After the disastrous performance of the England and Wales cricket team in the Headingly test (they lost by an innings and 80 runs), what is the likelihood that they will win the final test at the Oval to regain the Ashes from the Aussies? The ground can play a significant part in the outcome of a test, with each wicket having it’s own traps characteristics that impact a team’s performance. The behaviour of the ball can be affected by the smallest unevenness, or even humidity in the air. Because of this, a bowler’s local knowledge and experience is sometimes prized above form. Of the 34 times England and Australia have faced each other at the Oval, the percentages look to be in England’s favour: 15 wins for England to Australia’s 6 – 2 ½ times as many. As an England cricket fan this leaves me feeling pretty chipper about our chances. However, England must force a result at the Oval, a draw would mean that Australia retain the Ashes so our chances of success are still less than half. Perhaps we should change our focus though, as the tests above date back to 1877. Although the game has been going for centuries, the modern game is very different to the original. For instance, in the 1750s, the ball was bowled along the ground and struck with a bat that resembled a hockey stick. The first ever international cricket game was between the USA and Canada in 1844. The match was played at the grounds of the St George's Cricket Club in New York and Canada won by 23 runs. So, if we use tests from the last 15 years, these may be a better indicator of performance. There have been 40 tests (in any ground) between the two sides over this period, of which England have triumphed in a measly 23%. 3 of these have been at the Oval which have resulted in 1 win, 1 loss and 1 draw apiece. The series position and results coming in to this test will also play a significant role – the series is undecided and both teams have everything to play for. How often has each team been in the position where the last test of a series will decide the outcome, and what was the result? Australia have faced this position 5 times in the last 15 years, and drawn or won on 4 (80%) of occasions, England have won 4 out of 10 times (40%). Whilst each team has gained the result they need in this situation more than any other, these statistics imply that Australia is twice as likely as England to get the outcome they want next week. So what does this tell us? That England will have to do something really special to win at the Oval, and if you’re a biased supporter, statistics can tell you (almost) anything you want to hear. Test results sourced from Howstat!