September 11, 2015

The new ODI template in England

Fifty-over games in England used to be relatively low-scoring, with the chasing team winning most often. That is no longer the case

The average run rate in the 1999 World Cup was lower than the rates in the two World Cups hosted in the subcontinent in 1987 and 1996 © Getty Images

The ODI series between England and Australia has so far followed a familiar template: in each of the first three games, the team batting first has scored 300 or more, and the team chasing has failed to touch 250. In the previous ODI series of the England summer, against New Zealand, the team batting first didn't have such an advantage - they won only two out of five games - but that series was notable for the sheer domination of bat over ball. There were seven totals of 300 or more, the second-highest in a bilateral series, while the series run rate of 7.15 is the highest ever in a bilateral series of three or more matches.

Till some years ago, ODIs in England used to be far less dominated by the bat than ODIs in most other countries: between 1996 and 2005, the average run rate in ODIs in England was 4.72, which was well below the rates in India (5.14) and Pakistan (5.08); only West Indies (4.70), Sri Lanka (4.65) and the UAE (4.51) had more sluggish rates. In the 1999 World Cup, the average run rate was 4.47, which was lower than the rates in 1987 and in 1996, when the tournament was hosted in the subcontinent.

Over the last ten years, though, that has gradually changed, as pitches in England have become flatter and more batting friendly. In Test matches in England, the conditions continue to be challenging for batsmen, especially with the Dukes ball offering more to the bowlers, and the pitches and the weather often aiding seam and swing. However, in ODIs since 2006, the ODI run rate in England has gone up to 5.32, which is next only to New Zealand (5.47) and India (5.40), among countries that have hosted at least 50 ODIs during this period. (Pakistan have hosted 43 ODIs since the beginning of 2006.) In percentage terms, the 12.72% increase in run rates in England is second only to that in New Zealand (13.96%).

ODI run rates in each country in the last 20 years
Host country Run rate - 2006-2015 Run rate - 1996-2005 % change
 New Zealand  5.47  4.80  13.96
 England  5.32  4.72  12.71
 Australia  5.21  4.72  10.38
 South Africa  5.23  4.76  9.87
 U.A.E.  4.92  4.51  9.09
 Sri Lanka  5.04  4.65  8.39
 Pakistan  5.37  5.08  5.71
 India  5.40  5.14  5.06
 West Indies  4.88  4.70  3.83
 Zimbabwe  4.95  4.80  3.13
 Bangladesh  4.79  4.82  -0.62

Over the last ten years in England, there have been 31 ODI totals of 300 or more, in 221 innings, which works out to an average of one such score every seven innings; in the period between 1996 and 2005, there were only nine such scores in 270 innings, an average of one every 30 innings. The percentage increase in frequency of 76.24% is the highest among all countries. In India, the frequency has only gone up from once every 7.5 innings to once every 4.7 innings (though India has always been such a high-scoring country that it's tough for the percentages to improve more drastically).

300-plus totals in each country in ODIs
Host country Inns - 2006 to 2015 300+ scores Inngs per 300+ Inns - 1996 to 2005 300+ scores Inngs per 300+ % change
 England  221  31  7.13  270  9  30.00  76.24
 West Indies  285  31  9.19  144  4  36.00  74.46
 U.A.E.  144  7  20.57  202  3  67.33  69.45
 Sri Lanka  208  23  9.04  246  10  24.60  63.24
 N Zealand  205  35  5.86  174  14  12.43  52.87
 Australia  293  41  7.15  303  20  15.15  52.83
 South Africa  211  32  6.59  328  25  13.12  49.74
 Pakistan  86  19  4.53  156  18  8.67  47.77
 India  276  59  4.68  249  33  7.55  38.00
 Zimbabwe  174  15  11.60  167  12  13.92  16.65
 Bangladesh  249  16  15.56  121  10  12.10  -28.62

The other big change in ODIs in England in the last ten years, compared to the ten years before that, is the win percentage for teams batting first. Between 1996 and 2005, the team batting first won roughly one in three games - 46 out of 127 matches (excluding tied and washed-out matches). That win-loss ratio was the poorest among all host countries during that period. In day games during that period, the ratio was slightly poorer - 38-74, a win-loss ratio of 0.51 - suggesting that conditions in the morning were more favourable for bowling, and that they eased up later in the afternoon, allowing the team batting second to chase down the target more often than not. (In day-night games in England during that period - there were only 17 of those - the record for the team batting first was 8-7.)

Since 2005, spinners are averaging 32.35 runs per wicket during one-day chases in England © Getty Images

However, since 2006, that has changed completely. In the last ten years, teams batting first have a 53-50 win-loss record, a ratio which is the third-best among all host countries - teams batting first have done better only in Australia and Sri Lanka, and even there the difference is marginal. The win-loss ratio of 1.06 is an 87% improvement over their ratio in the period between 1996 and 2005, which is the biggest improvement among all host countries.

The big change in England is in the stats in day games: from 38-74, the win-loss record for teams batting first has improved to 33-30, suggesting that conditions are no longer as difficult for batting in the morning, or that there are other factors that make chasing a target tougher than it used to be. (In day-night games the win-loss record is an even 20-20, which is similar to the 8-7 record between 1996 and 2005.)

One of the reasons for the higher success rate of teams batting first in day games could be the increased effectiveness of spinners in the second innings in England: between 1996 and 2005 they averaged 39.85 runs per wicket; since 2005 their average has improved to 32.35. In the first innings of day games pace bowlers used to average 28.34, at an economy rate of 4.47; now (since 2006), it's gone up to 35.06, at an economy rate of 5.35.

Going by these numbers, it does appear that ODI pitches in England are less responsive to seam and swing in the last ten years, and because they are probably drier than they used to be, the spinners have a greater role to play, especially in the second innings. That has made conditions in England - when the sun is out, at least - more similar to those found in other countries, which has helped batsmen adjust quicker and post larger scores than what used to be the norm here. As for the bowlers, it's just a matter of getting used to the fact that they'll go for plenty in England too, as they do in most other parts of the world.

ODI win-loss for teams batting first in last 20 years
Host Country Won/ lost (2006-2015) W/ L ratio Won/ lost (1996-2005) W/ L ratio % change in ratio
 in England  53/ 50  1.06  46/ 81  0.57  86.95
 in West Indies  68/ 69  0.99  29/ 41  0.71  39.32
 in New Zealand  39/ 58  0.67  33/ 50  0.66  1.82
 in India  66/ 68  0.97  61/ 62  0.98  -1.32
 in Sri Lanka  51/ 48  1.06  62/ 56  1.11  -4.07
 in Pakistan  19/ 23  0.83  37/ 41  0.90  -8.43
 in South Africa  49/ 55  0.89  77/ 77  1.00  -11.00
 in Australia  75/ 65  1.15  86/ 63  1.37  -15.53
 in Zimbabwe  37/ 50  0.74  38/ 42  0.90  -18.14
 in U.A.E.  33/ 39  0.85  59/ 40  1.48  -42.64
 in Bangladesh  52/ 72  0.72  34/ 25  1.36  -46.91

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

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