With the Champions Trophy being hosted in England, there's been much talk about how batsmen could find it tough to score big runs in conditions which could favour seam and swing bowling. Going by the recent ODIs that have been played here, and going by the stats of ODIs played in England over the last eight years, those fears seem to be a tad exaggerated.
This season alone, there have been three scores in excess of 300, and two more in excess of 270, in just four games. Martin Guptill powered New Zealand to 359 in Southampton, to which England replied with 273, while India scored 331 in the opening game of the Champions Trophy against South Africa, who scored 305 themselves. The overall run-rate in these four games played in England this season is 5.84, which surely doesn't suggest conditions which favour bowlers.
In fact, since the beginning of 2005 the scoring rate for ODIs played in England has been more than five in each year except one: in 2012, the rate was 4.91 in 11 matches, but in each of the seven years preceding that it was more than five, with the maximum being 5.64 in 2011. (Click here for the year-wise stats since 2000.) Contrary to the feeling that scoring runs in England is relatively difficult, the table below indicates that ODIs in that country are among the more high-scoring ones. Since the beginning of 2005, the overall run-rate in ODIs in England is 5.21; only three countries - New Zealand, Pakistan and India - have a higher rate, while the average of 32.88 runs per wicket in England is among the higher ones too.
Bangladesh are at the bottom of the table, but that's partly because of the quality of the host team. Among the other countries, scoring runs in Sri Lanka and the West Indies is clearly the most difficult. In 92 ODIs in Sri Lanka, only 14 times has a team gone past 300, compared to 53 times in 139 games in India during this period. The rate in England isn't so high either - 17 instances in 89 games - which suggests that while there aren't too many very high totals, there aren't many low scores either, ensuring that the average remains reasonably high.
It's also been argued that England's a good place for seam and swing bowling, but they haven't done particularly well in ODIs here. In this eight-year period, fast bowlers have averaged 34.62 runs per wicket, and conceded 5.17 per over, both of which are among the higher ones when compared to other countries. The average is poorer only in Pakistan and New Zealand, while the economy rates are higher in those two countries, plus India. It's also true, of course, that many of the ODIs in England are played during the second half of the summer, when conditions are drier and pitches less seamer-friendly than in the first part of the summer.
That's also meant that spinners have been fairly effective in England too, achieving an economy rate of 4.89 at an average of 37, which isn't bad when compared to the averages for spinners in Australia and South Africa.
And then there's the theory that the top two slots aren't the best batting positions in England, because new-ball bowlers get plenty of assistance here. That could well be the case now that there are two new balls in ODIs, but over the last eight years, openers have enjoyed batting in England - they average 40.12 runs per completed partnership, the second-highest among all host countries. Only in New Zealand have openers averaged more - 44.85. The openers in England have also had 49 partnerships of 50 or more out of 150 stands, which is a ratio of one in three.
Among the opening combinations, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell have scored more runs than any other pair during this period - 538 runs in 15 innings at 38.42, but other pairs, especially those from touring sides, have better averages. In fact, looking down the list of successful opening pairs in England, it's striking that there are three from the subcontinent, one each from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
On their previous tour to England in 2007, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar scored 472 partnership runs in seven innings at 67.42, with three century stands. On their 2006 tour, Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga put together 406 in five innings, though 286 of those runs came in one partnership. On the 2010 tour, Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez were consistency personified at the top of the order, going past 50 four times in five innings in scoring 317 partnership runs.
From the table below, it's clear that opening the batting is a tougher task in Australia and South Africa - the first-wicket partnership in those countries is 32, about 20% lower than the average in England.
Two new balls might change that equation a bit, but the early trends this season suggest that Champions Trophy 2013 will be another run-fest.
All stats exclude the numbers from the first match of the 2013 Champions Trophy, between India and South Africa.