England's struggles with run chases since Andrew Strauss retirement loom over third Test against South Africa

 
Joe Hall
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Familiar feeling: Alastair Cook was England's highest run scorer in the second Test with 42 (Source: Getty)

After South Africa raced into a 474 run lead in the second Test against England last week, the likelihood of victory for the home side was always somewhere between extremely doubtful and impossible.

In order to win, England would have had to smash the record for their highest run chase — the 332 successfully reached 89 years previously against Australia in Melbourne.

Yet should Joe Root's men face a more attainable target in the third Investec Test at the Oval this week, England cricket fans need not revisit the pre-war period to assess why a comeback is unlikely to be on the cards.

Recent history provides bountiful examples of why.

In the five years since Andrew Strauss retired as captain in August 2012, England have had to chase a final innings target in 21 different red-ball matches.

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They've succeeded on only six occasions — 29 per cent of their attempts.

Yet the highest total they've chased down in that period is 143, against the West Indies in April 2015. All sterner challenges have proven too much for England.

Perhaps even more depressingly for the Barmy Army, England's failure to get anywhere near South Africa's total in the second Test is also nothing new.

It's been almost two years since England were bowled out for more than 250 runs when chasing in the final innings.

Unsettled opening line-up a factor?

Strauss's departure as captain also left a hole at the top of England's batting order which was compounded by the retirement of Jonathan Trott two years ago.

England's struggles with run chases have coincided with an ongoing search to find a settled opening partner for Alastair Cook, a role previously occupied by Strauss.

With Strauss as captain, England were victorious in four out of nine run chases, and in three of their five losses still managed to score over 250 runs to finish within 100 runs of their target.

The average loss under Strauss in such circumstances was 107 runs; since, it's been 213 runs.

Fourth-innings scores fall under Bayliss

England's fragility has not been fixed by coach Trevor Bayliss, who took over in 2015.

Although England have met three total targets under Bayliss, they have all been under 125 runs.

Furthermore, England's average score in their losses has been 177 runs — a decline on the 211 average in the post-Strauss years before Bayliss arrival.

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