South Africa v England, 3rd Test, Cape Town January 2, 2010

England's worst venue in South Africa

A statistical preview to the third Test in Cape Town, where England have lost all their matches since South Africa's re-entry into the Test fold.

A victory denied by the narrowest of margins in Centurion followed by a brutal hammering in Durban - so far, nothing has gone right for South Africa in this series. Yet, they will believe they can turn the tide as they begin the new year in Cape Town, the venue that has witnessed more South African wins than any other since their re-admission to Test cricket. In addition, it is also the most result-oriented of all South African grounds, with less than one in six matches ending in a draw.

South Africa's record at home since 1992 (Qualification - 10 matches)
Venue Played Won Lost Drawn W/L Ratio Draw/Match Ratio
Newlands, Cape Town 20 14 3 3 4.66 0.15
SuperSport Park, Centurion 15 11 1 3 11.00 0.20
Kingsmead, Durban 18 8 4 6 2.00 0.33
The Wanderers, Johannesburg 20 8 7 5 1.14 0.25
St George's Park, Port Elizabeth 11 4 4 3 1.00 0.27

Given their recent form, the likelihood of a result should please England more than South Africa and they will entertain thoughts of wrapping up the series at Newlands. However, if the visitors are in need of an antidote against complacency, they need not look beyond their record here - Newlands is easily their worst Test venue in South Africa since 1992.

England's performance in South African venues since 1992
Venue Played Won Lost Drawn
St. George's Park, Port Elizabeth 3 1 0 2
SuperSport Park, Centurion 4 1 0 3
The Wanderers, Johannesburg 3 1 1 1
Kingsmead, Durban 4 1 0 3
Newlands, Cape Town 3 0 3 0

In addition, England should also be wary of the trend followed in their duels with South Africa in the recent past. Momentum was a redundant factor between these sides in the first decade of the 21st century, when there were only two instances of back-to-back victories for either team, and only once in the same series. England should expect a strong backlash from the hosts in Cape Town.

Historically, Newlands has been a wonderful venue for Test cricket. Out of the 44 matches played here, 18 have been won by teams batting first and the exact same number by teams that batted second. The track has traditionally remained good through the course of the match, a fundamental pre-requisite to take the toss out of the equation. However, since 2000, the trend has taken a curious turn and batting first has resulted in success only twice in the eleven matches that have ended decisively. The driving factor for this has been that while the pitch has eased out considerably since 2000, it has been comparatively much more batsman-friendly during the second and fourth innings of the match. These stats will offer the team winning the toss a compelling reason to insert the opposition.

Variation in batting averages between match innings in Cape Town
Innings of the match Overall average Average since 2000 % variation
First 34.15 32.48 -4.89%
Second 30.19 40.30 33.49%
Third 25.92 28.17 8.68%
Fourth 30.06 44.45 47.87%

South Africa's comeback bid in the series will be led by their batsmen, all of whom have done extremely well here. Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith lead the run-charts, while AB de Villiers will be eager to improve his average. Kallis will have fond memories of the last time he faced England here, when he scored over 200 runs in a match-winning performance. Andrew Strauss is the only English survivor from that match and was guilty of throwing away starts in both innings.

Current South Africa and England batsmen in Cape Town
Player Innings Runs Average 100s 50s
Jacques Kallis 25 1448 65.81 5 8
Graeme Smith 17 904 53.17 2 6
Mark Boucher 17 612 43.71 1 3
Ashwell Prince 12 584 73.00 2 2
AB de Villiers 13 383 31.91 1 1
Hashim Amla 10 377 37.70 1 1
Andrew Strauss 2 84 42.00 0 0

While two poor matches have put Makhaya Ntini almost out of contention for this Test, his Cape Town record harks back to his glory years. He has taken more wickets here than anyone else and is comfortably ahead of Jacques Kallis among current players. Dale Steyn has a fantastic average and strike rate here and South Africa will desperately want him to maintain those numbers.

Current South Africa bowlers at Cape Town
Bowler Innings Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI
Makhaya Ntini 26 53 29.09 50.8 0
Jacques Kallis 30 36 29.91 60.4 1
Dale Steyn 10 27 21.14 40.1 0
Paul Harris 7 17 25.88 57.2 1

Graeme Swann has had a fantastic series till now, but going by history, he and Paul Harris might not have a very fruitful Test with the ball. Spinners have traditionally struggled to make an impact in Newlands, averaging nearly eight runs more per wicket than fast bowlers.

Pace v spin in Cape Town since 8 March 2002
Bowling style Innings Runs Wickets Average
Pace 40 8489 253 33.55
Spin 38 3568 86 41.48
Mixture 5 85 0 -

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at Cricinfo