Cricket Statistics: Is England vs. Sri Lanka Set for a Headingley Blow-Out?

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Cricket Statistics: Is England vs. Sri Lanka Set for a Headingley Blow-Out?
Gareth Copley/Getty Images

After fighting out a nail-biting draw in the first Test of the summer at Lord's, England and Sri Lanka head north to visit Headingley for the second encounter of their two-match series this week.

In London, little separated the outfits led by Alastair Cook and Angelo Mathews, both teams posting large first-innings totals on a pitch that offered next to nothing for the bowlers.

Yet, traditionally, Headingley is vastly different.

A venue renowned for its large variance in playing conditions depending upon the overhead cloud, the famous old ground in Leeds has routinely been the stage for blow-out results at Test level.

Last year, England cruised past New Zealand by 247 runs, while the last Ashes Test played at Headingley was won by Australia by an innings and 80 runs in 2009.

Examining the complete list of results that have transpired in Leeds since 1993 reveals that lopsided matches have become something of a trend at the venue.

England's Test Results at Headingley Since 1993
Year Opponent Result Margin
1993 Australia Loss Innings & 148 runs
1994 South Africa Draw -
1995 West Indies Loss 9 wickets
1996 Pakistan Draw -
1997 Australia Loss Innings & 61 runs
1998 South Africa Won 23 runs
2000 West Indies Won Innings & 39 runs
2001 Australia Won 6 wickets
2002 India Lost Innings & 46 runs
2003 South Africa Lost 191 runs
2004 New Zealand Won 9 wickets
2006 Pakistan Won 167 runs
2007 West Indies Won Innings & 283 runs
2008 South Africa Lost 10 wickets
2009 Australia Lost Innings & 80 runs
2012 South Africa Draw -
2013 New Zealand Won 247 runs

ESPN Cricinfo

Simply, matches at Headingley have rarely been close over the last two decades.

England's 23-run victory over South Africa in 1998 stands as the only match—draws excluded—that produced a result within 100 runs or six wickets. 

Most notably, there have been six innings victories at the Yorkshire venue in that time, which is a staggeringly high percentage.

In fact, Headingley has the highest percentage of blow-out results of any major ground in England when each and every Test played since 1993 is examined. 

Only Edgbaston comes anywhere near Headingley in that regard.

Innings Victories at Major English Venues Since 1993
Venue Tests Innings Victories Frequency
Headingley 18 6 33%
Edgbaston 18 5 28%
Lord's 39 7 18%
The Oval 21 3 14%
Old Trafford 16 2 13%
Trent Bridge 19 2 11%

ESPN Cricinfo

Interestingly, the trend isn't limited to Tests played at the ground over the last 20 years.

For a decade from 1956, Headingley was the site of an unfathomable amount of colossal victories, particularly for England. 

Across 10 matches from 1956 to 1966, the home side triumphed seven times, with six of those wins captured by an innings.  

However, England were also on the other end of lopsided results during those years, losing the other three by massively wide margins themselves.

England's Test Results at Headingley 1956-66
Year Opponent Result Margin
1956 Australia Won Innings & 42 runs
1957 West Indies Won Innings & 5 runs
1958 New Zealand Won Innings & 71 runs
1959 India Won Innings & 173 runs
1961 Australia Won 8 wickets
1962 Pakistan Won Innings & 117 runs
1963 West Indies Lost 221 runs
1964 Australia Lost 7 wickets
1965 New Zealand Won Innings & 187 runs
1966 West Indies Lost Innings & 55 runs

ESPN Cricinfo

The reason for such a vast array of one-sided victories is rather straightforward: Batting is extremely difficult under cloud at Headingley, meaning that at least one team tends to endure a turbulent innings at some point in the match.

Last year, New Zealand were blown away for 174 in their first innings. Four years earlier, Australian ran through England for 102 on the opening day of the fourth Ashes Test.

In 2008, England were dismissed for 203 on the first afternoon before South Africa piled on 522. The previous season, the West Indies collapsed to just 146 after England's 570-7.

The pattern just keeps going and going.

If you examine the batting statistics for all Tests played in England, it's clear that Headingley presents the greatest challenge for the batsmen, explaining the regular collapses that occur in Leeds.

Test Batting Records at Major English Venues
Venue Batting Ave. 100s per Test
Edgbaston 32.76 0.91
The Oval 32.28 0.96
Lord's 32.27 0.98
Trent Bridge 31.88 0.98
Old Trafford 31.67 0.88
Headingley 28.57 0.72

ESPN Cricinfo

So after a tense and slow-moving affair at Lord's in the opening match of the summer, expect something vastly different between England and Sri Lanka at Headingley this week.

Wickets will probably tumble in bunches, batting techniques are likely to be exposed, surprising leads will quickly develop and a collapse or two is almost inevitable.

In short, get ready for a blow-out result, whichever way it goes.

All statistics and match data courtesy of ESPN Cricinfo.


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