England look to dent SA stronghold
Requiring to win at least by a two-Test margin to regain their No.1 ranking, South Africa could have done much worse than play their first Test against England in Centurion. It's a venue where the home team has had astonishing success over the last decade and a half: South Africa have played 14 Tests here, and won 11 of those. Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe have all tried to stop South Africa at this venue, and they've all failed miserably. Of their 11 wins, four have been by an innings, one by ten wickets and one by 351 runs. They've won each of their last five Tests, three by an innings.
Among their home venues where they've played at least ten Tests, the Supersport Park is easily their best - they have a win-loss ratio of 11, which is well clear of all the other venues.
|Supersport Park, Centurion||14||11/ 1||11.00|
|Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg||31||12/ 9||1.33|
|Kingsmead, Durban||36||13/ 10||1.30|
|Newlands, Cape Town||44||17/ 19||0.89|
|Old Wanderers, Johannesburg||22||7/ 8||0.87|
|St George's Park, Port Elizabeth||23||8/ 11||0.72|
One team, though, hasn't been bullied by South Africa in Centurion. England have played three Tests here, and haven't been beaten, winning once and drawing twice. The win, in 2000, was admittedly a manufactured result in a match badly affected by rain - both teams forfeited an innings each, making it a bizarre one-innings Test, in which England prevailed by two wickets. The two other Tests were affected by rain too - in 1995 the last three days were completely washed out, while in 2005 there was no play on the first day.
Going by their head-to-head record in the last couple of decades, this one should be another close, hard-fought series. Since returning to the Test fold, South Africa have a 10-9 edge over England, with a similar 4-3 advantage at home. During this period South Africa have won three series out of seven, with two going England's way and two being drawn. So close have the contests been that no team has won successive series during this period, a stat that bodes well for England.
|Played||Eng won||SA won||Drawn|
|Overall in South Africa||73||28||17||28|
|Since 1990 in South Africa||15||3||4||8|
Most of the South African batsmen from the current squad have good records here, as you'd expect in a team which has won so often. Hashim Amla leads the way: in four innings in Centurion his lowest score is an unbeaten 64, while the average is 103. Ashwell Prince has an excellent conversion percentage here - he has gone past 50 thrice, and converted them all into centuries, though two of those came against the lesser might of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Jacques Kallis has been consistency personified, with eight 50-plus scores in 13 Tests. The biggest disappointment here has been their captain, Graeme Smith - in 13 innings he has managed just one fifty-plus score, and an average of less than 30. It's his worst average at a home ground where he has played at least ten innings.
|Hashim Amla||3||309||103.00||1/ 3|
|Ashwell Prince||6||497||82.83||3/ 0|
|Jacques Kallis||13||911||60.73||3/ 5|
|AB de Villiers||6||421||46.77||1/ 2|
|Mark Boucher||12||479||34.21||2/ 1|
|Graeme Smith||8||359||29.91||1/ 0|
The two leading fast bowlers have had plenty of success here too - Dale Steyn and Makhaya Ntini both average less than 20. It's quite fitting too that Ntini will complete his century of Tests in Centurion - in nine Tests here he has taken 52 wickets, which is only one short of the most wickets he has taken at any ground. He has 53 in Cape Town and Johannesburg, but he will hope to have a few more than that in Centurion by the time his 100th Test is done.
|Bowler||Tests||Wickets||Average||Strike rate||5WI/ 10WM|
|Dale Steyn||3||18||18.67||28.3||2/ 1|
|Makhaya Ntini||9||52||19.75||37.8||4/ 1|
|Jacques Kallis||13||29||25.41||50.9||0/ 0|
Overall, fast bowlers have done much better at this ground since 2000, taking almost 90% of the wickets at a much better average than the spinners. The only spinner to take a five-for here during this period is Bangladesh's Shakib-Al-Hasan, while fast bowlers have taken ten five-fors.
|Wickets||Average||Strike rate||5WI/ 10WM|
The toss hasn't been much of a factor in Tests here in this decade, with five out of nine decisive games going in favour of the team which lost the toss. The innings-wise average runs per wicket too indicates there isn't much to choose between the first innings average and those in the second innings.
|1st innings||2nd innings||3rd innings||4th innings|
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo