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Asia comes out on top in entertainment stakes

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:

CountryMatRPMWPMRPOPlaying SpanSingapore1437214.05.20(1995/96-2000/01)India23743813.74.88(1981/82-2002/03)Bangladesh5443113.64.85(1988/89-2003)Pakistan13540613.04.83(1976/77-2002)Morocco745716.34.76(2002)Kenya4341514.54.75(1996/97-2002/03)Zimbabwe6942913.44.74(1992/93-2002/03)West Indies11441113.44.64(1976/77-2002/03)South Africa18141014.24.63(1992/93-2002/03)Sri Lanka14237813.34.55(1981/82-2003)United Arab Emirates19841514.64.50(1983/84-2002/03)New Zealand17339314.34.44(1972/73-2002/03)Canada2238114.54.41(1996-1999)Australia41639614.64.33(1970/71-2002/03)England21242514.34.30(1972-2002)Ireland136513.03.81(1999)Scotland229616.53.79(1999)Netherlands130513.03.57(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):

VenueMatRPOBrisbane504.53Christchurch364.52Napier214.48Adelaide544.43Auckland474.42Hamilton124.38Hobart194.33Dunedin204.33Sydney1154.31Wellington (WS)74.31Wellington (BR)254.30Melbourne (CS)54.29Perth524.28Melbourne (MCG)1144.26
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):

CountryMatRPOPakistan155.28Bangladesh384.97England94.92India424.86Sri Lanka454.71New Zealand424.67South Africa854.59United Arab Emirates794.56Australia2324.33
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:

CountryMatRPMWPMRPOSingapore1437214.05.20India13145414.24.96Bangladesh4744413.94.94Pakistan6245013.34.91Morocco745716.34.76Zimbabwe6542813.34.75Kenya4341514.54.75South Africa16441614.34.72West Indies6442914.44.69England8942514.24.66Sri Lanka11139213.54.60New Zealand9340014.54.57United Arab Emirates13142414.94.57Australia14241915.14.50Canada2238114.54.41Ireland136513.03.81Scotland229616.53.79Netherlands130513.03.57
Combined 1189 422 14.3 4.69

Last 5 years:

CountryMatRPMWPMRPOIndia4550914.65.44Singapore936713.85.15Pakistan1548114.85.14Bangladesh4144714.04.90Zimbabwe4842912.74.84Morocco745716.34.76South Africa10741114.24.76Australia7943815.04.73New Zealand4839814.14.73England7142114.24.69Kenya2840314.14.60West Indies3841514.14.60United Arab Emirates6641615.14.54Sri Lanka6739114.24.52Canada1140415.04.35Ireland136513.03.81Scotland229616.53.79Netherlands130513.03.57
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):

MatPaceMediumSpinCombo UnknownAustralia41664.4%10.1%19.1%5.7%0.6%Bangladesh5447.5%10.9%38.6%3.1%0.0%Canada2248.4%12.1%35.3%4.2%0.0%England21263.7%15.7%15.6%4.4%0.6%India23748.5%13.9%32.1%5.5%0.0%Ireland175.0%16.7%8.3%0.0%0.0%Kenya4352.2%9.9%35.3%2.5%0.0%Morocco775.7%0.0%24.3%0.0%0.0%Netherlands184.6%7.7%7.7%0.0%0.0%New Zealand17357.6%15.2%18.3%8.7%0.2%Pakistan13556.8%7.3%29.7%6.0%0.2%South Africa18168.2%9.4%18.8%3.5%0.1%Scotland264.5%9.7%12.9%12.9%0.0%Sri Lanka14245.2%9.6%38.3%6.8%0.2%Singapore1458.0%7.4%32.4%2.3%0.0%United Arab Emirates19853.6%9.5%32.9%4.0%0.0%West Indies11461.8%8.8%23.5%5.5%0.4%Zimbabwe6954.4%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):

MatPaceMediumSpinCombo UnknownAuckland4754.5%15.3%19.5%10.3%0.3%Christchurch3661.2%14.7%18.6%5.3%0.2%Dunedin2060.0%16.5%12.7%10.0%0.8%Hamilton1252.9%10.7%27.9%7.9%0.7%Napier2158.6%11.8%16.3%12.2%1.1%New Plymouth160.0%20.0%20.0%0.0%0.0%Queenstown1100.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%Taupo344.4%16.7%30.6%5.6%2.8%Wellington (BR)2560.5%15.2%18.8%5.5%0.0%Wellington (WS)764.7%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)