Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer celebrate the win

Australia have won 65.5% of all their home Test series and a whopping 78.3% in the last 20 years

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Stats analysis

Which teams have done the best at home overall and in the last 20 years?

A graphic representation of teams' success and failures in their own backyards

Anantha Narayanan  |  

Home is where the heart is. Delhi is not Durban (or vice versa). Invincible at home, invisible away. How often have we heard phrases like these?

In cricket, especially in Tests, it is understood that playing at home offers a distinct advantage. However, we need clear and comprehensive analyses to quantify that advantage, which varies considerably between teams and within teams across eras. In this article, we will look at the numbers behind home Tests.

A note about exclusions before we begin:

Forty-four Tests in 19 series played on neutral grounds have been excluded. From the 1912 triangular tournament played in England, the three Tests not involving England have thus been excluded. From the 1999 Asian Test Championship, the final - Pakistan v Sri Lanka in Dhaka - is excluded. (In the next Asian Test Championship, in 2001-02, all matches were played on home or away grounds.) All Tests played in the UAE are excluded since UAE is a neutral territory. The 2005 Test between Australia and ICC World XI has been considered a home Test for Australia

I will look at teams' home performance across periods. A team's mindset can change completely over time - witness how India have moved from safety-first to result-oriented. In the latter part of the article I will look at results across countries. In that section I will do two levels of analysis: one for the entire 143 years, and the other for the past 20 years. Test matches and series will be covered separately.

The Result Index (hereafter called RI) is normally based on a simple 2-1-0 (win-draw-loss) points system. However, I feel that such a distribution gives too much credit (50% of the points for a win) for draws in home matches. Home teams are supposed to have the edge and it is not correct to give them a blanket 50% credit for drawing Tests in their own backyard. Instead, I will use a customised allocation for Test cricket, as follows:

Win: 3.0 points
Tie: 2.0 points
Draw1: 1.5 points (two innings completed)
Draw2: 1.0 points (two innings not completed)
Loss: 0.0 points

The RI formula is: RI = 100.0 * (3.0*Wins + 2.0*Ties + 1.5*Draw1s + 1.0*Draw2s) / (3.0*Matches)

Country summaries
The country results below are divided into periods. Only the 2000-2020 period is common to all teams. The earlier periods are determined based on every country's historical needs. There are no definite rules for these cut-offs.

Wins and ties are shown in shades of red, draws in grey, and losses in black. I have highlighted the primary streaks - wins or losses or draws - with double black lines and underlined the secondary streaks - no wins or no losses or no draws - in red.

The minimum length for a primary streak is three Tests. For secondary streaks, the minimum is 20 Tests - with one exception, in the case of England. In order not to clutter up the graphs, only one streak is shown when there are multiple streaks of equal length.

The analysis is current up to the second Test between Pakistan and Bangladesh played in Rawalpindi earlier this month.

© Anantha Narayanan

We have to marvel at the preponderance of red in the last period for Australia: an outstanding RI value of 80, with victories in nearly three-quarters of their home matches. Their record run of 12 consecutive wins straddles 1999 and 2000. This streak was embedded in a 22-Test unbeaten run. Later, they had another unbeaten run of 25 Tests, of which 22 were wins.

The first half of the 1980-to-1999 period was underwhelming for Australia. However, they more than made up in the 1990s. That decade started with Allan Border's rebuilding and ended with domination under Steve Waugh. This period contained a 21-Test unbeaten streak.

The period between 1954 and 1979 was at best acceptable by the standards set earlier and later, as the RI value of 60 suggests. A record four draws on the trot came in this period. The effect of the Packer exodus can clearly be seen in the poor results towards the end of this phase.

The second period, 1928 to 1953, started with Don Bradman's coming on the scene and ended with Lindsay Hassett at the helm. Overall the results were very good, with an RI of 66. It is a surprise to note that Australia's worst losing streak was during the Bradman era - three Tests in the Bodyline series, followed by losses in the first two Tests of the 1936-37 series.

The first phase, from 1877 to 1925, was a mixed one, mainly because, more often than not, Australia were facing strong England teams. The RI value was a middling 61. A humongous streak of 87 Tests without a draw began in this period, but this was mainly because most Tests were "timeless" during this era.

© Anantha Narayanan

In the current century, England have had their best period ever. An RI of 67 and a win percentage of 58 are indicative of this. Their record streak of ten wins came in the first part of this period. They had many captains during this period; of them, Michael Vaughan and Joe Root had win records greater than 50%.

By contrast, the previous period, 1976 to 1999, was England's worst ever. Their RI was a very poor 47. Their win percentage was exceeded by both their draw percentage and their loss percentage. In this period came inarguably their lowest point - a 16-match streak with no win (highlighted on the graph as a special case), which was part of a 25-match run with just a single victory. During this stretch England had no fewer than six captains, including four in the ill-fated series against West Indies in 1988. Imagine a team with a century of Test cricket behind them going through such a phase. A little earlier in the period, England endured a sequence of five straight losses.

The 1954-to-1975 period was a much better one. England's RI was a very creditable 63, and it would have been better but for the seven-match streak of no wins at the end. The bowlers were magnificent in this period - Jim Laker, Tony Lock, Fred Trueman, Brian Statham, et al. In the mid-1950s there was a streak of 24 unbeaten Tests.

The years 1928 to 1953 were not great. A certain Bradman saw to that. England won, on average, only one Test in three. There were a high number of draws.

The first period, before 1926, was a fair one and one could say that Australia and England split this period. There were no timeless Tests in England, and there were many draws, including their longest-ever streak of six.

© Anantha Narayanan

The post-2000 period has been very good for South Africa. Their RI of 66, despite the disastrous run recently, confirms this. South Africa was a result-oriented place during this period: only 14 Tests were drawn, the last one 23 Tests ago. They have enjoyed four streaks of six or more wins. Only India and Australia have been ahead of South Africa in this time. Graeme Smith was captain for a good part of this duration.

The previous period is a short one, since it starts only after South Africa's readmission to Test cricket in 1992. The RI value of 68 is high and their record streak of ten wins came towards the end of this period.

The post-war period, from 1948 to 1970 (after which South Africa was expelled from international cricket), was an average one. The RI was just 50.

The first period, from 1889 to 1939, was poor. South Africa started with a record streak of eight losses and finished with an RI of 35. They had the misfortune of playing two very strong teams (Australia and England) quite frequently. Straddling the first two periods was a no-win streak of 24 Tests.

© Anantha Narayanan

India's performance after 2000 has been their best ever, bettered only by Australia's effort during this time. India had stretches of seven and eight wins in this period, but the eye-catching number is the number of losses: only 12 in 20 years. They never lost three Tests in a row - a feat replicated only by Australia in the period - and their RI was a high 73. All credit should be given to Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli for leading the team so effectively at home. Kohli's win record as captain in this period is second only to Steven Smith's.

The 1976-1999 period was less successful for India, though they achieved their longest win streak of ten Tests. This was a period that saw a lot of defensive cricket on unhelpful pitches. There were 47 draws - nearly half the matches played. This resulted in a 20-Test unbeaten run, of which most matches were draws. The RI was a middling 57.

The first period, 1933 to 1975, was similar to the way most teams started, in that India struggled to find their feet. Wins were few and far between. There were several stretches of drawn matches; yet, the maximum number of consecutive losses was limited to three. The spinners ruled the roost during this period.

© Anantha Narayanan

West Indies have had a miserable time since 2000: an RI of just 43. The number of matches lost is much higher than those won.

The previous period, 1976 to 1999, contained their halcyon years: they had an RI of 68 and a win-loss ratio of 3.6. The battery of pace bowlers under Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards saw to that. There was a stretch of 25 unbeaten Tests in this period.

The first period, 1930 to 1975, was a curious one, especially the post-war years. Despite having Garry Sobers and the three Ws, West Indies still had a streak of 22 Tests without a win, which included a run of ten draws. Overall, their RI in this period was 52.5.

© Anantha Narayanan

New Zealand's performance in the past 20 years has been fairly good. While they have endured stretches of difficulty, they usually bounce back, and have an RI of 58. Their results under the captaincy of Kane Williamson have been very much above par.

The previous period, 1976-1999, was a middling one. There were plenty of drawn matches. However, at least there were more wins than losses, and they also had their record streak of five wins, so the RI was a respectable 51.5. Martin Crowe was the standout leader during this period.

The first 45 years were sub-par for New Zealand. They had only four wins during this period, and endured streaks of five losses and nine draws.

© Anantha Narayanan

Pakistan's challenges in hosting cricket in recent years are well known. They played only a handful of home Tests in the 2010s. However, they have won nearly half their Tests this century, and have recorded a streak of five wins.

The previous period, 1980 to 1999, was their best one ever - this was the period of Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. The emphasis was on not losing: 37 Tests (nearly 50%) were drawn. However, of the other 40, Pakistan won 31, making it a very tough country to visit. The RI was an admirable 63, and they had a 26-match unbeaten streak in the 1980s.

During the first period, 1955 to 1979, Pakistan's philosophy was simple: prepare dead pitches and draw as many matches as possible. Over 60% of Tests in this phase were drawn. They had the bowling to win 11 of the other 16 Tests, leading to a reasonable RI of 57.

© Anantha Narayanan

Sri Lanka's performance over the last two decades has been very good, thanks in good part to Muttiah Muralitharan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. Their RI of 61 testifies to a low draws component - only 21%. Sri Lanka had their record streak of ten wins early in this period. The graph also shows a stretch of 26 consecutive result games (almost equally split between wins and losses).

Sri Lanka's first period, 1982 to 1999, was a good one for a team just entering Test cricket. They drew almost half their matches and winning half the remaining, for an RI of 48.

© Anantha Narayanan

Although they tasted victory as early as their seventh Test, Zimbabwe have generally struggled at home - as their overall RI of 29 indicates. The streak of six consecutive losses a couple of years ago does not help their record. The positive highlights were wins over Pakistan and India either side of the end of the millennium.

Bangladesh started disastrously - a single draw and 14 losses in their first 15 Tests, and just the one win in their first 43 matches. However, of late they have shown that they are not pushovers. Recently they won three Tests on the trot twice. Of their last 19 Tests, they have won eight - which includes victories over Australia, England and Sri Lanka.

© Anantha Narayanan

A summary of home Tests - all 143 years
Australia are deservedly at the top of the overall home-performance table (ordered by RI values), notwithstanding the benefit (or disadvantage) of timeless Tests in the beginning. Look at their low percentage of draws.

Pakistan are perhaps a surprise in second place. The main reason for their position is the extraordinarily high number of draws, especially in the early years, and the very low number of losses. India follow close behind, with numbers somewhat similar to those of Pakistan in terms of percentages. The high number of draws was a general feature from the 1950s to the 1980s.

England are in fourth place. Sri Lanka's excellent results during the first decade of this century have helped them into fifth position. South Africa have made up for their disastrous first period with excellence in the past 20 years. Their pitches make sure that they win (and lose) a fair number of matches.

It is clear that despite the presence of excellent players, the first two periods for West Indies were quite average. New Zealand have been helped a lot by their recent performances. Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have been similar in many ways, with Zimbabwe having the edge, although of late, Bangladesh have done reasonably well.

If we exclude Zimbabwe and Bangladesh - since inclusion of their numbers severely distorts the overall picture - around 43% of all Tests have been won by the home team and around 25% by the visiting team. The overall RI for the top eight is 58.8, which places three teams above this value, and England exactly at that level.

© Anantha Narayanan

A summary of home Tests - last 20 years
During the past two decades, Australia have been simply magnificent. A win percentage of 72 and a loss percentage of around 12 means they have an unbelievable RI value of 79. To state the obvious: it is not easy to do well in Australia. Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Steven Smith, and more recently Tim Paine, deserve credit.

India are in second place. Whether it was through the spinners earlier in this period or their excellent pace bowlers recently, the Indian team of recent vintage has been very difficult to beat at home. South Africa have won four Tests in India in this phase, and England and Australia three times each. India's RI is a very impressive 73.

England are some distance behind and have a fair amount of draws, many of these caused by the weather.

Despite their recent travails, South Africa have been very good during these two decades and have an RI of 66. Again, typical of South Africa, they have lost more matches than Australia and India put together.

Mainly because of their very good first decade, Sri Lanka are in fifth place.

Pakistan are at No. 6: in any case, the period 2009-19 was a barren period for Pakistan's home cricket, as seen in the very low number of matches.

West Indies have struggled of late.

The summary of the top eight teams shows that nearly 54% of Tests in the past two decades were won by home teams - a much higher value than the figure for all 143 years. The RI of the top eight here is almost 65: four teams are above this level and four below.

© Anantha Narayanan

A summary of home series - all 143 years
The RI for series is calculated on the standard 2-1-0 (win-draw-loss) basis. One-Test series are included.

Australia have been the best performers in terms of series too, winning well over 60% of their home series and drawing about a sixth of them. Their series RI across time is almost 73. The surprise package is India, whose outstanding home run recently has helped them get into second place. India also have the lowest series loss ratio at home. Their RI is a very creditable 69.

England follow closely in third place. However, their loss percentage is quite high. Pakistan and South Africa are next; South Africa's loss percentage is quite high, mostly because of their terrible first period. Zimbabwe's home wins were against India and Bangladesh (thrice). Bangladesh's home wins were against Zimbabwe (twice) and West Indies.

The combined series RI of the top eight is a little over 63, and four teams have higher RI values than that. The combined series-win percentage of the top eight is around 54%.

© Anantha Narayanan

A summary of home series: last 20 years
Finally, we have a team other than Australia at the top. India have been impeccable at home in the past 20 years. They have only lost three series (to Australia, South Africa and England) and drawn five. Their unbeaten run of 12 series wins and counting has propelled them to an RI of 84. Of Australia's five recent series losses, South Africa have been responsible for three. Australia's win record is marginally better than that of India, but they have suffered more series defeats.

Look at the excellent performance of the top four teams: all with RI values above 75. It is clear that teams have become difficult to conquer at home. The higher RI average of the top eight, of 70, also confirms this trend.

Conclusion
Australia are the undisputed masters at home. They have had no weaknesses at almost any time in history. Currently they have a spinner who bowls very well on flat pitches, their pace attack is something to marvel at, and they are strong in all departments of the game.

The next four teams have excelled at different times and continue to do so now, albeit inconsistently. I would group India, England, Pakistan and South Africa together. It is possible that India might be the first among these equals because they have no apparent weaknesses at the moment. They are fast approaching Australia as the toughest country to play at home. The last year was not kind to South Africa and Pakistan. However, that should not take away from their overall performances.

The summary numbers indicate that the home figures for the top eight teams during the past 20 years has been significantly better than the all-time figures. One reason for this could be that teams have less time to condition themselves when they play away. Before the first Test of the current series in New Zealand, India played a single practice match. Before the first Ashes Test in England in 1948, Australia played 12.

Which is the best performing team outside the comfort zone of their home? Sans analysis, Australia comes to mind. But that is for another day.

Email me with your comments and I will respond. I will also use this email id to send readers information on the publication of new articles. Please note that this email is to be used only for sending in your comments.

Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems

 

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