The sight of a cricket captain looking down at a flat track on the opening morning of a Test and then choosing to bat is extremely common. The notion that a side should always bat first is widely accepted tactics. Research from Swinburne University has blown this notion out of the water proving otherwise. Analysis from 371 completed Tests between 1990 and 2001 has led to more interesting findings.
Of the many factors shaping test cricket, there is strong evidence to suggest that the factors which impact most significantly on the outcome of a match are a team’s first innings lead, home team performance and the duration of the first innings. Clearly, a team is more likely to win a match after they have established a first innings lead, with the probability of winning increasing as the lead increases.
To have a better chance of winning the home team, on average, needs to establish a lead in excess of 93 runs, whereas the away team needs a lead in excess of 115 runs to have the same chance.
The home team is more likely to win a match rather than lose or draw, which suggests that the home team has a distinct winning advantage over the away team.
There is some evidence to suggest that teams gain advantage by batting second and so are possibly advantaged by batting last in the second innings. This contradicts the accepted wisdom that batting last is a disadvantage.
The time taken to complete each of the first innings contributes more to the shaping of a drawn result rather than a win or loss outcome, with the likelihood of a draw increasing as the duration of the first innings increases. For durations in excess of 1165 minutes (or approximately 277 overs) there is shown to be a better than even chance of a draw.
If you’re good at maths this research makes very interesting reading. Click here to read the report.
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