Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The modern lack of tour games

People often complain (myself included!) about the lack of tour matches these days.

Here's a breakdown of home side victories by Test number in the series (excl. Bangladesh and Zimbabwe):

1st: 0.40 +/- 0.02
2nd: 0.38 +/- 0.02
3rd: 0.38 +/- 0.02
4th: 0.39 +/- 0.03
5th: 0.39 +/- 0.04
6th: 0.35 +/- 0.12

That's over all Test history. There might be an extra slight advantage for the home side in the first Test of a series, but it's within error bars. But perhaps that small advantage is due to a bigger advantage that's come about recently? Here are the numbers since 2000:

1st: 0.42 +/- 0.05
2nd: 0.46 +/- 0.05
3rd: 0.50 +/- 0.06
4th: 0.55 +/- 0.11
5th: 0.60 +/- 0.15

That it's such a neat little increasing sequence is probably luck. That the home side is winning more Tests is not surprising, since we're in a very result-heavy era. But the main point to take home is that there's no evidence that touring teams get better as they get more used to the foreign conditions or whatever. Perhaps those stingy boards are right not to schedule extra tour matches.

This is a result that surprised me.

David, my suspicion is the 4th and 5th test results are being biased by the predominance of result-orientated teams playing those games: notably Australia and South Africa.

Excluding draws gives a slightly different result:
1st: 0.70 +/- 0.05
2nd: 0.68 +/- 0.05
3rd: 0.66 +/- 0.06
4th: 0.75 +/- 0.11
5th: 0.67 +/- 0.16

This reverses the first three tests for some reason. There was a period when dead pitches (and therefore draws) were more likely in later games, but I hadn't really noticed it recently.

Your main point is still valid: home teams don't seem to derive any particular advantage in the first game or two of a series.

Incidentally, I don't mind having fewer tour games so much, but I wish we could go back to having longer series. Just 11 five game series in the past 8 years is pretty sad.

England haven't won the first Test, home or away, in the last dozen contested series.

Also David, thanks for those great stats at 99.94. Much appreciated.
Confirms my suspicion that these days players themselves do not take tour games seriously, nor do the hosts (unless they are Australian) and by and large, teams are ready to go home by the end of the second test of a series. Sometimes teams are ready to go back home before the first test itself.

David Barry, I have been off for a while, and now take the opportunity to congratulate you on becoming Cricinfo's Wiard with Numbers!
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