Spinners thrive but South Africa struggle in Durban
The second Test at Durban will give India a good opportunity to secure their first series win in South Africa. Kingsmead has been the Achilles heel for an otherwise strong South Africa Test side at home in the recent past. Their overall win-loss record at home in the last five years belies the strength of their side. Since 2009, South Africa have lost six of their 21 Tests at home. Their win-loss ratio of 1.83 is ordinary - four teams have a better win-loss record playing at home than South Africa. India tops this table, having won 17 and lost three Tests, with a win-loss ratio of 5.66.
However, four of the six losses that South Africa have had at home during this period, have come at Kingsmead. They have lost to four different teams at this venue. Two of them have been teams from the subcontinent - not the strongest opposition when playing away from home. India beat South Africa by 87 runs in a low-scoring Test the last time these two teams played at Kingsmead in 2010. In 2011, Sri Lanka sprung a surprise by routing the hosts by 208 runs - their first and only Test win in South Africa.
Only Bangladesh, in Mirpur and Chittagong, have lost these many, or more, at a home venue since 2009. Take Kingsmead out of the equation, and South Africa's home record reads much better - 11 wins and 2 losses in 17 games - a win-loss record of 5.5.
In each of the last four Tests, South Africa had one innings when they were bowled out for a below-par score - 138 all out against Australia, 131 all out against India, 168 all out against Sri Lanka, and 133 all out against England.
On three of those occasions, South Africa fielded first, and had to do most of their first-innings batting on the second day of the Test. Conditions have generally been challenging for batsmen at Kingsmead and more so on the second day. South Africa have managed to score an average of 16 runs per wicket on the second day and opposition teams have done worse, scoring just 12 runs per wicket. South Africa's scores on the second day of these Tests read - 138 for 7 against Australia, 131 all out against India, and 168 all out against Sri Lanka. The only exception was the Test against England, when South Africa batted first and scored 168 runs for the loss of their last-five wickets on a rain-affected second day and England scored 103 for 1 in their first innings. In this Test though, South Africa's collapse came in the second innings.
|Day||Ave Runs||Ave Wkts||Ave Runs/Wkt|
* Only 64.1 overs were totally bowled on the fifth day of the two Tests that lasted upto day five - against Australia and England
In South Africa, pitches are generally conducive for fast bowling and, as Johannesburg showed, not as supportive for spinners. However, Kingsmead has been an exception. Among venues outside the subcontinent since 2000, spinners have averaged 29.68 at this venue, the second-best among all venues after Kingston, Jamaica, where they average a fraction of a run more. It hasn't been all about worn down pitches on the fourth and fifth day, either. Of the 40 wickets taken by spinners in the last four matches at Kingsmead, 19 have come in the first innings, and 11 of them have been taken on the second day of the Test. All 11 of these have been South Africa batsmen, and the fact that the South Africans have had to face up to some quality spin bowlers like Graeme Swann, Harbhajan Singh and Rangana Herath, in helpful conditions, hasn't helped their cause.
That the South Africa batsmen have had if difficult at Kingsmead is evident from the fact that among all grounds they have played Tests in since 2009, their top order averages the least at this venue. South Africa batsmen haven't hit a hundred in their last four Tests at this venue but have scored nine fifties, which suggests they haven't been able to capitalise on their starts. Overall though, their record is much better with Jacques Kallis (4 hundreds), AB de Villiers (1) and Graeme Smith (1) having hit centuries at the venue. Kallis has scored 1151 runs at 47.95 at Kingsmead, followed by de Villiers, who has 587 runs at 45.15. Hashim Amla, however, is yet to make an impression at his home ground. He's scored only 276 runs at 21.23 in Durban from 13 innings. Of these, in three innings he's got out for a duck.
|AB de Villiers||15||587||103*||45.15||1||5|
South Africa's top-order batsmen have scored 1295 runs at 24.9 in the last four Tests, including six ducks. In contrast, overseas top-order batsmen haven't done badly, scoring 2018 runs at 42.93, including seven hundreds and eight fifties. In spite of having world-class fast bowling in their ranks, South Africa haven't been able to stifle the opposition batsmen - suggesting that lack of quality spin-bowling has been the difference between them and their opposition at Kingsmead in recent times.
Shiva Jayaraman is a sub-editor (stats) at ESPNcricinfo.com