Australia has never staged a men's T20 World Cup, and due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, over the last couple of seasons, T20Is have only been played in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. So how will the tournament, which will be staged across seven venues, possibly play out?
With a combination of data - from all T20s from October 1, 2020 to October 1, 2022 - and expert insight from David Hussey
, who has coached Melbourne Stars in the BBL for five seasons, we try to paint a picture of the characteristics of each venue and how that could impact tactics.
First, a glance at how T20 in Australia compares to the rest of the world. Across a number of metrics, the figures for the format in Australia sit mid-table, suggesting games played in the country are not at either extreme in global terms. But there are a few factors that stand out.
Much is often made about the size of the grounds in Australia (although these days it depends on how far in the rope is), but the fact that the country has the second-lowest boundary percentage in T20 suggests there is some truth to the belief. At 54.1% of runs in fours and sixes, only South Africa (51.7%) has a lower figure. For sixes alone, Australia is again second lowest, with maximums accounting for 20.6% of runs, behind South Africa (19.6%).
That more threes are scored is linked to this. In Australia, batters score a three on average every 127.7 deliveries, which is by far the lowest figure. The next lowest is England at 235.4 deliveries. For twos as well, Australia has the lowest per-balls rate of 11.4, ahead of New Zealand at 13.1. So it would appear that batters should get their running shoes on.
The other thing that stands out is the use of wristspin, which is a vital part of T20 cricket. Although Nathan Lyon has been outstanding as a fingerspinner in Tests in Australia, he seems to be an outlier. In terms of spin overs in T20 in Australia, wristspin accounts for 57.6%. Of overall overs bowled, it is 20.9%, only marginally behind the percentage in Sri Lanka, which leads the way with 21% of overs by wristspin.
The final thing worth pulling out is that the numbers favour sides batting first in Australia. Since October 2020, the country ranks second-lowest for sides chasing, behind West Indies, with a win percentage of 42.6%.
Ground by ground
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The venue for a host of marquee games this year, including the final, the MCG has the highest run rate, 8.30 - no doubt helped by Melbourne Stars, whose line-up features Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis - but the lowest percentage of runs in boundaries, 49.3%. It also has the highest percentage of overs bowled by spin.
Hussey's take: "Generally the pitch at the MCG is a very, very favourable, batter friendly, easy-paced batting pitch. The boundary sizes are your friend dead straight [as a batter], whereas square either side of the field is, of course, quite big. Bowlers use a lot of change-ups and a lot of slower balls into the pitch, so the teams are hitting to the big square boundaries to eliminate the boundary options. However, when you're playing as a batter, you've just got to pretty much hit the gaps and run very, very hard. And when you get that full ball, take it on and hit the ball dead straight and use the shorter boundaries to your advantage.
"Spin is a huge part. Legspinners can generally drag the ball down to force a batter to hit to the bigger sides. Teams can go into the death overs by taking as many wickets as possible [through spin], so that nullifies the death overs."
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The second-fastest scoring ground, behind the MCG. The numbers for both wristspin (7.42 runs per over) and fingerspin (7.05) are also marginally lower than those for the Gabba.
Hussey's take: "It's a bit of a new-ball pitch. Batters have to be a little bit more circumspect up front and respect the new ball by playing good cricket shots, try to conserve wickets and cash in in the middle overs and towards the end of the innings. But it's always a good cricket pitch. The boundary sizes are a bit bigger than you might think. They're definitely bigger straight, and if you're going to take a risk hitting straight, you've got to really get it. Teams try and target one or two bowlers and try and get them out of the attack to force the opposition to bowl a part-timer, who they also target as well.
"Generally over extra cover or over midwicket, it is probably the shortest part of the boundaries. Depending on which pitch you're playing on, playing bang in the middle, the boundaries are quite large. People don't realise that when they're out there or watching on TV. You've just got to try and hit to your areas of strength and play a lot of good cricket shots along the ground to maximise runs that way."
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This ground sits mid-table in most of the numbers considered here except for the economy rate of fingerspin (7.53), which is the highest, although overall it is a marginal difference to most of the other venues.
Hussey's take: "It's a good cricket pitch. Generally, more of a batter-friendly pitch, but at the end of the innings, when you're bowling at the death, because the straight boundaries are so long, you generally bowl very, very full and target the stumps or target wide balls. As a batting group, you try and go pretty hard the whole way through and target a couple of bowlers. With spin, generally, it turns there too. And if the spinner gets on top of you, it makes the death bowling so much harder to face for the batting teams. Generally, a high-scoring game of cricket there. It's always a good outfield.
"Spinners always try and get batters lbw and bowled because if you go too wide, the square boundaries are so short, they generally get cut or pulled for four or six at will. You've pretty much got to bowl dead straight."
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Due to Western Australia's highly restrictive border during the pandemic, Perth has only hosted six T20s in the span for this data. It has the lowest overall run rate of the six traditional venues (Geelong's from three games is lower), but has the highest percentage of runs in boundaries at 57.5. In this small sample, the chasing team has struggled - five defeats in six matches.
Hussey's take: "Same dimensions as the MCG. It's an unusual pitch because sometimes it goes through very, very quickly and it takes probably an over or two to get used to the pace and the bounce. Sometimes in the first six overs, you can get panned everywhere and then drag it back in the middle through spin and through the use of the quicks, bowling a lot of short stuff [then] the players are hitting to the longer boundaries [square]. So use the conditions and the boundaries to your advantage as the bowling team.
"If you're batting, generally use the pace to your advantage. Lots of late cuts, lots of deflections down past the wicketkeeper or fine leg for four, and if you're going to play the pull shot, try and get your hands above the ball and try to keep it on the ground and hit the gaps, because the outfield is so fast that you get a lot of value for runs for good cricket shots. It's not too dissimilar to the old WACA style of play."
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The Gabba, with the second-lowest boundary percentage behind the MCG, can be a tough place for pace in T20 - the difference between pace economy (8.65) and spin (6.85) is the largest. The data also supports Hussey's point below about the value of wristspin at the ground: it has the lowest economy across the venues. Excluding Geelong, it is the only ground for the World Cup without an individual century in the last two years.
Hussey's take: "The Gabba is probably the best batting pitch in Australia for white-ball cricket. Easy-paced. It's just a beautiful batting pitch. So if you're bowling, it's wide yorkers, lots of slower balls into the pitch, and not too dissimilar to the MCG, get the batters hitting to the biggest sides of the ground, using the boundaries as your friend. As a batter, you might miss a ball or have one or two dot balls but you can always cash in later in the over. The boundaries are pretty small straight or to one side they are pretty small, so you can really target them, but also because the pitch is so true, you can generally take a big risk with the bat and get away with it.
"Wristspin is probably the best spin to bowl up there. A bit more overspin, a bit more bounce, and the ball can actually turn up there too, which is a bit of a bonus. But there's a lot of batters, who have had lots of success up there playing spin, playing a lot of reverse sweeps and chipping the ball in the gaps, and because the pitches are true, you can actually take that risk. A spinner might bowl exceptionally well and still go for 40 off their four overs, so it's an incredibly hard place to bowl, but it's a beautiful place to bat."
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You may not want to be wristspinner in Hobart, and not just because staging matches there in October risks some rather chilly days and evenings. It has far and away the highest economy rate for wristspinners, at 8.76, more than a run higher per over than the next highest, which is the MCG at 7.59. It's interesting to note that Hobart Hurricanes signed legspinner Shadab Khan in the BBL draft. Fingerspin, though, fares somewhat better, with an economy rate of 7.30.
Hussey's take: "Batter-friendly. Just go hard from ball one. Rarely going to get bowled out. Very small boundaries on both sides of the ground, and generally one end is pretty small too. And if that end is with the breeze, you are on a hiding to nothing. It feels like a 30-metre boundary. If you're batting, go hard from ball one and you end up getting about 200-plus. But with the ball, whatever your plan is to that batter, you've got to execute and use the breeze to your advantage because it's such a blowy outdoor stadium. It's exceptionally hard to defend.
"If the batter can move around the crease at the end of the innings, you generally get the odd full toss and then they change their plan. So as a batter, you have to move around your crease a bit to sort of stuff up the bowler's area of expertise of execution."
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This ground has only hosted three matches in the last two years, so it does not feature in the overall numbers for this piece, but in those games, runs have come at just 7.52 an over.
Hussey's take: "It's pretty much like Hobart actually. Very small, straight. Very small one side. The pitch is unusual because it's a drop-in pitch and sometimes they are batter-friendly and sometimes they're not. Generally it's on the slower side. It's an odd-shaped ground and a lot of wide yorkers are bowled there to make the batter hit to the longer side of the ground. One side of the ground is really big, so you've got to try and force the batters to hit that side. But as a batter, you've got to move around the crease and target the shorter sides as much as you possibly can. And when you get that full toss or that half-tracker, you've got to hit it into the stands because you can probably get four sixes an over off any bowler if you target them correctly."
With contributions from Alex Malcolm
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo and S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. @rajeshstats