England batsmen lord it at Lord's
Since South Africa's readmission into international cricket, there's been little to separate them from England in Tests: in six series since 1994, both sides have won twice, while two series were drawn. In all four series which had a decisive winner, the difference was never more than one Test victory. All indications are that the four-Test series which starts on Thursday will be as close.
Overall, England have the superior record, with 54 wins and less than half the number of defeats in 130 matches. The numbers over the last 14 years are a lot closer, though: each has won eight matches, England have a slight edge at home, but South Africa have clearly relished the opportunity to play at Lord's the venue of the first Test. In all three Tests here since 1994, they have thrashed England by significant margins: 356 runs, ten wickets, and an innings and 92 runs.
|Eng won||SA won||Draw|
|In England since 1994||5||4||4|
|At Lord's since 1994||0||3||0|
South Africa's biggest strength is their pace attack, but the batting - despite the presence of the formidable Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith - doesn't appear quite as powerful on paper. Smith will have plenty of pleasant memories of playing against England - he averages almost 55 against them and amassed 714 runs from five matches when he toured here in 2003 - while Kallis and AB de Villiers have a fine record against them as well, but the rest have struggled. Hashim Amla will want to improve on rather embarrassing stats, while Ashwell Prince hasn't yet played a Test against England.
Even Kallis' numbers are skewed: he has clearly been a much stronger force with the bat when he has played England at home. In South Africa, he has scored four hundreds against them in 12 Tests and averages a superb 54.70. In England, though, that average drops to a modest 37.07, with only one century in 13 innings. In fact, the last time South Africa toured England, Kallis had a disappointing time, scoring just 188 runs from six innings.
|Graeme Smith||10||983||54.61||2/ 4|
|Jacques Kallis||20||1412||47.06||5/ 6|
|AB de Villiers||5||362||40.22||1/ 2|
|Neil McKenzie||3||190||31.67||0/ 1|
|Mark Boucher||17||662||30.09||1/ 3|
|Hashim Amla||2||36||9.00||0/ 0|
Just as their most experienced batsman has been less than prolific in England, so has their most experienced bowler struggled here. Makhaya Ntini's overall stats against England are respectable, 54 wickets at 30.57, but like Kallis, most of his success against them has come at home. In seven Tests in England, Ntini's average goes up to more than 35; in contrast, his 25 home wickets against them have only cost him 25.08 apiece.
The two teams last played a Test series in 2005, but only two England batsmen from that tour are still around: Andrew Strauss had an outstanding series, scoring 656 runs at almost 73. Michael Vaughan, though, has very modest numbers against them - despite playing 14 Tests, he is still 232 runs adrift of the 1000-run mark, and has only managed one century in 27 innings.
Kevin Pietersen, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood haven't yet played a Test against South Africa.
|Andrew Strauss||5||656||72.88||3/ 1|
|Michael Vaughan||14||768||30.72||1/ 3|
South Africa's pace battery will test England's top order, but they can take plenty of confidence from their record at Lord's. Each of their top six average more than 50 at this ground, with Pietersen leading the way, averaging more than 72. Equally encouraging is their ability to convert fifties into hundreds here: Vaughan sits on top with six centuries and only two fifties. Among them, the top six have amassed 18 hundreds here.
|Kevin Pietersen||6||650||72.22||3/ 2|
|Andrew Strauss||9||915||61.00||3/ 4|
|Alastair Cook||5||482||60.25||2/ 3|
|Michael Vaughan||11||972||57.17||6/ 2|
|Ian Bell||6||364||52.00||2/ 1|
|Paul Collingwood||5||401||50.12||2/ 1|
Those are extremely impressive numbers, but part of the reason for the high scores is also the conditions at Lord's, which have been extremely batsman-friendly lately: the last five Tests here have all ended in draws, while only one of the 12 previous games since 2000 had resulted in a stalemate. In these last five matches, teams have averaged 42 runs per wicket, and the going has been especially good in the first innings, in which teams score 55 runs per wicket. Of the 16 centuries scored in these Tests, 13 have been by England batsmen. England's opening partnership has been especially prolific during this period, with an average stand of 68.
Among England's bowlers, James Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom have enjoyed the conditions here: Anderson averages 25.42 for his 19 wickets, while Sidebottom has been equally impressive in his three Tests.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo