ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

England v South Africa, Group B, World Cup 2011, Chennai

England bank on recent head-to-head record

England have won their last two bilateral series against South Africa, but most of the other stats suggest Graeme Smith and Co should win this one

S Rajesh

March 5, 2011

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Dale Steyn appeals successfully for an lbw against M Vijay, South Africa v India, 1st ODI, Durban, January 12, 2011
Not quite top stuff: Dale Steyn has taken four wickets in eight ODIs at an average of 88.25 and an economy rate of 6.41 against England © AFP

South Africa go in to Sunday's match against England as overwhelming favourites, which is as it should be given the form of the two teams in the tournament. However, Graeme Smith and Co will be wary of the fact that England have given them problems in bilateral ODI series in the recent past, winning the last two: 4-0 in 2008, and 2-1 in 2009-10. Thanks to those results, England are one of only three sides to have won more games than they've lost against South Africa since 2000; Australia and Sri Lanka are the others.

Those are some stats that will cheer England, but they don't have much else going their way - they've been poor with the ball, struggling to contain even the Associate teams, and their recent World Cup record against South Africa isn't so good either. After beating them twice in 1992 - including the semi-final - England have lost in 1996 (78 runs), 1999 (122 runs) and 2007 (nine wickets). Five of England's current top-order batsmen were in that side which was bundled out for 154 by South Africa's fast bowlers in Barbados in 2007. Andrew Strauss (46), Paul Collingwood (30) and Ravi Bopara (27 not out) offered some resistance, but Graeme Smith (89 not out from 58 balls) and AB de Villiers (42 from 35) blazed past that target in less than 20 overs.

England have also lost both times in the subcontinent - South Africa beat them in the 1996 World Cup in Rawalpindi and in the 1998 Champions Trophy in Dhaka - but Sunday's game will be the first between the two teams in India.

England v South Africa in ODIs
  ODIs Eng won SA won
Overall 44 18 23
Since 2000 26 12 11
In World Cups 5 2 3

South Africa's batsmen have had it all their way in two matches so far, averaging 6.18 runs per over. Most of their top batsmen have excellent records in India, but some of them haven't done so well against England. Jacques Kallis, in particular, has a disappointing record against them, averaging less than 33 in 37 innings, with only one century. Similarly de Villiers hasn't done too well in his 14 matches, but the recent form of all these players has been quite terrific, which is what will give the team the most confidence.

South African batsmen v England, and in India
Batsman v Eng - ODIs Average Strike rate in India - ODIs Average Strike rate
Jacques Kallis 37 32.46 65.34 17 50.08 74.75
Graeme Smith 18 45.43 87.80 10 38.33 84.97
AB de Villiers 14 25.00 79.07 10 86.14 107.10
Hashim Amla 6 237 47.40 4 62.00 91.85
JP Duminy 9 141 17.62 3 41.00 118.84

Among England's batsmen, Kevin Pietersen has been the stand-out name with an outstanding record against South Africa, and in India. His recent record doesn't inspire as much confidence, though, despite a couple of promising innings in the World Cup so far: in his last 25 innings since the beginning of 2009, he averages 23.96, with only two half-centuries. Strauss, Jonathan Trott, Bell and Collingwood have all done much better. (Click here for the records of all England batsmen since January 2009.)

England batsmen v South Africa, and in India
Batsman v SA - ODIs Average Strike rate in India - ODIs Average Strike rate
Kevin Pietersen 16 71.55 101.09 16 54.50 91.70
Paul Collingwood 16 40.60 85.47 23 30.05 78.97
Andrew Strauss 12 22.45 65.51 12 51.81 85.71
Ian Bell 10 30.33 67.91 12 36.83 80.07
Jonathan Trott 3 74.00 70.47 3 56.67 96.59

Like South Africa's top batsman, their top bowler has also performed quite poorly against England: in eight ODIs against them, Dale Steyn has taken a mere four wickets, averaging 88.25 runs per wicket, and 6.41 runs per over. It's easily his poorest display against any team.

If South Africa's best fast bowler has struggled against England, then England's top fast man has found the going extremely tough in India. James Anderson concedes more than 57 runs per wicket in India, and has only managed two scalps in his last eight innings in the country. Graeme Swann has been more successful at taking wickets, and he'll probably again be a key member of the England bowling attack on Sunday.

The venue for this day game is the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, a venue which has hosted only five such matches in the past. One of them was the World Cup game between New Zealand and Kenya, in which Kenya were bundled out for 69. The last day game before that match was way back in 1994.

Since 2000, Chennai have only hosted six completed ODIs, which means there isn't much data to look at trends. In those six games, four have been won by the team chasing, with teams averaging 5.35 runs per over when batting first, and 5.89 in the second innings. There isn't a whole lot to choose between the performances of fast bowlers and spinners either, in those games: spin has averaged 31.31 at an economy rate of 5.17, and fast bowlers have managed an average of 29.17 at an economy rate of 5.53.

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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