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

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 16:  Chris Jordan of England successfully appeals for the wicket of Prasanna Jayawardene of Sri Lanka during day five of 1st Investec Test match between England and Sri Lanka at Lord's Cricket Ground on June 16, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Tim CollinsFeatured ColumnistJune 19, 2014

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
YearOpponentResultMargin
1993AustraliaLossInnings & 148 runs
1994South AfricaDraw-
1995West IndiesLoss9 wickets
1996PakistanDraw-
1997AustraliaLossInnings & 61 runs
1998South AfricaWon23 runs
2000West IndiesWonInnings & 39 runs
2001AustraliaWon6 wickets
2002IndiaLostInnings & 46 runs
2003South AfricaLost191 runs
2004New ZealandWon9 wickets
2006PakistanWon167 runs
2007West IndiesWonInnings & 283 runs
2008South AfricaLost10 wickets
2009AustraliaLostInnings & 80 runs
2012South AfricaDraw-
2013New ZealandWon247 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
VenueTestsInnings VictoriesFrequency
Headingley18633%
Edgbaston18528%
Lord's39718%
The Oval21314%
Old Trafford16213%
Trent Bridge19211%
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
YearOpponentResultMargin
1956AustraliaWonInnings & 42 runs
1957West IndiesWonInnings & 5 runs
1958New ZealandWonInnings & 71 runs
1959IndiaWonInnings & 173 runs
1961AustraliaWon8 wickets
1962PakistanWonInnings & 117 runs
1963West IndiesLost221 runs
1964AustraliaLost7 wickets
1965New ZealandWonInnings & 187 runs
1966West IndiesLostInnings & 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
VenueBatting Ave.100s per Test
Edgbaston32.760.91
The Oval32.280.96
Lord's32.270.98
Trent Bridge31.880.98
Old Trafford31.670.88
Headingley28.570.72
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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