CricViz analyst Patrick Noone profiles the MCG.
On the banks of the Yarra River sits the imposing Melbourne Cricket Ground. Australia’s largest arena has hosted the summer’s showpiece Boxing Day Test every year since 1990 and, since it has been developed into the 100,000-seater cauldron it is today, it holds a well-earned reputation as being one of Australia’s most daunting venues for visiting teams.
Before the current Ashes series, the MCG was the Australian ground with the lowest batting average (32.74) and slowest run rate (3.09) in matches since 2006. Seam bowlers average 30.80 there in that time and, on average, take a wicket every 59 balls, figures that are not bettered on any other Australian ground in that time.
There have been 109 Tests played at Melbourne since the very first one in 1877, only Lord’s (135) has hosted more in world cricket. Australia have won 63 of those matches, giving them a win percentage of 57% that makes the MCG their second favourite ground after the Gabba. The hosts have won 15 of the last 18 matches there with their last defeat coming in England’s victorious Ashes campaign in 2010.
England have won 20 of the 55 matches they’ve played at the MCG (win percentage 36%), making it their eighth most successful away venue at which they have played five or more Tests. There has not been a draw between England and Australia at this venue since 1974, with the visitors winning five of the 13 matches played since then.
Teams choose to bat 71.5% of the time at the MCG, though results suggest there has historically been little advantage to do so. The team batting first has a win percentage of 49.5% with 54 wins, 39 defeats and 16 draws. In each of the last two Ashes Tests at the MCG, the side winning the toss has chosen to bowl and gone on to win on both occasions (England in 2010, Australia in 2013).
As stated above, the Melbourne pitch has given seam bowlers plenty of joy over recent years. Seamers have found an average of 0.74° of seam movement, more than at any other Australian ground in that time, while the average bounce is 86cm, the third highest behind Perth and Brisbane.
Spinners have had less success in that time, averaging 43.92, with the average bounce on offer just 71.5cm and the average turn a mere 2.7°. Both figures are the lowest of all Australian venues.
The playing area at the MCG is one of the largest in world cricket. With 173m between the boundaries from end to end and 148m stretching between cover and midwicket, it is no wonder that batsmen struggle to find value for their shots, with boundaries being struck off just 5.1% of deliveries, the fourth lowest such figure of grounds to have hosted ten or more matches since 2006.
The big boundaries mean that batsmen are forced to run more between the wickets than they normally would; the MCG has seen 474 threes since 2006. Only Lord’s (650) has seen more and that after hosting 25 matches to Melbourne’s 11. As a percentage, the MCG has seen 4.2% of the runs scored there come from threes, a higher percentage than any other ground in world cricket.
As the heatmap shows, a successful line and length to bowl to right-handers at the MCG is straight and around the top of off-stump. 35% of wickets to have fallen in Melbourne have been either bowled or LBW, a higher percentage than any other Australian ground, illustrating why that length is so successful. To left-handers, as is typical on most grounds, seamers pick up wickets by bowling a full length across the batsman, with outside edges accounting for 34% of left-hander dismissals at the MCG since 2006.
The bouncer has not proved to be a particularly potent weapon in recent years, with seamers averaging 45.10 from balls pitching at least 9m from the batsman, with the run rate up at 4.24 runs per over against balls at that length.
Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.