The two much vaunted and anticipated Test series have followed a very familiar trend for quiet some time in Test cricket. Namely the home side being totally dominant and if not outright winning the series but going a massive way towards it after a couple of tests in the series.
England’s 4-0 loss in Australia has now made it a 17-year period with only one away win between the two sides in a series in this time (England’s success in 2010/11). Whilst India’s 2-1 loss in South Africa carried on the trend of them being almost invincible at home, but not really competing with the non-Asian team’s away from India.
It’s a worrying trend for Test cricket which is always under increasing pressure from the popularity and not to mention increasing profitability of 20/20 leagues played to packed houses around the world. Such one-sided series in favour of the home team are not really helping its appeal, though interestingly still offer a certain value with the bookmakers.
There are lots of reasons that touring has become increasingly difficult in cricket and home sides hold such a dominance in their own conditions. The most obvious is a team used to their own conditions and having a country full of players who have played on their own wickets, but also excelled in domestic cricket and home internationals and as such enjoy – and are ideal for the wickets about to be played on. As opposed to visiting teams who undoubtedly have fine players but are playing on wickets and in heat (or lack of it in England) they just never experience for large periods of time with packed international schedules – and for England as an example playing every summer at home and the winter, visiting a different team in different conditions each year and as such an away trip to Australia would only come about every 3 to 4 years – a significant period of time for an international cricketer not to play in the same conditions.
A less obvious, but equally pertinent factor is the lack of preparation or build up that international sides take on overseas tours for some years now. In India’s case, a quirk of the international calendar has seen them playing predominately at home for a few years and then having to take on a tough South Africa side in very alien conditions where they didn’t play a warm up match and go into the first test at an extreme disadvantage. Despite this information South Africa were just a shade under even money and went on to win the game convincingly with India’s own aftermath analysis unsurprisingly being that their batters were ill prepared for the pace and bounce and their bowlers not used to bowling a “South African” length.
The same was applicable in Australia. Such has been touring team’s troubles playing on the hard and fast wickets of Australia that at the GABBA (the traditional first test for Australia) they are unbeaten in 19 years! With 22 wins and 7 draws at the venue. Making England’s decision not to play a recognised first-class fixture before the game surprising but also that Australia were available at touching even money equally so. Unsurprisingly Australia kept with history and won the test by a resounding 10 wickets.
This first test is usually the opportunity for big value with the unquestionable trend for home wins before the 2nd match see’s odds slashed, and normal order resumed.
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