Home and away, we're still LBW

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The Independent Online
CRICKET LOVERS who blame biased umpires for the frequency with which England's Test batsmen are out leg before wicket (LBW) are wrong, a scientist has found. Some countries' players really are better at avoiding LBWs - and the neutrality or otherwise of the umpires makes no difference.

An analysis of 20 years of Test matches all over the world by Dr Trevor Ringrose, a lecturer in statistics at Cranfield University, shows the launch of neutral umpires seven years ago made no difference to LBW rates, home or away, for any nation.

"But there is a difference between countries. Australia, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka all have lower LBW rates at home, while England, the West Indies and New Zealand don't show the same home advantage," Dr Ringrose said yesterday.

He became interested in the question after Mike Gatting's 1987 finger- pointing row on the pitch in Pakistan with the home umpire Shakoor Rana.

In Test matches today, one of the two umpires is from a neutral country. That has made visiting batsmen happier - even though the data suggest that it makes no difference.

However, the study of 340 Test series involving nine countries over 20 years shows that Tests on the subcontinent and in Australia produce unusual results in terms of LBWs.

One possible explanation is different styles of play. "Pakistani bowlers pitch the ball up [closer to the wicket] more than West Indies ones, so that might make them more likely to get an LBW. Also, perhaps if you're used to playing on slower pitches, you tend to play forward to the ball, which makes an LBW decision less likely; and maybe players from other countries, used to faster pitches, hold back," said Dr Ringrose.

t Statistics show that the world record for the men's 100 metres sprint is overdue an improvement - despite having been broken only in June, when Maurice Greene of the US ran 9.79 seconds. To be in line with other athletics records, the 100m record should be 9.71 seconds, suggests analysis by Dr Howard Grubb of the University of Reading.

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