When it comes to cricket, we all know that the home teams come to the pitch with an advantage. Take England for example. Their win-loss record at home is 23-11 in their favour, but when you take them away from home, it falls to 23-7 in the opposition’s favour. They haven’t lost an Ashes series at home since 2001, yet have only won outright in Australia once since 1986-87.
From the 179 Tests played since the start of 2013, the home side has won 104 times or 58% of the time. Visitors are proving successful 22% of the time, or on just 39 occasions, including 36 draws (20%).
Winning a series away from home has turned out to be just as difficult. During this period, home sides have won 37 series, accounting for 56% of the 66 Test series played. Away teams have won just 16 of those series, about 24%, with 20% or 13 series ending in a draw.
But what is it that makes cricket one of the hardest sports to win away from home?
Playing the pitch
One of the most obvious reasons for this phenomenon is the pitch. Simply put, the pitches in each of the 10 Test-playing nations offer a different challenge for both bowlers and batsmen.
The rise and dominance of fast-bowlers in nations such as Australia and South Africa is because the ball bounces more on these pitches than any other. In England, New Zealand and India, the ball swings away from the batsmen more. This means these teams prioritise bowlers of more obvious skill than out-and-out pacemen. In Asia and the West Indies, the ball grips and spins off the dry surface more. These conditions call for a top-class turner of the ball and batsmen with the skill to overcome that challenge.
As these teams learn their pitches and what style of play is suited, they’re given an undoubtable advantage. Through controlling the ball, they’re better able to control the match.
A different ball game
When it comes to the Ashes, it’s usually expected that the home team will win. Besides the pitch, another factor that affects this is the ball. Both Australia and England use different ball manufacturers, both giving varying results. In England, Tests are played with a Duke ball, while a Kookaburra is used in Australia.
England’s Duke is more widely recognized as the more bowler-friendly ball. When this style of ball was used in Australian domestic cricket, the average number of runs scored per wicket dropped from 34.6 to 28.9. The number of centuries scored per game also saw a decline.
For international matches, the home teams are becoming less hospitable to their touring guests. As the length of the tour decreases, warm-up matches are fewer and the chosen opposition is weaker. With the home team picking the warm-up opposition for the away team, the first real challenge the touring team will face is the big matches. This means that they are unable to prepare properly for the new conditions offered in this nation.
With no chance to restore confidence, form or condition, the preparation offered by warm-up matches is putting away teams at a disadvantage.
From the local crowds to the advantage of knowing the ground, the conditions are set up to favour the home team. At the moment, cricket is a bit too predictable and I’d love to see less of the home win predictability. It should be difficult for an away team to win, but not impossible.