Sri Lanka v England, 3rd Test, Galle December 17, 2007

Murali's favourite venue

Stats preview for the third Test between Sri Lanka and England in Galle

If the weather clears up sufficiently and stays that way over the next five days, Sri Lanka will fancy their chances of wrapping up a 2-0 series verdict in Galle, which is hosting a Test for the first time since the tsunami completely destroyed the ground nearly three years ago. In the 11 Tests played here, Sri Lanka have won six and lost just two, the last defeat coming against Australia in 2004. England's experiences here haven't been pleasant: they were thrashed by an innings in 2000-01, and just about managed to hold on to a draw in 2003-04, thanks to their last-wicket pair.

As in any home venue, Muttiah Muralitharan has helped himself to a bagful of wickets at the Galle International Stadium as well - in 11 games he has an incredible 87 wickets at an average of 16.14.

Muralitharan at each home venue
Venue Tests Wickets Average 5WI/ 10WM
Kandy 16 117 16.02 11/ 5
Galle 11 87 16.14 10/ 4
Premadasa, Colombo 6 36 21.13 4/ 0
SSC, Colombo 22 149 21.26 12/ 3
Saravanamuttu, Colombo 8 47 23.00 4/ 2
Moratuwa 3 11 25.72 1/ 0

Muralitharan leads the spin charge at the ground: the slow bowlers average 27.68 per wicket here, with 16 five-fors and five ten-fors. If the pitch behaves anything like it used to three years ago, Steve Harmison and Co might not relish it much; fast bowlers average 40.68 per wicket here, with Javagal Srinath and Dilhara Fernando being the only ones to take a five-for here. Even Chaminda Vaas, who is usually so effective in home conditions, has only managed 19 wickets from ten Tests at more than 37 apiece.

Among the batsmen, Mahela Jayawardene has been a star here as well. England were at the receiving end of his artistry last week in Colombo, where Jayawardene scored 195; the last time he played in Galle, he did even better, scoring 237 out of a first-innings total of 486 against South Africa. In all, his 11 Tests here have fetched him 1176 runs, at an average of 84. Kumar Sangakkara has had plenty of success here as well, with two hundreds and an average of more than 54.

Like you'd expect in the subcontinent, teams winning the toss have almost always batted first here - the only exception was in 2001, when Sanath Jayasuriya put India in to bat. The move worked too - India were bowled out for 187, and Sri Lanka ended up with a comfortable ten-wicket win.

The table below shows why batting first is the preferred option - teams average 36 runs per wicket in the first innings; by the time the fourth innings comes around, the average drops to 20.5

Average runs per wicket for each innings in Galle
1st 2nd 3rd 4th
36.0 35.7 26.9 20.5

S Rajesh is stats editor at Cricinfo