South Africa v England, 2nd Test, Durban December 24, 2009

A stalemate-jinxed venue for England

A statistical preview to the second Test in Durban, where England have managed to draw each of their last three matches.

The Centurion match was the second consecutive Test series opener England managed to salvage from the jaws of defeat. On the previous occasion, the Cardiff thriller was followed by a fluent win at Lord's that set the tone for an Ashes triumph. This time however, the odds of England following up the Houdini-act with victory are not favourable, going by their stats in Durban, the venue for the second Test. In three attempts, England are yet to win a Test here since South Africa's readmission to Test cricket. Each one of those Tests ended in a draw, making Durban the only South African venue where England has tasted neither victory nor defeat during this period.

England's record in South African venues since 1992
Venue Matches Won Lost Draw
St. George's Park, Port Elizabeth 3 1 0 2
SuperSport Park, Centurion 4 1 0 3
Wanderers, Johannesberg 3 1 1 1
Kingsmead, Durban 3 0 0 3
Newlands, Cape Town 3 0 3 0

Keeping with the trend seen around the world, the pitch at Kingsmead has lost its venom over the years and become a good batting track. Back in 1996, the South African fast bowlers shot out India for 100 and 66 in the two innings. Things have changed since, and in this decade batsmen have found the going much easier, averaging nearly six runs more than they did in the nineties.

Durban over the years
Span Matches Runs Wickets Average RPO
1992-1999 8 6439 231 27.87 2.57
2000-2009 9 9794 290 33.77 3.28

Graeme Smith was a grumpy man after Centurion, and with good reason. While Centurion was the hosts' best ground in terms of win-loss ratio, Durban is where South Africa have played out most draws since their re-entry into the Test fold - six in all, including the three against England.

South Africa's record at home since 1992
Venue Matches Won Lost Draw W/L Ratio
Kingsmead, Durban 17 8 3 6 2.66
Newlands, Cape Town 20 14 3 3 4.66
St. George's Park, Port Elizabeth 11 4 4 3 1.00
SuperSport Park, Centurion 15 11 1 3 11.00
Wanderers, Johannesburg 20 8 7 5 1.14

While the 1995 Test was washed out by rain, the two that followed were hard-fought draws where one side had to dig deep and produce something special with their backs against the wall. In the 1999-2000 season, the hosts found their go-to man in Gary Kirsten, who batted nearly 15 hours to save the match after being asked to follow on. Five years later, the pedigree and mental resilience of three left-handed English batsmen in the second innings almost gave them victory despite being shot out for under 150 in the first innings. Only one of those three is in the current squad - Andrew Strauss will look to draw from that experience and guide his batsmen, none of whom have featured in a Durban Test.

The hosts, on the other hand, have enjoyed batting at Kingsmead. Jacques Kallis tops the charts with over 1000 runs, including four centuries. AB de Villiers and Ashwell Prince have also done well, whereas Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla will want to improve on their records here.

South African batsmen in Durban
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s 50s
Jacques Kallis 20 1046 58.11 4 4
Mark Boucher 17 421 28.06 1 4
AB de Villiers 9 408 58.28 1 3
Graeme Smith 13 352 32.00 1 1
Ashwell Prince 7 332 55.33 2 0
Hashim Amla 7 114 16.28 0 0
JP Duminy 2 90 90.00 0 1

South Africa have decided to retain Makhaya Ntini, irrespective of Dale Steyn's availability, and with good reason. Among current bowlers, Ntini has the best record in Durban with 43 wickets at a shade over 25. Steyn himself has had reasonable success here and the hosts will hope that his hamstring recovers in time for the match.

South African bowlers in Durban
Bowler Innings Wickets Average 5WI
Makhaya Ntini 18 43 25.53 2
Jacques Kallis 20 18 35.38 0
Dale Steyn 6 14 28.28 1

Spinners from both sides exerted a telling influence in Centurion and should expect to do the same in Durban. Spin has been every bit as successful as pace at this venue since 1992.

Pace vs spin in Durban since 1992
Bowling style Innings Runs Wickets Average
Pace 30 7039 207 34.00
Spin 25 1723 48 35.89
Unknown 4 103 2 51.50

Durban is in fact the best South African venue for spin in terms of average runs conceded per wicket. If Graeme Swann and Paul Harris are to make a decisive contribution in this series, this is the place where they are most likely to do so.

Spin at various Test venues in South Africa since 1992 (Qualification: 20 wickets)
Venue Innings Runs Wickets Average
Newlands, Cape Town 38 3568 86 41.48
Kingsmead, Durban 25 1723 48 35.89
SuperSport Park, Centurion 27 1844 42 43.90
The Wanderers, Johannesburg 27 1389 32 43.40
St. George's Park, Port Elizabeth 15 868 24 36.16

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at Cricinfo