August 3, 2012

Chasing away the blues in Sri Lanka

Batting second under lights in Sri Lanka - specifically at the Premadasa Stadium - has become a lot easier recently

Something that had never happened before in an ODI in Sri Lanka happened more than once in the last week: the home team batted first in a day-night match, scored over 250, and lost. Twice in succession. On Saturday they scored 286, seemed set for victory, and then faltered as Suresh Raina and Irfan Pathan pulled off a tremendous sixth-wicket partnership; three days later, they scored 251, took early wickets, and were then thwarted by Virat Kohli and Raina. On 28 previous occasions when they had batted first in a day-night ODI at home and scored more than 250, they won every single game. Thirteen of those 28 wins were at the Premadasa Stadium, the ground where those two losses came last week.

These wins obviously came about due to the talent and skill of the Indian batting line-up, but the results also confirmed an overall recent trend in which chasing has become relatively more profitable in day-night ODIs the world over, and especially at the Premadasa.

There was a time, not very long ago, when batting first in a day-night ODI in Sri Lanka was a huge advantage. Between January 2000 and December 2009, teams batting second in a day-night ODI in the country won a mere 17 of 58 completed matches. In terms of win-loss ratio, that was by far the lowest among all host countries. The next-worst ratio was in Australia, but that was about 58% better for the team chasing than the ratio in Sri Lanka.

In the 61 matches under lights in Sri Lanka, the teams batting first averaged 31.49 runs per wicket, and 4.90 runs per over; for the teams batting second, these numbers dropped to 24.78 and 4.48. Sri Lanka had an 18-3 win-loss record when they batted first in these matches, with an average of 32.98 and a run rate of 4.95; however, even they couldn't fully adjust to chasing under lights at home over those ten years, winning only ten out of 25 such matches, scoring 27.29 per wicket and 4.73 per over.

In fact, there was a five-year period between July 2004 and September 2009 when, in 29 day-night matches, there wasn't a single century scored in a run-chase; the highest during that period was Marvan Atapattu's unbeaten 97 against South Africa in Dambulla. In the same period, there were seven hundreds in the first innings, including scores of 150 and 138.

Since then, however, the numbers have changed a bit in Sri Lanka. In 40 ODIs played under lights since the beginning of 2010, there have been six centuries in run-chases, including two in the same game - the World Cup quarter-final between Sri Lanka and England - and two more in a ten-day period during India's ongoing series there. The win-ratios have changed considerably too, from 0.41 to 1.17. In fact, teams chasing in day-night games there have won more often in the last 40 matches than in the previous 61. In percentage terms, the winning ratio for the team chasing under lights since 2010 is 185% better than it was between 2000 and 2009.

The countries where teams batting second have consistently struggled under lights are Australia and South Africa. In both, the win-loss ratio for the teams chasing is around 0.7 since 2000. In the last couple of years, though, the overall ratio has been looking much brighter for the teams batting second under lights - it's improved from 0.78 to 1.17.

Stats by host country for teams chasing in d/n ODIs
Host country 2000-2009 - ODIs W/L Ratio 2010 onwards - ODIs W/L Ratio
New Zealand 56 31/22 1.40 14 9/5 1.80
India 61 31/27 1.14 36 19/16 1.18
England 30 13/13 1.00 18 8/5 1.60
Pakistan 62 29/33 0.87 - - -
Bangladesh 38 16/21 0.76 29 19/10 1.90
South Africa 89 34/46 0.73 12 4/8 0.50
UAE 61 25/36 0.69 17 9/8 1.12
Australia 126 47/72 0.65 34 14/18 0.77
Sri Lanka 61 17/41 0.41 40 20/17 1.17
Overall 593 246/315 0.78 195 102/87 1.17
Batting stats by host country for teams chasing in d/n ODIs
Host country 2000-2009 - Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s 2010 onwards - Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
India 30.43 79.80 12/ 65 31.93 84.95 10/ 42
Pakistan 30.02 76.47 9/ 82 - - -
England 28.01 74.28 3/ 25 30.20 86.32 1/ 16
New Zealand 27.56 78.03 9/ 60 31.45 82.39 2/ 15
Australia 25.84 73.04 21/ 111 27.12 80.92 4/ 36
Bangladesh 25.71 70.19 4/ 36 37.19 81.25 9/ 37
UAE 25.04 68.47 8/ 60 28.48 77.82 3/ 21
South Africa 24.43 71.73 12/ 68 21.69 75.95 1/ 9
Sri Lanka 22.69 67.89 8/ 44 26.71 74.16 6/ 38

In terms of specific venues in Sri Lanka, the big difference is in the stats for the Premadasa Stadium. Till 2009, teams batting second under lights used to win roughly one in four. Since the ground was redone for the 2011 World Cup, they have been winning three out of four.

Results for teams batting second in d/n ODIs in Sri Lanka
Ground 2000-'09 - ODIs W/L Ratio 2010 onwards - ODIs W/L Ratio
Premadasa Stadium 48 11/ 34 0.32 14 9/ 3 3.00
Pallekele - - - 6 3/ 3 1.00
Dambulla 13 6/ 7 0.85 14 6/ 7 0.85
Hambantota - - - 6 2/ 4 0.50

Overall, though, Sri Lanka remains a fairly difficult country for batsmen. Since 2004, the average here is the lowest among all host countries, and the run rate's better only than that in Bangladesh. Scoring has been a problem both for the home team and the visitors: the overall average for Sri Lanka in home games during this period is only 30.94, which is well below the averages for India, South Africa, Pakistan and Australia. For visiting batsmen, the averages are even lower.

Host country stats in ODIs since 2004 (for home and away teams)
Host country Home - average Run rate Away - average Run rate Overall - average Run rate
Pakistan 36.79 5.42 31.92 5.28 33.82 5.34
India 39.84 5.67 30.43 5.20 33.25 5.36
New Zealand 33.91 5.52 31.88 5.07 32.87 5.29
South Africa 39.38 5.60 27.99 4.84 31.64 5.12
England 33.96 5.30 30.03 4.95 31.61 5.10
Australia 35.15 5.36 28.52 5.01 31.02 5.15
Zimbabwe 25.95 4.64 33.43 5.05 29.60 4.86
West Indies 30.15 4.99 29.05 4.85 29.40 4.89
Bangladesh 26.96 4.52 28.89 4.76 28.03 4.65
Sri Lanka 30.94 4.93 26.01 4.62 27.87 4.75

Among Sri Lanka's current players, a couple have slightly higher averages in away or neutral ODIs than in home games, which is quite different to their stats in Tests, where most of them have much better numbers at home. Kumar Sangakkara averages 39.71 away (including neutral venues) and 36.50 at home; Tillakaratne Dilshan averages 33.68 at home, and 36.24 overseas. Even Mahela Jayawardene, who has such a huge home-and-away discrepancy in Tests, has very similar home-and-away stats in ODIs: 34.74 at home, and 32.11 when playing away.

Overseas batsmen have mostly had problems in Sri Lanka, but over the last few years, many players from the subcontinent - most of them from India - have found a way to score runs there. (Indians, of course, have had the advantage of playing almost every year in Sri Lanka.) Most of the batsmen who have scored more than 500 ODI runs in Sri Lanka since 2004 are Indians, and they have pretty high averages too. The only non-Indian in the list below is Pakistan's Umar Akmal, who has a remarkable average of 49.83 in his 17 ODIs in Sri Lanka.

Best overseas batsmen in Sri Lanka in ODIs since 2004 (Qual: 500 runs)
Batsman ODIs Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Umar Akmal 17 598 49.83 88.85 1/ 4
Sachin Tendulkar 13 512 46.54 78.89 1/ 3
MS Dhoni 32 1020 44.34 77.68 0/ 8
Rahul Dravid 15 502 41.83 71.71 1/ 4
Gautam Gambhir 17 671 39.47 86.13 2/ 4
Virat Kohli 17 546 36.40 76.25 2/ 1

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 6, 2012, 5:11 GMT

    the best indian test team 4 overseas game......1.gambhir 2.sehwag 3.kohli 4.sachin 5.laxman 6.dhoni 7.irfan 8.ashwin 9.zaheer 10.aaron 11.yadav..........and the reserves are.....12.yuvraj 13.rohit 14.rahul sharma 15.ishant or sreesanth..........if the squad is of 17.........then no. 17.raina

  • Dummy4 on August 6, 2012, 2:55 GMT

    How come there's no mention of the rule change from one ball to two new balls from either end. I guess that has affected bowlers effectiveness.

  • Subash on August 4, 2012, 13:39 GMT

    Honestly I won't be surprised if we lose the home series to both Eng and Aus. We have the batsmen to play at home but how are we going to take 20 wickets to win test matches. Can my fellow Indians think for a while as there is no bowling talent (spin or fast) coming through the talent pool. Beating SL in meaningless ODI series means nothing. We really need to reassess the domestic competition that produces young talents who would go on to represent the country. I guess we may have to out source fast bowling from other countries.

  • adithya on August 4, 2012, 5:27 GMT

    @great_aussie,keep dreaming aus will be whitewashed again in india and i'm sure u didn't forget the whitewash u faced in 2010 against india.

  • Dummy4 on August 3, 2012, 23:38 GMT

    those who says these stats are due to Murali don`t have any idea about Sri Lankan pitches...RPS is very different since the 2011 WC..Dambulla is still the same and u can`t bat their at night..Pallekale and Hambantota are bit balanced but still when its windy its better to bat first..However RPS is very balanced now and seems world class !

  • Rahul on August 3, 2012, 21:34 GMT

    come on india next year we r gonna white wash u again in india

  • Philip on August 3, 2012, 20:41 GMT

    The present stadium and the pitch is totally different from what it was before. It no longer the slow pitch that was before. You have compare all the matches played since the redevelopment. That tells you the story. A completely new drainage system is in place to nullify the marshy land effect that it had on teams batting second. SL on both occassions have not had the best of the bowlers compared to the Indians who have had good batsmen who have already been set. A clear analysis has not been made by the writer in this respect. Like with like comparison should be made which cannot be the case here. The previous slow wicket is no longer in existence. It is a fact that the Indians batter better and it happened to be at Premadasa Stadium. Philip Gnana, Surrey

  • Dummy4 on August 3, 2012, 18:21 GMT

    ALso recently India has been touring too often to Sl and Ind has very strong Batting and V poor bowling hence they score big and let opposition score big too that is why recent avg scores on SL grounds have risen

  • Dummy4 on August 3, 2012, 16:17 GMT

    to be honest... Between January 2000 and December 2009, Sri Lanka had murali on those slow low wickets.. and thus chasing any damn thing was difficult.. Add Vaas, Jaysuria and some spinners here and there.. no chance with there good fielding.. Lankans seem to be struggling(same as indians) to find good bowlers..

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