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ESPNcricinfo's stats editor S Rajesh looks at the stories behind the stats

Best and worst venues for batting first

A look at grounds with the highest and lowest averages for the team batting first in Tests

S Rajesh

July 23, 2010

Comments: 5 | Text size: A | A

Pakistan go wild as Mohammad Asif bags Ricky Ponting for 6, Pakistan v Australia, 2nd Test, Headingley, July 21, 2010
Ricky Ponting and Co had no answers to Pakistan's fast bowlers in the first innings at Headingley, but the venue hasn't always been a haven for bowlers in the first innings © Getty Images
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Ricky Ponting's decision to bat first after winning the toss at Headingley drew some flak, especially after the move backfired so spectacularly. Overnight rain had spiced up the conditions significantly, and there was also the weight of recent history to dissuade the call to bat: in the two previous Tests there, the teams batting first had suffered resounding defeats. In 2009, England were beaten by an innings and 80 runs after crumbling for 102 in their first innings - they'd won the toss too - while in 2008, South Africa chose to field, bundled England out for 203, and cruised to a ten-wicket win.

So does that mean that Headingley is one of the worst venues to bat first? Unfortunately for Ponting, Headingley has been one of those venues that has been anything but predictable in its behaviour. In the three Tests there preceding the 2008 one, the teams batting first all scored in excess of 400, with even New Zealand managing 409 (though they ended up losing the match). England made 500-plus scores twice, winning both times. And in 2002, Sourav Ganguly made a bold decision to bat first in seaming conditions and the Indian batsmen justified the faith reposed in them by scoring 628 in the first innings. In fact, Headingley has been the kind of venue where teams batting first either score a lot or very little: in the last 10 Tests there, teams have scored in excess of 400 five times, and four times they've been bowled out for less than 210.

So which are the venues where the teams batting first have consistently struggled, or consistently done well? The next two tables list the venues.

The two grounds with the lowest averages are both venues where the quality of the host nation has significantly affected the numbers. At the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh have batted first in seven out of nine Tests that have been played there since 2000. That, to a large extent, explains a runs-per-wicket average of less than 21. It's a similar story in Bulawayo, where Zimbabwe have batted first eight times out of 11, and Bangladesh twice. Among other venues, New Zealand's Eden Park in Auckland has been the most difficult for teams batting first, with Kandy a close second. In six Tests at Eden Park since 2000, the team batting first has been bowled out for less than 300 five times (though on three of those occasions they've gone on to win the match). Kandy has been similarly difficult, with four sub-200 totals and only one 400-plus score in 13 matches.

The rest of the top 10 has a couple of venues from India, where you'd expect the conditions to be relatively favourable to the team batting first. In Mumbai, the average runs per wicket is only 26.34, while Chennai has averaged 28.68, with the team batting first not winning a single Test out of the last six. However, there are no venues from England or Australia in the top 10, despite the commonly held notion that some of the venues in those countries are pretty difficult for teams batting first. (The lowest for England is Trent Bridge, with an average of 30.88, while Australia's lowest is Sydney, where the first-innings average is 35.88.) Australia's relatively high numbers are also because of their exceptional batting line-up over the last decade.

Lowest first-innings averages at venues since 2000 (Qual: 5 Tests)
Venue Tests 1st inngs runs Average 100s/ 50s Highest/ Lowest
Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka 9 1872 20.80 1/ 11 400/ 107
Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo 11 2752 25.24 1/ 15 481/ 155
Eden Park, Auckland 6 1521 25.35 1/ 9 346/ 202
Asgiriya Stadium, Kandy 13 3178 25.42 5/ 15 467/ 120
Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai 5 1291 26.34 3/ 5 457/ 104
Kingsmead, Durban 10 2856 28.56 6/ 17 420/ 139
Sabina Park, Kingston 10 2857 28.57 5/ 16 431/ 200
MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai 6 1721 28.68 3/ 8 540/ 167
St George's Park, Port Elizabeth 5 1451 29.02 4/ 4 408/ 124
P Sara Oval, Colombo 8 2243 29.51 4/ 12 515/ 62

And at the other end of the spectrum are the grounds that offer nothing for bowlers, and where batting first is usually a boon. The venue on top of this list is surprise to no one: the Antigua Recreation Ground has for years given bowlers nothing but heartbreak, and in eight games here since 2000, batsmen average 47.59 in the first innings. Four times teams have declared after scoring more than 500, and compared to one century in six matches in Auckland, Antigua has produced 11 in eight.

The next venue on the table also has a history of consistently high first-innings totals, though it's also a huge credit to Les Burdett, the curator at the Adelaide Oval, that eight out of 10 Tests here during this period have produced a decisive result. And while Australia's strong batting is obviously a factor, they've only batted first in three of these 10 games, which shows that conditions have helped all teams batting first. In Brisbane, the story is slightly different: the high average is largely due to the home team's batting - in eight out of 10 matches here Australia have batted first; in the two other innings New Zealand made 353, and West Indies were bundled out for 82.

Also in the top 10 are three Indian venues, which is more in keeping with the general perception of conditions in the country, and The Oval in London, where the first-innings total has exceeded 400 five times in the last 10 Tests.

Highest first-innings averages at venues since 2000 (Qual: 5 Tests)
Venue Tests 1st inngs runs Averages 100s/ 50s Highest/ Lowest
Antigua Recreation Ground, Antigua 8 3284 47.59 11/ 9 751/ 240
Adelaide Oval, Adelaide 10 4289 45.62 11/ 16 575/ 270
Brisbane Cricket Ground, Brisbane 10 3813 42.36 12/ 15 602/ 82
Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore 10 3878 41.25 11/ 13 679/ 206
Eden Gardens, Kolkata 6 2269 41.25 8/ 9 616/ 296
M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore 6 2450 40.83 9/ 5 626/ 158
Punjab CA Stadium, Mohali 6 2267 40.48 7/ 10 630/ 238
The Oval, London 10 3794 40.36 7/ 23 664/ 173
McLean Park, Napier 6 2132 40.22 8/ 8 619/ 223
Galle International Stadium, Galle 14 5134 39.49 12/ 23 522/ 181

All averages and runs scored exclude extras.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

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Posted by mrcruizy on (July 25, 2010, 10:56 GMT)

and this goes on to show yet agian why the Indians are less familiar with wins abroad in test matches specially. in the highlest scores of first inning table 3 venues are from India. i mean it is good to have a wicket that suits your strenght rather than exposing your weaknesses but then again the point of battling it out against some of the toughest out there in bussiness, in some of the toughest conditions has to be taken into consideration. For how long will India retain their 1 Test spot while keeping in mind that India will have to play England in England, SA in SA and OZs In Australlia or even NZ in NZ. forget about playing in Bangladesh, SriLanka India And hopefully Pakistan (someday).my point is not that i am against any Asian team.i would love to put forward this suggestion to the Subcontinent teams that when they are playing against each other they should agree upon having a BOUNCY/SEAMY/SWINGING/BOWLING wicket rather than Batting and against outsiders have a BATTING wicket..

Posted by uglyhunK on (July 24, 2010, 8:51 GMT)

Rajesh, you stressed more than once that highest first inning's avg in Australian grounds is because of their strong batting lineup. I quite disagree with that narrow conclusion. Contrary to the popular notion, australian grounds are batting friendly. More bounce does not necessarily mean bowler friendly. Secondly, for the most part of the decade, all teams except australian have weak bowling attacks. So, it's a combination of weak bowling attacks, good batting lineup and good batting conditions that resulted in highest runs/wkt in australia.

Posted by   on (July 24, 2010, 5:46 GMT)

it happens sometimes.......australia were much powerful after they had won the 1999 world cup... but still lost a silly match to india.eveyone remembers the test against india when india won even after a follow on.. but that doesn't mean australia is weak...they are still the dominators..

Posted by nk_sharma on (July 23, 2010, 17:03 GMT)

It is considered that Indian pitches are ideal for run feast but statistics say something else. Cricket world blame pitches for India's awesome home record. They even refuge to accept that Sachin is The Greatest Test Batsman (of course after Don) with an argument that he has played mostly on flat pitches. The truth is: outside India, run scoring is much easier. All highest individual test innings: BC Lara 400*, ML Hayden 380, BC Lara 375, DPMD Jayawardene 374, GS Sobers 365*......upto top 14 have been scored outside India.

Posted by SoftwareStar on (July 23, 2010, 6:51 GMT)

what is the point in having the table start only from year 2000?? why r the previous years not counted?

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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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