 Tests here, England have won 20 and suffered just seven losses, while Australia have lost four and won three. The last time the two teams met at this ground, though, the result was a predictable one - Adam Gilchrist scored a century, Shane Warne took eight wickets in the match, and Australia romped home by an innings.
Whichever way the match goes, it's unlikely to end in a stalemate, unless the weather intervenes - in the last 11 Tests, only two finished in draws, and both involved South Africa. During this period, Australia have played here three times, winning twice and losing once.
Australia have mostly believed in choosing to bat when they win the toss, but it'll be interesting to observe what Ricky Ponting does if the coin spins his way on Thursday - in 13 Tests since 1991, only once has the team batting first gone on to win. England's win against West Indies last year broke a sequence of nine decisive matches which were all won by the team fielding first. The Australians experienced the perils of batting first at this venue too, when Mark Taylor's team were bundled out for 118 in 1997. They fought back gamely in their second innings, posting 477, but by then the match had been lost.
The first three days are clearly the best for batsmen at this ground: since 2000, the average runs per wicket for the first two innings are 47.53 and 46.63, but this slips to 25.56 and 30.18 over the last two innings of the match.
Edgbaston might also be the best opportunity for Marcus Trescothick to prove that he is capable of taking runs off the Australians in a Test. Trescothick, whose career average against Australia is a miserable 28.63, has scored three centuries in four Tests here and averages 88.66, while his aggregate of 532 runs puts him in seventh place among the all-time top run-getters at this ground. (Click here for the highest run-scorers in Tests at Edgbaston, and here for other stats, like highest and lowest totals, centuries, etc, related to this venue.)
If Lord's was Glenn McGrath's lair, then Edgbaston has been a happy hunting ground for Shane Warne - in three Tests he has nabbed 15 wickets at 25.46, including two five-fors. If he continues that rate of five wickets per match here, then by Monday he will have reached another milestone, that of 100 Test wickets in England. For McGrath, though, Birmingham hasn't been so kind - only six scalps from two games at 41.67. That's one record he'll want to set straight over the next five days.
S Rajesh is assistant editor of Cricinfo
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