ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

English conditions not so tough for ODI batting

There's a tendency to believe that conditions in England favour swing and seam bowlers in ODIs, but the stats show otherwise

S Rajesh

June 7, 2013

Comments: 8 | Text size: A | A

Martin Guptill picks a gap on the offside, England v New Zealand, 1st ODI, Lord's, May 31, 2013
Martin Guptill relished batting at the top of the order in England, scoring back-to-back hundreds, including an unbeaten 189 © Getty Images

With the Champions Trophy being hosted in England, there's been much talk about how batsmen could find it tough to score big runs in conditions which could favour seam and swing bowling. Going by the recent ODIs that have been played here, and going by the stats of ODIs played in England over the last eight years, those fears seem to be a tad exaggerated.

This season alone, there have been three scores in excess of 300, and two more in excess of 270, in just four games. Martin Guptill powered New Zealand to 359 in Southampton, to which England replied with 273, while India scored 331 in the opening game of the Champions Trophy against South Africa, who scored 305 themselves. The overall run-rate in these four games played in England this season is 5.84, which surely doesn't suggest conditions which favour bowlers.

In fact, since the beginning of 2005 the scoring rate for ODIs played in England has been more than five in each year except one: in 2012, the rate was 4.91 in 11 matches, but in each of the seven years preceding that it was more than five, with the maximum being 5.64 in 2011. (Click here for the year-wise stats since 2000.) Contrary to the feeling that scoring runs in England is relatively difficult, the table below indicates that ODIs in that country are among the more high-scoring ones. Since the beginning of 2005, the overall run-rate in ODIs in England is 5.21; only three countries - New Zealand, Pakistan and India - have a higher rate, while the average of 32.88 runs per wicket in England is among the higher ones too.

Bangladesh are at the bottom of the table, but that's partly because of the quality of the host team. Among the other countries, scoring runs in Sri Lanka and the West Indies is clearly the most difficult. In 92 ODIs in Sri Lanka, only 14 times has a team gone past 300, compared to 53 times in 139 games in India during this period. The rate in England isn't so high either - 17 instances in 89 games - which suggests that while there aren't too many very high totals, there aren't many low scores either, ensuring that the average remains reasonably high.

ODI stats in each country since Jan 2005
Host country Matches Average Run rate 300+ scores 100s/ 50s
New Zealand 66 32.63 5.33 20 30/ 159
India 139 32.96 5.32 53 80/ 329
Pakistan 45 33.27 5.28 19 32/ 113
England 89 32.88 5.21 17 38/ 197
South Africa 111 31.35 5.13 31 54/ 246
Australia 119 30.54 5.12 24 54/ 275
Zimbabwe 66 30.28 4.93 10 31/ 153
UAE 43 30.10 4.90 3 21/ 106
West Indies 132 29.61 4.90 28 50/ 293
Sri Lanka 92 28.15 4.84 14 32/ 178
Bangladesh 96 28.05 4.66 9 40/ 185

It's also been argued that England's a good place for seam and swing bowling, but they haven't done particularly well in ODIs here. In this eight-year period, fast bowlers have averaged 34.62 runs per wicket, and conceded 5.17 per over, both of which are among the higher ones when compared to other countries. The average is poorer only in Pakistan and New Zealand, while the economy rates are higher in those two countries, plus India. It's also true, of course, that many of the ODIs in England are played during the second half of the summer, when conditions are drier and pitches less seamer-friendly than in the first part of the summer.

That's also meant that spinners have been fairly effective in England too, achieving an economy rate of 4.89 at an average of 37, which isn't bad when compared to the averages for spinners in Australia and South Africa.

Pace and spin in each country in ODIs since Jan 2005
  Pace Spin
Host country Wkts Average Econ rate Wkts Average Econ rate
Sri Lanka 773 28.37 4.78 422 32.40 4.61
Zimbabwe 555 30.38 5.06 307 38.97 4.55
Australia 1222 30.50 5.02 342 41.61 4.94
Bangladesh 643 30.93 4.92 659 28.53 4.25
South Africa 1134 31.21 5.05 305 42.81 4.92
West Indies 1179 31.39 4.89 530 32.83 4.57
UAE 348 31.53 5.01 228 34.96 4.49
India 1161 34.59 5.41 664 36.56 4.89
England 843 34.62 5.17 264 37.08 4.89
Pakistan 389 34.81 5.35 191 39.36 4.87
New Zealand 619 35.25 5.38 176 36.23 4.74

And then there's the theory that the top two slots aren't the best batting positions in England, because new-ball bowlers get plenty of assistance here. That could well be the case now that there are two new balls in ODIs, but over the last eight years, openers have enjoyed batting in England - they average 40.12 runs per completed partnership, the second-highest among all host countries. Only in New Zealand have openers averaged more - 44.85. The openers in England have also had 49 partnerships of 50 or more out of 150 stands, which is a ratio of one in three.

Among the opening combinations, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell have scored more runs than any other pair during this period - 538 runs in 15 innings at 38.42, but other pairs, especially those from touring sides, have better averages. In fact, looking down the list of successful opening pairs in England, it's striking that there are three from the subcontinent, one each from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

On their previous tour to England in 2007, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar scored 472 partnership runs in seven innings at 67.42, with three century stands. On their 2006 tour, Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga put together 406 in five innings, though 286 of those runs came in one partnership. On the 2010 tour, Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez were consistency personified at the top of the order, going past 50 four times in five innings in scoring 317 partnership runs.

From the table below, it's clear that opening the batting is a tougher task in Australia and South Africa - the first-wicket partnership in those countries is 32, about 20% lower than the average in England.

Two new balls might change that equation a bit, but the early trends this season suggest that Champions Trophy 2013 will be another run-fest.

Opening partnership stats in ODIs in each country since Jan 2005
Host country Innings Ave stand Run rate 100/ 50 p'ships
New Zealand 109 44.85 5.65 14/ 21
England 150 40.12 5.18 10/ 39
India 245 39.74 5.42 26/ 40
Zimbabwe 118 38.98 4.79 12/ 20
Pakistan 81 38.07 5.51 7/ 14
UAE 87 36.51 5.10 6/ 16
Bangladesh 184 35.54 4.92 12/ 34
Sri Lanka 156 33.86 5.24 10/ 22
Australia 206 32.33 5.09 10/ 41
South Africa 184 32.21 5.06 12/ 30
West Indies 248 30.18 4.85 15/ 38

All stats exclude the numbers from the first match of the 2013 Champions Trophy, between India and South Africa.

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

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Comments: 8 
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Posted by Chatty on (June 8, 2013, 23:26 GMT)

I have always been saying how difficult batting conditions are in SL. They are nothing like the flat tracks found elsewhere. Of course people don't quite believe it. At last, some stats to support that!

Posted by Dummy4 on (June 8, 2013, 5:11 GMT)

I would like to see a separate analysis on how pace bowlers fare in each of those countries.

Posted by Dummy4 on (June 8, 2013, 4:54 GMT)

The conditions in England were expected to favour seam and swing bowling especially in the first half of the summer. But by the evidence of first couple of games it seems that conditions will vary as the teams move from one venue to another.If Cardiff was a runfest than expect Edgbaston to be a seaming wicket and this is where the batsmen and the bowlers challenge lies. As a bowler they may get a little bit carried away after seeing that there is something on the wicket for them and they may get excited too much which may result in them getting their line wrong which the opposition batsmen may capitalise.Batsmen have to be careful while playing on turfs which have life in them as most of the subcontinent batsmen are used to playing on the rise on flat pitches in India. In conditions where there is seam,swing and bounce such shots could be fatal as it may lead to the downfall of the batsman. Adaptability is the key for the team to perform in these conditions

Posted by Sulaimaan on (June 7, 2013, 22:59 GMT)

And they say Sri Lankans are flat track bullies, one of the toughest places for batsmen in ODIs??

Posted by siddhartha on (June 7, 2013, 12:37 GMT)

Great analysis. two thumbs up!!

Posted by Dummy4 on (June 7, 2013, 9:56 GMT)

A well analysed article by Rajesh in his usual style. It is true that coniditions in England suit Seam/swing bowling. But in ODI there is not fair advantage for pace bowlers as seen in the above tables during the past 8 years. With 2 new balls in ODI, this equation may change in this tournament. So far in the warm up games and the first game played yesterday, it doesn't suggest like that. But we have to wait and see in the later part of the games. The fans are treated with run feast so far and hope it will continue to do so.

Posted by wasib on (June 7, 2013, 7:32 GMT)

Overhead conditions play a major part. You don't want to be batting first on a cloudy, cool day against a bowling attack of Anderson, Finn and Broad.

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

All this is the use of the inferior Kookaburra cricket ball. If Dukes balls were in use in International ODI's they wouldn't need to use 2 new balls to keep the swing going longer.

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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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