In back-to-back home Tests against New Zealand, England chased 277 at Lord’s and 299 at Trent Bridge. Earlier this year, South Africa chased 240 in Johannesburg and 212 in Cape Town to bounce back from 0-1 to win the series against India. So, four times in the past six months, teams have nailed tough fourth-inning chases. The individual stick was also impressive. Four of the five highest round four scores over the past 10 years have come since 2018: 149 in 2018 (KL Rahul at The Oval), 153* (Kusal Perera (SL) at Durban) in 2019, 210* (Kyle Mayers (WI) in Chattogram) in 2021 and 196 (Babar Azam (Pak) against Australia in Karachi) in 2022.
All of these numbers raise a pertinent question: do teams beat better in the fourth inning? Since 2019, there have been 12 successful chases of over 200 targets. By comparison, there were six successful prosecutions in the 2014-18 period and 11 in 2009-13. This is a remarkable increase considering there was very little cricket in 2020 due to the pandemic. When you break down effort by year, we get a clearer picture of how teams performed. As in 2022, 14 times teams have been asked to pursue more than 200 targets and four have resulted in wins, for a success percentage of 28.6.
Even on the Intent scale, teams are approaching Testing with an open mind, as evidenced by the surge in winning at-bat percentages last – rising to 41.02% in 2019 from 20.83% in 2018, peaking to 45.45% in 2020 before stabilizing at 43.18. % in 2021. It is 39.13% over the first six months of 2022. This period contrasts sharply with previous years, dating back to 2014 (26.82% gain). This change in attitude could be due to the introduction of the two-year Test World Championship which rewards teams for wins.
You see that urgency translate into team run rates. Take for example the Trent Bridge Test where New Zealand scored 553 to 3.8 runs per over in their first innings. In response, Joe Root hit 176 with a strike rate of 83.41 to help England rack up 539, scoring at 4.14 per over. And the nail of the sleeves? The first five overs of the fourth day where England hammered 43 runs. By the time both teams had struck once, the combined run-rate was an incredible 3.98, but England had more in their tank when they moved up to 299/5 on Day 5 from the 136 to 92 bullets by Jonny Bairstow. 5.98 is the highest for any successful team chase of 200 or more targets. It was still Nottingham, one of the flattest grounds in the world and where England had posted two ODI world record totals (481/6 in 2018 and 444/3 in 2016).
But when you look back at Johannesburg, one of the fastest and toughest grounds in world cricket, and you still see South Africa running 240 at a pace of 3.59 and losing just three wickets , you begin to be convinced that this is not the case. only in the field. The four successful chases of more than 200 people were orchestrated against two of the world’s best bowling attacks – India and New Zealand – meaning points also had to be won.
All of these factors point to a well-balanced inference that the stick did indeed get better in round four of testing. And a direct validation of that is in that 29.64 fourth-inning average in 2022, the highest since 2012 when it was 31.06.
Interestingly, the four-day tests help teams beat last as the pitch would play better than the last day. South Africa won batting last against India on Day 4 in Johannesburg and Cape Town, as did England at Lord’s against New Zealand.
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