West Indies v England, 5th Test, Trinidad March 5, 2009

Low scores and decisive results

Stats preview to the fifth Test between West Indies and England in Port of Spain

After the mountain of runs that were scored in the fourth Test in Barbados, fans of Test cricket - and especially those of the England team - will be desperately hoping that the Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain lives up to its recent reputation. If it does, they can gear up for a cracking Test match, with sub-300 scores, plenty of wickets for fast bowlers, and a victory for the visiting side. For those have been the norms in the last 11 years - and 10 Tests - at this venue.

Trinidad used to be a venue which was good for batting, helped spinners, and produced plenty of draws, but that was in a different era. Overall, 20 out of 55 matches here have been drawn, but the last ten Tests have all ended decisively, with West Indies losing seven of those. In fact, there was a stretch of eight Tests when they lost seven, with the lone win coming against Zimbabwe. But the last time West Indies played here, they notched up a memorable win against Sri Lanka, with Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul combining to help overhaul a potentially tricky target of 253.

England's recent memories of this venue will be pleasant as well - they've won their last two Tests here, including the one in 2004 by seven wickets, when Steve Harmison returned a match haul of 7 for 101.

Tests in Port of Spain
Team Played Won Lost Drawn
West Indies - overall 55 18 17 20
England - overall 18 6 7 5
West Indies - since 1998 10 3 7 0
England - since 1998 3 2 1 0

As mentioned earlier, low scores have been the norm here, thanks to the pitches which have offered assistance to the quick bowlers. Over the last ten Tests, only in the first innings does the average runs per wicket touch 30; in the other three innings, it hovers in the mid-20s, which suggests a fascinating tussle between bat and ball. Only 15 centuries have been scored during this period, which is another indication of how difficult batting has generally been here. There has been one total in excess of 410 during this period, when Australia amassed a mammoth 576 for 4 declared in 2003, with Ricky Ponting, Darren Lehmann and Adam Gilchrist all getting hundreds. West Indies replied with 408, but ended up losing by 118 runs. (Click here for an innings-by-innings list of scores in the last ten Tests in Port of Spain.)

The other fascinating aspect is how even matches have generally been after the first innings: the average first innings difference is 68.4, and on six occasions the lead has been less than 60, setting up the second half of the match perfectly. In the last ten Tests, the lead has been shared equally by the team batting first and the team batting second - five times in each instance.

Innings-wise runs per wicket in Port of Spain since 1998
1st innings 2nd innings 3rd innings 4th innings
30.45 27.45 24.62 25.27

Among the West Indian batsmen in the current squad, four have played here before, with mixed results. Sarwan is the only one to have consistently delivered the runs - his last three innings read 107*, 57 and 102, the last effort winning West Indies the Test and him the Man-of-the-Match award. Given the form he is in now, there's a good chance he'll add substantially to his aggregate of 514. In fact, he was remarkably consistent in his first seven innings as well, except that it would have been infuriating for his team-mates - he didn't score less than 21, but didn't exceed 41. The scores read: 34, 39, 35, 41, 26, 34, 21.

For the rest of the batsmen, this venue has produced forgettable results: Chanderpaul averages only 34.50 despite an unbeaten 86 in that Test against Sri Lanka, while Chris Gayle has a highest of 62 in 12 innings.

West Indies batsmen in Port of Spain
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Ramnaresh Sarwan 6 514 46.72 2/ 1
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 7 414 34.50 0/ 2
Devon Smith 3 113 22.60 0/ 0
Chris Gayle 6 271 22.58 0/ 2

Fast bowlers have been far more effective at the Queen's Park Oval over the last decade - in ten Tests they've taken 13 five-fors, and average an impressive 25.37. Curtly Ambrose leads the way in terms of wickets taken during this period - his 28 in four Tests have come at a ridiculous average of 9.71. England have had several heroes too: Angus Fraser's 20 wickets in two matches have come at a cost of 9.50 each, while Steve Harmison and Simon Jones enjoyed themselves on their last visit in 2004. (Click here for a full list of fast bowlers here since 1998.)

Spinners, on the other hand, have had a barren spell, with just 50 wickets at an average of 37.72. The most successful spinner during this period has been Gayle, with ten wickets at an average of 14.10.

Pace and spin in Port of Spain since 1998
Type Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Pace 291 25.37 56.1 13/ 3
Spin 50 37.72 93.0 1/ 0

With fast bowlers ruling the roost, it isn't surprising that partnerships for the early wickets haven't been prolific. The average first-wicket stand has been 30.62, with only three century partnerships in 40 attempts, though one of them was by Gayle and Smith, the current West Indian opening pair, against England in 2004. The average for the second wicket is even lower. The middle order has done much better: the average stands for the third and fourth wickets are significantly higher than for the first two.

Wicket-wise average partnerships in Port of Spain since 1998
For wicket Innings Runs Average stand 100/ 50 p'ships
First 40 1225 30.62 3/ 6
Second 41 1127 28.17 1/ 9
Third 40 2047 52.48 6/ 8
Fourth 38 1495 40.40 5/ 7
Fifth 37 977 27.91 1/ 5
Sixth 35 965 27.57 2/ 3
Seventh 35 805 23.00 1/ 5

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo