Momentum, part 2

The month long previews of #ausvsa and #indveng continue…

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Yesterday’s post was flawed, I know. Mostly because in order to really see how much the first test matters to the outcome of a series, you need to bring the number of tests in the series into the calculation.

Unfortunately, I am not sure exactly how to create any such algorithm, but here is the raw data:

Series Start Date Winner of first Match Winner of Series # of Tests in Series
1933 England England 3
1951 Draw Draw 5
1961 Draw India 5
1964 Draw Draw 5
1972 England India 5
1976 England England 5
1981 India India 6
1984 India England 5
1993 India India 3
2001 India India 3
2006 Draw Draw 3
2008 India India 2

As the number of tests increase, the less the result of the first match has on the series. For series that had three tests or less, the opening match result predicted the series result all four times. For series that had five or more tests, the opening match correctly predicted the series result only 67% of the time.

Unfortunately, for this project anyway, India have never hosted England for a four test series, but I still think I can be confident in saying that if the first match ends in a draw (and all signs point to it doing so), then the series will end in a draw.

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Here is the same information for Australia v South Africa:

Series Start Date Winner of first Match Winner of Series # of Tests in Series Does first match predict series?
1910 Australia Australia 5 Yes
1931 Australia Australia 5 Yes
1952 Australia Draw 5 No
1963 Draw South Africa 5 No
1993 Draw Draw 3 Yes
1997 Draw Australia 3 No
2001 Australia Australia 3 Yes
2005 Draw Australia 3 No
2008 South Africa South Africa 3 Yes

Of the nine tests series where Australia has hosted South Africa, the first match has correctly predicted the series result five times. Two of those occurrences happened in five test series, the other three in three tests series. So it looks like the number of tests in a series does not play a major factor.

Factoid: South Africa has never won a series in Australia after losing the first match

Factoid: Australia has only lost the opening match once, and they ended up losing the series

Factoid: Only two of the nine series ended in draws.

Prediction? We are going to get a result. And the first match matters. (Says Captain Obvious.)

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