South Africa v England, 1st Test, Centurion December 15, 2009

England look to dent SA stronghold

Stats preview to the first Test in Centurion, where South Africa have won 11 matches and lost only one

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.

South Africa's won-lost ratio at home venues (Qual: 10 Tests)
Venue Played Won/ lost Ratio
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.

Tests between South Africa and England
  Played Eng won SA won Drawn
Overall 134 55 28 51
Overall in South Africa 73 28 17 28
Since 1990 32 9 10 13
Since 1990 in South Africa 15 3 4 8
In Centurion 3 1 0 2

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.

South African batsmen in Centurion
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
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.

South African bowlers in Centurion
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.

Pace and spin in Centurion since 2000
  Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Pace 257 28.85 52.0 10/ 2
Spin 30 50.90 102.4 1/ 0

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.

Average runs per wicket in each innings in Centurion since 2000
1st innings 2nd innings 3rd innings 4th innings
33.29 37.50 25.38 25.40

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo