Cape Town – Is it just because St George is so indelibly associated – as patron saint - with England?
Whatever the answer to that question, it cannot be denied that St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth, scene of the key third Test from Thursday, has been significantly kinder to England results-wise than it has to South Africa in the game’s longest format.
The country’s oldest Test venue, it has seen the tourists prevail in five of the nine bilateral contests on record, with three draws and just a lone South African triumph.
No more assuring, if you are Proteas-inclined, is that the national team have not won any of the three tussles in post-isolation times, with two draws on record (December 1995 and December 1999) and Michael Vaughan’s English side winning the last meeting in 2004/05 by a comfortable margin of seven wickets.
Coached by Duncan Fletcher and already fast heading toward a famous reclaiming of the Ashes on home soil after a long drought in 2005, that England side got their noses in front in game one in the Friendly City of an enthralling five-Test series they eventually squeezed out 2-1 in their favour.
Powered in no small measure by experienced opening batsman and player of the match Andrew Strauss, who scored 126 and 94 not out, they were just too good for a South African team, in the hard-taskmaster coaching era of Ray Jennings, significantly sporting debuts for a certain Dale Steyn and AB de Villiers.
There were at least some signs of things to come in England’s successful run chase when Steyn bowled an unplayable beauty to castle Vaughan.
But it has also been a formidable 63 years since South Africa last beat these foes at St George’s Park, the sole victory having come under the leadership of Clive van Ryneveld in March 1957.
South Africa, trailing 2-1 in the five-Test series, earned a 2-2 split of the honours by winning the tense, low-scoring final Test at the ground by 58 runs.
The hosts posted 164 in their first innings (Russell Endean 70) before routing England for 110, helped by strike bowlers Neil Adcock and Peter Heine bagging four wickets each.
South Africa were then dismissed for 134 the second time around, with legendary English quickie Frank “Typhoon” Tyson claiming 6/40.
Set a still pretty modest 189 to win and seal the series, England instead succumbed to the wiles of off-spinner Hugh Tayfield (6/78) as they were bundled out for 130.
The passing of more than six further decades without a South African triumph over England in PE should serve as an extra incentive for Faf du Plessis and company to change all that and reclaim the lead in the present series.
Until the awful eight-wicket capitulation, highly against expectation, to Sri Lanka in their milestone first Test series success on these shores last season, St George’s Park had seen the Proteas win five and draw one of their previous six Tests against all comers at the ground.
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