The pressure of chasing a target in One Day Internationals

I was looking at the average runs scored per over in One Day Internationals from 2009 onwards (data from cricsheet ). The data is presented in the graph below. What is striking is the difference in runs scored per over between the team batting first and second.




The  blue line shows the runs per over for the team batting first, and the red line for the team batting second. These figures are averaged over all ODIs from 2009 till the end of the recent Asia Cup. What you will notice is that the way you score runs in the first and second innings is different.

For the first part of the innings, till almost over 35, the team batting second scores much faster than the team batting first. Then somewhere around over 40, the two lines cross, And then the blue line pulls away from the red one – and really fast.

In the last over of the innings, for example, the team batting first is expected to score ten runs, while the team batting second is expected to score only eight and a half. In the forty fifth over, the team batting first scores seven runs on an average, while the chasing team only scores six!

The difference in scoring patterns is striking, and the only possible explanation is the pressure of chasing! When you have a target in mind, and you are chasing, you are unable to bat as freely as you do when you are setting a target. Consequently, you are not able to score as many runs!

The next question is if there is a variation across teams. Given below is the same graph as above, but plotted by batting team.




The graphs are smaller, so the gaps aren’t too visible, but if you look for a gap between the blue and red lines by team, you will find that the biggest gaps are for India, New Zealand and Australia! Sri Lanka and Pakistan seem to bat similarly, however, irrespective of whether they are setting a target or chasing!



3 thoughts on “The pressure of chasing a target in One Day Internationals”

  1. What did you do about those 2nd innings that ended before the 50th over (if the team wins)? Also because the target is in sight, they could slow down and pace their innings well.

    On a different note, as TV audience, I think we’re only familiar with few sporting terms (like pressure!!) and try to explain everything with our limited knowledge. Sometimes I wish people who played the sport competitively were actively involved in the data analytics part of it. Their insight would be invaluable.

  2. Karthik- awesome post

    Just focusing on India- since 2009 while chasing the name comes to mind is Dhoni- he can chase anything when he takes it till the last over- shows that india scores more chasing in the final over- maybe we can look at the strike rates of player number 5, 6 and 7 from teams like india and australia to explain why there are more variances?

    Enjoyed this!

  3. Agreed with Boss’s comment. How do we accomodate for situations where in teams chase down the total before the 50th over, and also when the teams chase totals with target run rate much below 6, they are more likely to slow down while moving closer to the target, assuming they have balls to spare (this nature during a chase wouldn’t be true in the case the teams are also aiming for a bonus point in tournaments)

    That said, I believe the data is quite intensive and would ideally incorporate enough examples of the above situations and provide a true generalistic and wholesome picture!

    Its an interesting analysis, though pressure might not be the only factor at play here, it is undoubtedly the mother of all factors, contributing significantly towards all results!


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