Ashes: Is cricket the hardest sport to win away from home?

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England have lost nine of their past 10 Tests in Australia

“Attendances in Test cricket are going down because you know who is going to win before you turn up. There has to be jeopardy as to who wins the game. I’m a Newcastle fan and I turn up genuinely thinking they have a chance of winning every single game in the Premier League. They’ve not, but they have more of a chance than England had in Brisbane at the start of this Ashes series.”

Perhaps former England spinner Graeme Swann has a point. Has Test cricket become too predictable?

Take England as an example. Their win-loss record at home since 2012 is 23-11 in their favour. Away from home it plummets to 23-7 in the opposition’s favour.

They have not lost an Ashes series at home since 2001. They have won outright only once in Australia since 1986-87.

After England fell to a 4-0 loss in their latest venture down under – coming on the back of a 5-0 rout in 2013-14 – Test Match Special’s Ed Smith surmised: “I don’t think this series leaves you with much optimism about this format. I am concerned about how predictable a lot of the cricket has been.”

So has Test cricket’s ‘predictability’ made it boring? And is cricket the hardest sport in which to win away from home?

Test cricket is actually no more predictable than it has ever been

While it is true that home teams hold the advantage in Test cricket – for a variety of reasons analysed below – it’s not a new phenomenon.

The percentage of Test wins earned by visiting sides has not changed drastically over the years.

It has stayed between 20% and 30% for the past 100 or so years. If anything, away teams are winning more – victories for the touring sides in the 2010s is 27% compared to 23% in the 90s.

Take away the anomaly of just 6.8% of wins for the away side in the calendar year of 2013 and that figure rises even higher – to above 30%.

So what are the reasons for the home advantage?

There are many, but one of the most obvious is to do with pitches.

Put simply, the pitches in each of the 10 Test-playing nations offer a different challenge for both batsmen and bowlers.

In Australia and South Africa, the ball bounces more than it does anywhere else. Hence fast bowlers are king.

Calculations are from 2007 to present

In England, New Zealand and, perhaps surprisingly, India the ball swings away from the batsmen more – meaning bowlers of obvious skill are more desirable than out-and-out pacemen.

Calculations are from 2007 to present

In Asia and, in recent years, the West Indies, the ball grips and spins off the dry surface more. This magnifies the need for a top-class turner of the ball and batsmen with the skills to overcome that challenge.

Calculations are from 2007 to present

Former England batsman Graham Thorpe had success in all conditions and is now coaching the national team’s one-day players, who have risen to fourth in the world rankings.

“Learning to adapt is one of the biggest things, and understanding what tweaks you have to make in different countries,” said Thorpe, who scored Test hundreds