CricViz analyst Patrick Noone profiles The Adelaide Oval.
Australia’s most picturesque Ashes venue has seen some fundamental changes in the last few years. The ground has been modernised with huge stands erected on three sides of the playing area, replacing the feeling of a boutique ground with that of a daunting arena. Some of the old charm has been retained at the northern end of the ground with the grass bank, fig trees and old-fashioned scoreboard leaving an indelible link to the ground’s former guise.
Along with the SCG, Adelaide has traditionally been seen as the most spin-friendly ground in Australia. However, in the last ten years, spinners average 51.56 there which is higher than any other ground to have hosted at least five Tests in that time. Seamers have fared better in recent years, averaging 34.94, though the run rate is consistent between both spinners and seamers (3.23 and 3.20, respectively).
Australia’s win percentage of 52% at the Adelaide Oval is lower than at each of the other Ashes venues. Their recent record has been more formidable though, with wins in each of the last four matches there and only one defeat in 13 since 2003. There have been 15 double hundreds scored by Australians there, far more than any other ground with Sydney second on the list with eight.
England have just nine victories from the 31 matches they have played at the Adelaide Oval, the last of which coming in 2010 when they triumphed by an innings and 71 runs, their second biggest margin of victory on this ground. With 17 defeats in those 31 games, England only have a less favourable win/loss ratio at two grounds at which they have played 15 or more matches – The Gabba and Sabina Park, Jamaica.
In the 75 Tests played at the Adelaide Oval, teams winning the toss have chosen to bat 67 times (89%, well above both the global average of 66% and the Australian average of 74%). No team has chosen to bowl first there since India in 1992 and the last team to win after putting the opposition in to bat was West Indies in 1982.
The pitches in Adelaide have offered an average of 2.9° of turn in the last ten years, a figure surpassed only by the SCG in terms of Australian grounds before the current series. In global terms though, the Wanderers in Johannesburg is the only ground outside Australia to have hosted five or more matches and offered less turn than Adelaide.
Seamers enjoy an average of 0.81° of swing and 1.0° of seam movement at Adelaide, higher figures than any other Australian ground, besides Hobart (0.87° and 1.2°). These figures have actually decreased from 0.84° and 1.1° after two day/night matches in the last two years, despite perceptions that the pink ball offers more movement to seamers.
The Adelaide Oval has one of the longest straight boundaries in world cricket, spanning 190m from end-to-end. The square boundaries are much shorter – 126m from cover to midwicket – forming an elliptical shape that makes this ground an oval in the truest sense.
The short square boundaries mean that 68% of runs scored in Adelaide in the last ten years have come square of the wicket (global average 64%) and batsmen find value for their shots when pulling and cutting against seamers with those shots having higher boundary percentages than any others (25.05% and 23.31%, respectively). Similarly, sweep shots against spinners (including slog sweeps and reverse sweeps) yield a boundary 21.70% of the time.
The popular perception is that the pink ball moves more than the red ball: this is not the case. On average the red ball swings 0.95° and seams 0.61° compared to the pink ball which swings 0.67° and seams 0.61°. It is also widely believed that the pink ball moves more in the night session compared to the day sessions – this is barely the case with the ball swinging 0.02° more and seaming 0.03° more in the night sessions. The confusion has arisen because batting has proven to be more difficult once the floodlights have been turned on, with batting averages in pink ball Tests dropping from 34.41 in the afternoon and evening session to 27.87 in night session. This is unlikely to be explained by the behaviour of the ball though, and is more likely to be a consequence of visibility.
Perhaps another consequence of the short boundaries square of the wicket is that bowlers are forced to bowl a straighter line than is customary in Test cricket. As the Heatmaps show, bowlers have success when bowling tight at the stumps, particularly to left-handers. In fact, since 1999, there has been a higher percentage of wickets LBW or bowled (31%) than at any other Ashes venue.
Bowling short at the Adelaide Oval has not proved to be a successful option for seamers in the last ten years, with just 11% of their wickets coming from balls pitching 9m or shorter. Only Sydney (10%) has a lower proportion of wickets from short-pitched bowling.
Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.