Asia comes out on top in entertainment stakes

Lynn McConnell

July 8, 2003

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New Zealand's dismal summer, especially for cricket's groundsmen, has resulted in some soul-searching both at official and unofficial level.

A group of New Zealand turf experts decided to do some research of results in one-day internationals around the world and came up with some interesting, although not completely surprising, statistics. Wisden CricInfo New Zealand decided to investigate further and gathered data based on matches played up until the end of the West Indies-Australia series at the start of June 2003.

New Zealand was found to be one of the least hospitable places to play ODIs, in terms of runs per over (RPO) scored. But it wasn't the worst of the major nations, England had that pleasure.

What was surprising was the countries that have had the highest number of runs per over in all ODIs played in their country.

The natural inclination is to expect warmer countries with harder pitches like Australia, South Africa or the West Indies. But believe that and you'd be wrong. Australia is actually ranked below New Zealand.

Of all the major countries to have staged one-day internationals since January 1971 India is the best place, closely followed by Bangladesh and Pakistan!

On a runs per over basis, India comes out with a match average of 4.88 runs per over. That is less than the 5.20 Singapore enjoys, but the smaller Singapore venues have only hosted 14 matches. India has hosted 237 games.

Average runs per over in ODIs in all countries:

Country                 Mat   RPM    WPM    RPO   Playing Span
Singapore                14   372   14.0   5.20   (1995/96-2000/01)
India                   237   438   13.7   4.88   (1981/82-2002/03)
Bangladesh               54   431   13.6   4.85   (1988/89-2003)
Pakistan                135   406   13.0   4.83   (1976/77-2002)
Morocco                   7   457   16.3   4.76   (2002)
Kenya                    43   415   14.5   4.75   (1996/97-2002/03)
Zimbabwe                 69   429   13.4   4.74   (1992/93-2002/03)
West Indies             114   411   13.4   4.64   (1976/77-2002/03)
South Africa            181   410   14.2   4.63   (1992/93-2002/03)
Sri Lanka               142   378   13.3   4.55   (1981/82-2003)
United Arab Emirates    198   415   14.6   4.50   (1983/84-2002/03)
New Zealand             173   393   14.3   4.44   (1972/73-2002/03)
Canada                   22   381   14.5   4.41   (1996-1999)
Australia               416   396   14.6   4.33   (1970/71-2002/03)
England                 212   425   14.3   4.30   (1972-2002)
Ireland                   1   365   13.0   3.81   (1999)
Scotland                  2   296   16.5   3.79   (1999)
Netherlands               1   305   13.0   3.57   (1999)

Combined 2021 409 14.1 4.55 (1970/71-2003)

Note: RPM and WPM signifies the average total number of runs and wickets per match.

England is a revealing last of the major nations which, is possibly reflective of the lesser number of one-day internationals it has staged until recently. Given the amount of domestic one-day cricket it plays, its players should be used to playing on a much wider variety of surfaces.

Another interesting fact is that for all New Zealand's pitches have been maligned, they are 0.11 runs per over higher than Australian grounds for scores in matches. Of course, several of the Australian grounds are bigger than most New Zealand grounds and that could be a factor.

Average runs per over at major Australia/New Zealand venues (1970/71-2002/03):

Venue             Mat    RPO
Brisbane           50   4.53
Christchurch       36   4.52
Napier             21   4.48
Adelaide           54   4.43
Auckland           47   4.42
Hamilton           12   4.38
Hobart             19   4.33
Dunedin            20   4.33
Sydney            115   4.31
Wellington (WS)     7   4.31
Wellington (BR)    25   4.30
Melbourne (CS)      5   4.29
Perth              52   4.28
Melbourne (MCG)   114   4.26

Note: Wellington (WS) is Westpac Stadium, Wellington (BR) is the Basin Reserve, Melbourne (CS) is Colonial Stadium and Melbourne (MCG) is the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Only grounds which have hosted more than three ODIs are shown.

It also could be due to the lower scoring rates in the heavier programme of day/night games played in Australia.

Average runs per over in day/night ODIs in all countries (1979/80-2003):

Country                 Mat    RPO
Pakistan                 15   5.28
Bangladesh               38   4.97
England                   9   4.92
India                    42   4.86
Sri Lanka                45   4.71
New Zealand              42   4.67
South Africa             85   4.59
United Arab Emirates     79   4.56
Australia               232   4.33

Australia also played more ODIs before the one-day 'revolution' which occured in the mid-1990s, where the scoring rate increased significantly worldwide. Through the 32 years from 1971, the worldwide average runs per over is 4.55. However, over the last decade the average has been 4.69 and in the last five years 4.75.

Last 10 years:

Country                 Mat   RPM    WPM    RPO
Singapore                14   372   14.0   5.20
India                   131   454   14.2   4.96
Bangladesh               47   444   13.9   4.94
Pakistan                 62   450   13.3   4.91
Morocco                   7   457   16.3   4.76
Zimbabwe                 65   428   13.3   4.75
Kenya                    43   415   14.5   4.75
South Africa            164   416   14.3   4.72
West Indies              64   429   14.4   4.69
England                  89   425   14.2   4.66
Sri Lanka               111   392   13.5   4.60
New Zealand              93   400   14.5   4.57
United Arab Emirates    131   424   14.9   4.57
Australia               142   419   15.1   4.50
Canada                   22   381   14.5   4.41
Ireland                   1   365   13.0   3.81
Scotland                  2   296   16.5   3.79
Netherlands               1   305   13.0   3.57

Combined 1189 422 14.3 4.69

Last 5 years:

Country                 Mat   RPM    WPM    RPO
India                    45   509   14.6   5.44
Singapore                 9   367   13.8   5.15
Pakistan                 15   481   14.8   5.14
Bangladesh               41   447   14.0   4.90
Zimbabwe                 48   429   12.7   4.84
Morocco                   7   457   16.3   4.76
South Africa            107   411   14.2   4.76
Australia                79   438   15.0   4.73
New Zealand              48   398   14.1   4.73
England                  71   421   14.2   4.69
Kenya                    28   403   14.1   4.60
West Indies              38   415   14.1   4.60
United Arab Emirates     66   416   15.1   4.54
Sri Lanka                67   391   14.2   4.52
Canada                   11   404   15.0   4.35
Ireland                   1   365   13.0   3.81
Scotland                  2   296   16.5   3.79
Netherlands               1   305   13.0   3.57

Combined 684 423 14.3 4.75

It is not surprising given their respective climates, that the Indian, Pakistan, Sri Lankan, Kenya and Bangladeshi pitches are also more likely to provide spinners with wickets in ODIs. Among the major nations the country least likely to provide spinners with wickets is England where the proportion of wickets taken by a spinner rates at 15.6%, which is lower than New Zealand's 18.3% and South Africa's 18.8%.

The most likely place for pace bowlers to get wickets is South Africa where the percentage is 68.2%, Australia is on 64.4% and the West Indies 61.8%.

England comes out on top in the medium-pacer stakes with 15.7% of dismissals being to medium-pacers, just ahead of New Zealand's 15.2%.

Breakdown of ODI wickets taken in all countries (1970/71-2003):

Mat    Pace  Medium    Spin   Combo Unknown
Australia               416   64.4%   10.1%   19.1%    5.7%    0.6%
Bangladesh               54   47.5%   10.9%   38.6%    3.1%    0.0%
Canada                   22   48.4%   12.1%   35.3%    4.2%    0.0%
England                 212   63.7%   15.7%   15.6%    4.4%    0.6%
India                   237   48.5%   13.9%   32.1%    5.5%    0.0%
Ireland                   1   75.0%   16.7%    8.3%    0.0%    0.0%
Kenya                    43   52.2%    9.9%   35.3%    2.5%    0.0%
Morocco                   7   75.7%    0.0%   24.3%    0.0%    0.0%
Netherlands               1   84.6%    7.7%    7.7%    0.0%    0.0%
New Zealand             173   57.6%   15.2%   18.3%    8.7%    0.2%
Pakistan                135   56.8%    7.3%   29.7%    6.0%    0.2%
South Africa            181   68.2%    9.4%   18.8%    3.5%    0.1%
Scotland                  2   64.5%    9.7%   12.9%   12.9%    0.0%
Sri Lanka               142   45.2%    9.6%   38.3%    6.8%    0.2%
Singapore                14   58.0%    7.4%   32.4%    2.3%    0.0%
United Arab Emirates    198   53.6%    9.5%   32.9%    4.0%    0.0%
West Indies             114   61.8%    8.8%   23.5%    5.5%    0.4%
Zimbabwe                 69   54.4%   14.4%   28.2%    2.4%    0.6%

Combined 2021 58.1% 11.3% 25.1% 5.2% 0.3%

Note: Pace consists of any bowler categorised as fast, fast medium or medium fast; Medium is medium or slow medium; Spin is leg break, off break, slow left arm orthodox or slow left arm chinaman; Combo refers to bowlers who bowl a mixture of styles (pace, medium and spin); Unknown is for bowlers with an unlisted bowling style.

In New Zealand, the ground most likely to suit spinners has been Westpac Park in Hamilton where 27.9% of wickets to fall have been taken by spinners. However, in the last five years, that figure has been only 17.9%. Given the speeding up of the Hamilton surface that is not surprising. This has been New Zealand's most successful venue with an 88.9% win ratio. The least effective have been Carisbrook in Dunedin with only 12.7% and the recently-developed one-day stadium in Wellington where 12.9% of wickets have been to spin.

Pace bowlers still hold sway at all New Zealand grounds, although Hamilton, historically, is the lowest of the main grounds likely to produce a wicket for the faster bowlers with 52.9%. But given the changes at that ground, that statistic is likely to rise in the next few years.

Breakdown of ODI wickets taken at New Zealand venues (1972/73-2002/03):

Mat    Pace  Medium    Spin   Combo Unknown
Auckland           47   54.5%   15.3%   19.5%   10.3%    0.3%
Christchurch       36   61.2%   14.7%   18.6%    5.3%    0.2%
Dunedin            20   60.0%   16.5%   12.7%   10.0%    0.8%
Hamilton           12   52.9%   10.7%   27.9%    7.9%    0.7%
Napier             21   58.6%   11.8%   16.3%   12.2%    1.1%
New Plymouth        1   60.0%   20.0%   20.0%    0.0%    0.0%
Queenstown          1  100.0%    0.0%    0.0%    0.0%    0.0%
Taupo               3   44.4%   16.7%   30.6%    5.6%    2.8%
Wellington (BR)    25   60.5%   15.2%   18.8%    5.5%    0.0%
Wellington (WS)     7   64.7%   11.8%   12.9%   10.6%    0.0%

As a result of this type of survey, turf management experts in New Zealand are hoping to get involved in a programme of assessment in order to continue their efforts to improve pitch standards in New Zealand.

Experiments are already underway to see if the more suitable couch grass that is so common in the warmer weather countries can be grown, under care, during a New Zealand winter.

Meanwhile, at the recent turf management conference in Auckland, involving people from all sports who care for grass surfaces, the curator of Bellerive Oval in Hobart, Peter Apps, was a guest speaker. He grows both couch and the rye grass preferred in New Zealand on his wicket block and told the New Zealand groundsmen that couch takes longer to come out of its winter dormancy than rye grass.

And during the conference, at a cricket groundsman's section meeting, New Zealand Cricket's operations manager John Reid was awarded the groundsmen's annual award for contribution to their craft.

(Statistics compiled by Duane Pettet)

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