The Friday Column May 14, 2004

Vaughan's 100% captaincy record, and ODI trends

Perhaps numbers never do reveal the full story, but they tell a large part of it

Perhaps numbers never do reveal the full story, but they tell a large part of it. Every Friday, The Numbers Game will take a look at statistics from the present and the past, busting myths and revealing hidden truths:

Vaughan's clean slate
In the 18 one-day internationals that England have played with Michael Vaughan as captain, they have won ten games and lost six (with two matches being washed out). Nothing hugely surprising about those numbers, except that all those defeats have come when England have batted first, and all the victories when they have chased a target.

The trend started in Vaughan's maiden match as captain, against Pakistan at Old Trafford. England managed only a modest 204, a total which Pakistan overhauled with some difficulty, with just two wickets and four balls to spare. The run continued at home against Zimbabwe and South Africa - on both occasions England made sub-225 totals - and then against Sri Lanka at Dambulla, when England suffered the embarrassment of being bundled out for 88. Most recently came the two defeats in the West Indies, when England were on the receiving end despite notching up scores of 281 and 280. (Click here for the full list of ODIs under Vaughan's captaincy.)

The team management will already have made a note of it, but the common thread in all those defeats was an inability to make the most of the last ten overs. In five of those six defeats - barring that embarrassing thrashing at Dambulla, when England were out of the contest well before the last ten overs of their innings - their average in that period of their innings has been only 57.

How do other England captains compare? The four previous ones who led England in at least 15 ODIs all have a far more even winning record when batting first and chasing, as the table below indicates.

Captain ODI wins Batting 1st Batting 2nd
Vaughan 10 0 10
Hussain 28 14 14
Atherton 20 8 12
Stewart 15 7 8
Gooch 24 10 14

* * *

No longer an even contest
There was a time when a team which had put up 250 on the board in a one-day international could feel reasonably confident of defending that total. No longer, though. The one-day series between West Indies and England only underlined that fact, with totals of 282, 281 and 262 being chased down with ridiculous ease - in each case, the team batting second won with at least two overs to spare. Flat tracks, quick outfields, fielding restrictions ... are one-day internationals getting far too batsman-friendly?

The numbers seem to suggest that they are. Before 1995, a score of between 250 and 275 would have given the team batting first a 72% chance of victory; in the last three years, that number has dropped to below 60% (in matches not involving Bangladesh and the non-Test nations). Also, the frequency of notching up 300-plus scores has gone up alarmingly: before 1995, a total of 300 occurred, on an average, once every 34 games; between 1995 and 2000, that figure came down to 11; in the last three years (2001-03) it has further dropped to nine matches. Not only has scoring in excess of 300 become more commonplace when batting first, chasing it down isn't so rare these days either - since 2002, that has happened five times; in all earlier ODIs (again, in games not involving the minnows) it had occurred on just six occasions.

Pre 1995 1995-2000 2001-03
No. of ODIs 950 622 324
Scores between 251-275
by team batting 1st
118 101 57
Win % with 251-275
total batting 1st
72.03 65.35 59.65
Avg score when batting 1st 219 234 237
300-plus totals 28 56 36
Matches per 300-plus score 33.93 11.11 9.00

S Rajesh is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.