ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Is home advantage on the rise?

India, South Africa and Australia have whitewashed opponents in recent home Test series. Has winning overseas become tougher?

S Rajesh

March 29, 2013

Comments: 39 | Text size: A | A

The victorious South African team poses with the trophy, South Africa v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Centurion, 3rd day, February 24, 2013
South Africa blanked Pakistan 3-0 in the recent home series, but they are also the only side who have a consistent record in all conditions over the last few years © Getty Images

Over the last three months, Test cricket all over the world has largely been about the home team dominating the visiting side. The New Zealand-England three-Test series ended 0-0, but even there New Zealand, clearly the underdogs when the series began, were desperately close to beating the visitors, finally falling short only by one wicket. Around the same time as the New Zealand-England series was unfolding, Australia were getting thrashed 4-0 in India, only the second time in their entire Test history that they have taken such a beating.

Before Australia's clean sweep, there were other recent instances of touring teams being blanked in a series: Pakistan and New Zealand both lost each Test they played in South Africa - Pakistan 3-0, New Zealand 2-0 - while Sri Lanka were thrashed 3-0 in Australia. In 13 Tests played in 2013 (excluding those involving Bangladesh or Zimbabwe), ten have been won by the home team, and three have been drawn.

These results, coupled with India's spectacularly disastrous results in England and Australia have raised fears that Test cricket is increasingly getting skewed by teams winning in home conditions; in other words, most teams are struggling to adapt to conditions they aren't used to. Is that really the case, or is it an alarmist reaction to what is only a three-month phenomenon which has happened because of the quality of teams that have toured? Let's take a closer look at the numbers over the last few years.

The decade-wise stats indicate that, despite the recent skew, the overall win-loss ratio since the 1990s is largely unchanged. Home teams had a win-loss ratio of 1.81 in the 1990s and 2000s, and 1.82 since the beginning of 2010. (All these numbers exclude matches involving Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.)

While India and Pakistan have contributed in diminishing the win-loss ratios for touring sides since 2010 - both have won three Tests and lost ten abroad during this period - other teams have made up for this, thus ensuring that the overall ratios remain more or less the same. South Africa have a 7-1 win-loss ratio overseas during this period, thus helping redress the balance. (Click here for the overseas win-loss records of teams since the beginning of 2010, and here for the home records.)

Win-loss ratios in home Tests in each decade since 1970
Period Tests Won/ lost Drawn W/L ratio
1970s 198 69/ 45 84 1.53
1980s 266 87/ 56 122 1.55
1990s 307 129/ 71 107 1.81
2000s 361 167/ 92 102 1.81
2010s 110 51/ 28 31 1.82
Excludes all Tests in neutral countries

Breaking this up further into year-wise stats, it's clear these win-loss ratios have changed depending on the touring schedules. So, while India had a 1-8 record in away Tests in 2011 and 2012, South Africa, Australia and England had a collective record of 12-3 in overseas Tests during the same period. South Africa won in New Zealand, England and Australia, while Australia had wins in Sri Lanka, South Africa and West Indies; England had two memorable wins in India, and also won a Test each in Sri Lanka and Australia.

In 2007 the home teams had particularly good records, with overseas sides winning only four Tests and losing 14. South Africa were the only team to have a positive record abroad, winning a series 1-0 in Pakistan. Australia didn't play a single overseas Test that year, while England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka all had identical 0-2 win-loss records abroad. Similarly, in 2009 the overseas stats were poor - six wins and 17 losses - but it so happened that in that year West Indies toured both England and Australia, losing four out of five Tests. Pakistan lost four out of seven overseas games - two in Sri Lanka, and one each in New Zealand and Australia. Australia themselves won three Tests abroad, but also lost as many, in South Africa and England.

Win-loss ratios in home Tests in each year since 2005
Year Tests Won/ lost Drawn W/L ratio
2005 36 17/ 8 11 2.12
2006 42 21/ 9 12 2.33
2007 26 14/ 4 8 3.50
2008 38 16/ 12 10 1.33
2009 38 17/ 6 15 2.83
2010 32 13/ 10 9 1.30
2011 29 12/ 8 9 1.50
2012 36 16/ 10 10 1.60
2013 13 10/ 0 3 -

However, all overseas conditions aren't equally foreign to a touring team: Australia, for example, will be more comfortable with South African pitches and conditions than those in India. Similarly, India would feel more comfortable in Sri Lanka than in Australia or England. Hence, let's club together the Asian countries and check how the teams from outside Asia - Australia, England, South Africa, New Zealand and West Indies - have fared in Asia over the years. (This analysis includes matches played in the UAE, since conditions there are similar to those in the subcontinent.)

The table below shows that home advantage was the least for Asian teams in the 1980s, when they won 15 Tests and lost 14. However, that's also partly because Sri Lanka were still finding their feet as a Test team during that period, and lost four home Tests without winning a single one during that period. Excluding those results, overseas teams had a percentage of 0.67 in Asia during the 1980s (ten wins, 15 defeats), which is still better than the numbers in the subsequent decades.

Since 2010, though, the ratio of wins to losses for overseas teams has dipped even further, to 0.33. All teams except South Africa have a losing record in Asia during this period: Australia have been poor, winning one and losing six; New Zealand are down 1-4, West Indies 0-2, and England 3-5. These numbers suggest that playing in Asia has become more difficult for the non-Asian teams in this decade, though a part of the reason is also the diminishing powers of Australia as a Test force over the last few years.

Decade-wise win-loss record for teams from outside Asia, in Tests in Asia*, since 1970
Period Tests Won/ lost Drawn W/L ratio
1970s 41 7/ 12 22 0.58
1980s 59 14/ 15 29 0.93
1990s 55 10/ 25 20 0.40
2000s 78 18/ 34 26 0.52
2010s 35 6/ 18 11 0.33
* Includes matches played in the UAE

Similarly, teams from Asia have struggled more when playing in Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa, winning just five matches, against 24 losses since the beginning of 2010. India have been the worst among the subcontinent sides during this period, with a 1-9 win-loss record. Sri Lanka have done slightly better, winning one and losing six, while Pakistan have been the best among the lot, with three wins against nine defeats.

From the 1980s to the 2000s, the win-loss ratios for the subcontinent teams were consistently between 0.36 and 0.38. The fall in ratio to 0.21 suggests that subcontinent teams have become poorer touring sides, just as teams from outside the subcontinent have in general struggled more in Asia over the last three years.

Decade-wise win-loss record for teams from Asia in Tests in Aus, NZ, Eng and SA, since 1970
Period Tests Won/ lost Drawn W/L ratio
1970s 41 8/ 16 17 0.50
1980s 43 6/ 16 21 0.37
1990s 66 12/ 31 23 0.38
2000s 68 13/ 36 19 0.36
2010s 33 5/ 24 4 0.21

All stats exclude matches involving Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

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Comments: 39 
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Posted by am on (April 1, 2013, 10:06 GMT)

Nothing wrong with the stats provided in the above article. It is no surprise that Pak has "slight" edge when it comes to number of wins. They always had a superior bowling attack than India has. Pak has infact better bowling attack than most teams to bowl in those conditions. Their bowlers especially spinners like ajmal are not at all easy to get away with and Aussie batsmen and others do find it difficult to pick from time to time. Having said that difference is only slight. Remember they have suffered 9 defeats too. so it is not like they have been better by fair distance. Only slight. Indian team with Zak and other bowlers bowling wayward and struggling to take 20 tickets is always a tough team to watch. With inclusion of youngsters into the team we can expect better results in future. So it is not all over for indian team. Next one year will prove if we have the ability to improve the record overseas or not with this young team. a fighting team.

Posted by Bobby on (March 31, 2013, 2:29 GMT)

CricIndia208 : Are you suggesting that Rajesh made stats up? Make some sense please!Tattus: Pakistan has won more matches than India in England and same number of matches in Australia. While their W/L ratio in SA is better than India too. You people need to do home work before posting stats. Just try Cricinfo stats guru!India has lost 4-0 in England, 4-0 in Australia and even managed to lose series at home against England. Only if ICC was unbiased, Indian test team would have been relegated to second tier playing against Oman!

Posted by David on (March 30, 2013, 18:46 GMT)

@ ANDREW DOUGLAS - You claim: "only reason south africa wins away more than others is that they ...played in all conditions regularly last couple of years." You are clearly not using a reality-based analysis! SA's success is more complex. Some factors are:

SA has the no. 1, 3 & 8 top ranked test batsmen i, (plus the no.15, 30 & 32.) Amla tops test rankings & shares top ODI spot with AB de Villiers, who ranks 3rd in tests.

SA has numbers 1, 2 and 9 of the top ranked test bowlers, & the part timer Kallis is at no. 33! Kallis is, 2nd only Sobers, the greatest all-rounder ever, & ranked as 1 of the top 10 all time batsmen.

SA's skipper has captained & won more tests than any other, & also holds a number of batting records.

These factors create a greater likelihood of winning than does "playing in all conditions regularly." SA leads cricket in almost every single category, & denying that, as you effectively have done, is untrue, & comes accross as mindless bigotry. Think about that.

Posted by David on (March 30, 2013, 17:14 GMT)

@ ANDREW DOUGLAS says in 3 years SA "will be a mediocre batting side in development when kallis & smith retire." Really? Smith was born Feb '81, Jhb, SA. Let's compare that to Eng's batsmen: Pietersen, Jun 80, Pmg, SA; Trott, Apr 81, Cape Town, SA; Prior, Feb 82, Jhb, SA; Bell, Apr 82, Walsgrave, UK; *Compton Jun 83, Durban, SA; Cook, Dec 84 Glouc, UK. They span just 4 years, & Pietersen & Trott are OLDER THAN SMITH!!

SA's batsmen: Alviro Petersen, Feb 80, PE; Amla, March 83, Durb; du Plessis, July 83, Pret; de Villiers, Feb 84, Pret; Duminy, April 84, Cape T. Except Cook, SA's batsmen are YOUNGER than Eng's. (*Amla 3 months older.)

Kallis is 37.5 & going strong. He is truly African tough, like all SA batsmen. Smith & Co. are good for 6+ years. JK, who knows?

(Eng will be ok. All but Bell were bred African tough. Sadly, Cook faces fatal "Eng Capt vs Smith" disease!)

ANDREW - you are just WRONG about Smith. As for SA's batting development, that's what pajama cricket is used for.

Posted by Oz on (March 30, 2013, 15:08 GMT)

No made up statistics can deny the fact that pakistan are miserable outside home. Their scores of 47 in SA, 80, 72, 79 in England, 90 in SL confirm that pakistan are the worst subcontinental team. India drew their previous series in SA, while pakistan were thrashed 3-0. India are the better team, they are streets ahead of pakistan. Full Stop.

Posted by Heath on (March 30, 2013, 12:52 GMT)

One of the main issues with tests being more one-sided at home is the lack of patient batsman due to T20 and wickets being either too dry or green. I have only seen in recent times in Indian matches some innings being opened with spinners which is a concern for the balance in a game. On the otherhand I've found some wickets in Australia too green over the last couple of years and the SCG taking less and less spin which I hate. One of the reasons I enjoyed watching tests in Australia was the variety between wickets. However, nowadays there seems to be less and less difference. I want each ground to have their own unique characteristics.

Posted by GeoffreysMother on (March 30, 2013, 12:08 GMT)

Surely the stats are skewed by the relative quality of teams. In the 70's , 80's and 90's the great West Indian and Australian teams won just about everywhere (outside India). The difference is less pronounced now so home advantage may have a greater impact. India in South Africa and the reverse series will be fascinating - but only if Ashwin can develop into something approaching Ajmal and the Indian batsmen can provide enough of a cushion for him to bowl to (and Pujara and Vijay just might have the grit to do that).

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 30, 2013, 7:06 GMT)

the reason why in the last 3 months all home teams have won is that each touring side took rookie teams and the home side had a settled or less rookie team.only reason south africa wins away more than others is that they have a team that has played in all conditions regularly last couple of years.give SA 3 years and they will be a mediocre batting side in development when kallis and smith retire

Posted by Amjad on (March 30, 2013, 6:48 GMT)

@KiwiRocker-: Nice analysis there mate! One thing I would like to add to that analysis is that both Ind and Pak have won 4 tests against Auss in Auss but Pakistan also won a 5th test not on Auss soil but in England, the conditions in Eng would suit Auss more than it would Pak so effectively its Pak 5 wins and India 4 wins. The strength of Pakistan cricket can be seen from another piece of info, Pak is the only team in the history of cricket to have won a test match on its very first test tour to a country, on the 1952 tour of India, though Pak lost the series but they managed to win a test match, whereas it took India more than half a century to win their first test match on Pakistani soil. In 2000's, Pakistan's record got a hit because our bowling attack got decapitated not once but twice, first when the 2W's retired and then the ban on Amir and Asif, we are back in business with Junaid and Irfan though. Apart from that minor glitch, Pak has always been the superior Asian team. FACT!

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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