July 4, 2008

The flattest ODI pitch in the world

One-day cricket isn't much fun for the bowlers at the best of times, but in the Asia Cup theirs has been an especially unenviable job


Suresh Raina has enjoyed the excellent batting conditions in Karachi, scoring two hundreds in five innings © AFP
 

One-day cricket isn't much fun for bowlers at the best of times, but in the Asia Cup theirs has been an especially unenviable job: the heat, flat-as-pancake pitches, fast outfields and excellent batting line-ups have put them under severe examination match after match. In ten games so far (till the India-Pakistan game on Wednesday), teams scored 300 or more eight times, two of which were in successful run-chases. The pitches at most venues are loaded in favour of batsmen for ODIs, but this is even more so in Pakistan, where the tracks are so bare they offer nothing to the fast bowlers, but also firm enough to ensure spinners struggle as well.

Over the last four-and-a-half years, Pakistan has been the most batsman-friendly country, with teams scoring at an average of 5.35 runs per over, and more than 34 runs per wicket; both figures are the highest in the world. In 50 games in this country, teams have scored 300 or more 20 times. India has produced 22 such totals, but they've also hosted 18 more games than Pakistan during this period.

If two subcontinent teams head the table, then two others bring up the rear: in Bangladesh the average runs per over is only 4.60, thanks in part to the home team's dismal batting record. It's even worse in Sri Lanka, though: in 45 matches since January 2004, only three times have teams managed 300 or more, one of which came against Hong Kong.

ODIs in each country since 2004
Country ODIs Runs per wkt Runs per over No. of 300+ scores
Pakistan 50 34.34 5.35 20
India 68 32.16 5.20 22
New Zealand 45 33.23 5.18 16
Australia 77 31.38 5.14 16
South Africa 54 31.17 4.99 12
England 66 31.18 4.99 13
Kenya 32 28.19 4.85 4
West Indies 91 29.55 4.85 19
Zimbabwe 42 27.86 4.75 3
Bangladesh 40 27.62 4.60 5
Sri Lanka 45 26.55 4.50 3

Most venues in Pakistan have little for the bowlers, but Karachi is the worst of the lot. In 14 games here since 2004, teams have scored at 5.75 per over, at an average of 41.35, both of which are the highest among all Pakistan venues. In Faisalabad, on the other hand, teams only average 4.33 per over and 28.17 per wicket.

In fact, Karachi's affinity for producing batting surfaces goes back even longer. In this decade, the National Stadium has yielded the highest run-rate and average in ODIs (among venues that have hosted at least eight games). In just 18 matches it has produced 14 scores of 300 or more, with half those totals exceeding 325. The Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, on the other hand, has only produced five such totals in 24 games.

Most batsman-friendly ODI venue since 2000 (at least eight games at the venue)
Venue ODIs Runs per wkt Runs per over No. of 300+ scores
Karachi 18 39.43 5.70 14
Headingley 8 37.02 5.53 3
Lahore 24 33.45 5.35 5
Ahmedabad 9 35.74 5.34 5
Christchurch 14 32.77 5.32 6
Mohali 8 29.96 5.29 4
Johannesburg 18 33.50 5.22 8
The Oval 17 32.63 5.15 5
Bristol 8 31.99 5.13 3
Centurion 17 31.05 5.12 5

Pakistan have traditionally boasted a strong fast-bowling attack, but the pitches in the country have hardly favoured pace. Over the last four-and-a-half years, fast bowlers have leaked runs at the highest rate here. Despite the slow pitches of Sri Lanka, pace bowlers have done well there, conceding only 4.34 runs per over.

Fast bowlers in each country in ODIs since 2004
Country Wickets Average Econ rate Strike rate
Pakistan 412 35.91 5.40 39.8
India 599 32.44 5.22 37.2
New Zealand 427 36.38 5.20 41.9
Australia 752 31.67 5.00 37.9
Kenya 282 29.66 4.99 35.6
England 647 32.05 4.91 39.1
South Africa 548 31.43 4.88 38.6
West Indies 810 31.42 4.80 39.2
Zimbabwe 394 28.60 4.79 35.7
Bangladesh 300 29.75 4.68 38.0
Sri Lanka 344 28.42 4.34 39.2

The Asia Cup has also been marked by lack of swing for the new-ball bowlers. Add that to the field restrictions during the Powerplays and the early overs have been a nightmare for the bowlers. It isn't a recent phenomenon in Karachi either - over the last six-and-a-half years, only one ground has yielded more runs in the first 15 overs of ODIs.

Venues in first 15 overs in ODIs since Jan 2002 (at least 10 innings)
Venue Runs Wickets Runs per over Runs per wkt
Headingley 1134 19 5.82 59.68
Karachi 2550 56 5.31 45.53
Napier 1586 33 5.28 48.06
Old Trafford 948 23 5.27 41.21
St Kitts 1057 28 5.03 37.75
Centurion 2250 65 5.00 34.61
Ahmedabad 1195 34 4.99 35.14
The Oval 2243 59 4.98 38.01

In seven ODIs in Karachi during the Asia Cup, ten centuries have already been scored, which is further indication of just how easy the track here is for batting. In terms of centuries per ODI, Karachi is well clear of all other venues: in 18 games here since 2000, the National Stadium averages one hundred per match, which is well clear of second-placed Napier. Only Sharjah and Harare have seen more hundreds during this period than Karachi, but both have hosted many more games: 20 centuries have been scored in Sharjah from 45 games, while 54 matches in Harare have yielded 19 hundreds. (Click here for the full list, and here for the list of most successful batsmen in Karachi since 2000.)

Centuries per ODI at venues since 2000 (Qual: at least ten hundreds during this period)
Venue ODIs 100s 100s per ODI
Karachi 18 18 1.00
Napier 14 10 0.71
Perth 17 12 0.71
Johannesburg 18 12 0.67
Lahore 24 15 0.63
The Oval 17 10 0.59
Brisbane 21 12 0.57
Sydney 30 16 0.53

All stats updated till the Pakistan-India match on July 2.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo