World Cup 2019: Will toss decide the winners of the knockout matches?

Deepak Panda

Winning the toss and batting first will be the success mantra in the knockouts

The ongoing World Cup has seen two seven-game streaks of teams batting first winning the games, the second of which was broken when India beat Sri Lanka at Headingly.

The only other time there was a streak of more than six wins for sides batting first was way back in 1983.

The first and second halves of the tournament depict two different pictures. The first half had an almost even record where 11 times the team batting first won out of 21 games while in the second half, the sides batting first emerged victorious in 16 out of 20 occasions.

The reason for this stark contrast in results is the freshness in the pitches in the initial stages. As the tournament progressed, the pitches started wearing and drying out. There has been a drastic change in the run rates of the chasing teams this World Cup as compared to the last four years; dropping from 6.08 to 5.47.

English pitches in the last four years (before the start of this World Cup) have seen a 32 to 20 win-loss ratio in favor of the chasing teams. England did not lose a single game at home while chasing since 2016. This made the captains to chose to bowl first during the first half of the tournament.

The first half of the World Cup saw only four times the skippers opting to bat first after winning the toss, out of which the side batting first won twice. In the second half, 15 times teams have opted to bat first, winning 12 of them. The win-loss ratio for teams winning the toss and batting first in World Cups has been the highest in 2019 (2.80), followed by 1987 (1.75) and 1992 (1.67).

Moreover, this World Cup has been one of the most favourable for teams batting first. Out of 41 completed games, teams batting first have won 27. The only other time this ratio was more slanted was in 1987 where 19 times teams batting first won out of 27 games.

The last three World Cups, 2007 (25-25), 2011 (24-23) and 2015 (24-24) were quite even in terms of teams winning batting first and chasing.

Now comes the major talking point; the venues for the knockouts. Old Trafford, Edgbaston and Lord's have hosted 13 games this World Cup, out of which 11 times the chasing side has lost. The 11-2 ratio in favor of teams batting first increases to 9-1 if only the second half of the tournament is considered.

All nine games in Old Trafford and Lord's have been won by teams batting first. Edgbaston has been comparatively even, with two wins for chasing teams in four games. The teams in the semifinals have won most of their games batting first.

India have chased thrice, having lost the only game they were set a target in excess of 300. England have lost three of the four times they batted second.

Australia batted second only thrice, and lost twice when set a target above 300. New Zealand have had a mixed tournament and do not exhibit any such trend.

Australia won seven consecutive matches while batting first but lost their last group game while chasing

With the all important semifinals and finals slotted to be played at these venues, the need of the hour is to make the pitches fresher.

A couple of showers a day before the games will surely help. However, if weather stays clear, toss will be a major deciding factor and the chasing sides will have too many problems to take care of.

Also see – India vs New Zealand head to head stats

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