India v South Africa, 2nd Test, Kolkata February 12, 2010

Fond memories for Laxman and Harbhajan

Going by past stats at Eden Gardens, VVS Laxman and Harbhajan Singh could be in for more runs and wickets in the second Test against South Africa

After losing comprehensively in Nagpur, India must win in Kolkata not only to level the series, but also to maintain their No.1 spot and take the US$175,000 that will go to the side that is the top-ranked team on April 1. India have come back from a first-Test defeat against South Africa before this, and they'll be pleased that the venue for the second Test is one where they have an excellent recent track record: three wins - including one against South Africa - in the last five Tests, and two draws. Since 1990 they've won five and lost two, which is much better than their overall record at Eden Gardens - eight wins and as many losses in 35 Tests.

The other aspect that stands out about Kolkata's recent games is the number of decisive results - seven of the last nine, which is a healthy percentage of 77.78. Overall, the result percentage is only 45.71, which indicates that the pitches in the last couple of decades have been more favourable for results.

South Africa have a mixed record in the two Tests they've played here - in 1996 they thrashed India by 329 runs, but more recently, in 2004, they lost by eight wickets.

India and South Africa in Tests at the Eden Gardens
  Tests Won Lost Drawn
India, overall 35 8 8 19
South Africa 2 1 1 0
India, since 1990 9 5 2 2

The Indian batting, which struggled to negotiate Dale Steyn and Co in Nagpur, will be bolstered by the return of VVS Laxman. That would be good news at any venue, but even more so in Kolkata, where Laxman has excelled: in eight Tests he has scored 898 runs, which is the highest by any batsman at the venue. Apart from that career-defining 281, Laxman has also scored two more centuries here, both unbeaten ones - 154 against West Indies in 2002 and 112 against Pakistan in the last Test that was played here, in 2007. (Click here for a full list of Laxman's innings in Kolkata.) His three centuries is next only to Mohammad Azharuddin's five, which is the highest at Eden Gardens.

Sachin Tendulkar's stats here are mixed - plenty of half-centuries but only one hundred in 16 innings. In his last six completed innings he has scored at least 20 every time, but only once has he gone on to a century, with his last three innings reading 52, 52, and 82. Dinesh Karthik hasn't done badly in his three Tests here, scoring a vital 93 in the second innings against Pakistan in 2005. Virender Sehwag hasn't scored a hundred in six innings at Eden Gardens, while Gautam Gambhir hasn't passed 50 in four.

Indian batsmen in Tests in Kolkata
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
MS Dhoni 1 87 87.00 0/ 1
VVS Laxman 8 898 81.63 3/ 3
Sachin Tendulkar 9 637 45.50 1/ 5
Virender Sehwag 3 239 39.83 0/ 2
Dinesh Karthik 3 196 39.20 0/ 1
Gautam Gambhir 2 63 15.75 0/ 0

Among the South African batsmen, Jacques Kallis had an excellent game in 2004, scoring 124 and 55,while Graeme Smith managed a half-century in the second innings.

Harbhajan Singh had a poor first Test, but Kolkata should evoke fond memories: in six Tests he has taken 38 wickets, including a Man-of-the-Match performance the last time he played here against South Africa. Considering his last MoM display in Tests came more than four years ago, he is due another such performance. Harbhajan is also only three wickets away from becoming the highest wicket-taker at this venue - Anil Kumble currently leads with 40. Zaheer Khan, though, has had a forgettable time here, taking only six wickets in three Tests, each at a cost of more than 50.

Indian bowlers in Tests in Kolkata
Bowler Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Harbhajan Singh 6 38 23.10 54.1 5/ 1
Zaheer Khan 3 6 51.00 102.0 0/ 0

The composition of the bowling attack is a cause for worry for the Indians, but past stats here indicate pace and spin have done equally well. In Tests since 1990, both average slightly more than 37, and have taken almost the same number of wickets. Javagal Srinath, Kumble and Harbhajan are the only ones with ten-wicket hauls during this period.

Pace and spin at Eden Gardens since 1990
  Wickets Average Stike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Pace 140 37.26 72.6 4/ 1
Spin 134 37.13 77.2 7/ 2

Win the toss and bat has been the mantra here, and with good reason. In the nine Tests since 1990s, the fourth-innings average runs per wicket is significantly lower than the other three innings, with teams folding cheaply: India were bundled out for 137 against South Africa and 232 against Pakistan, while Australia and Pakistan too were dismissed for less than 230.

Innings-wise average runs per wicket in Kolkata since 1990
1st innings 2nd innings 3rd innings 4th innings
39.38 38.54 43.53 25.47

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo