England's worst venue in South Africa
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.
|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|
|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.
|St. George's Park, Port Elizabeth||3||1||0||2|
|SuperSport Park, Centurion||4||1||0||3|
|The Wanderers, Johannesburg||3||1||1||1|
|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.
|Innings of the match||Overall average||Average since 2000||% variation|
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.
|AB de Villiers||13||383||31.91||1||1|
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.
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.
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at Cricinfo