Statistician’s Journal : When a 400-plus first innings total is safe as houses in India

How much should you score in the first Innings to avoid losing a test match in India?


Earlier today, England resumed from their decent work on the first day at the Wankhede to take their first innings score to exactly 400 before the Indian bowlers could wrap up their tails.

As the former Indian team-director Ravi Shastri states that scoring 400 batting first means you have quite well saved yourself from a defeat here in India, we bring you all those minute details about all occasions of 400-plus first innings totals that were made on Indian soil.

Coming straight to the point of losing a game after putting up the 400 on board, there have had been just six occasions in the eight and a half decade history of Tests in India. The list in chronological order goes as follows:

Team Score Opposition Venue Year Losing margin
India 424 Australia Bengaluru 1998 8 wkts
Zimbabwe 422/9 India Delhi 2000 7 wkts
Australia 445 India Kolkata 2001 171 runs
Australia 428 India Mohali 2010 1 wkt
Australia 478 India Bengaluru 2010 7 wkts
Australia 408 India Mohali 2013 6 wkts

The hosts were the first side to swallow the bitter pill in first seven decades as they went down to Australia in a dead-rubber at the Chinnaswamy after Shane Warne removed the openers with Gavin Robertson and a more fiery Michael Kasprowicz taking care of the rest inside just two sessions. The Aussie batters chased down the under-200 target with a day to spare. 12 years later, India avenged at the same ground against Ricky Ponting’s men on the debut occasion of Cheteshwar Pujara – following another such inflicting defeat just a week back at Mohali in a dramatic fashion with an injured VVS Laxman batting with the tailenders like Ishant Sharma and Pragyan Ojha for almost three hours to snatch a memorable victory from the jaws of defeat.

Coming to more, Heath Streak’s controversial declaration with Andy Flower on 183 only to make India bat a few overs at the fag end of a tiring day remains the first of the only two instances of teams declaring their first innings on Indian soil to lose the match. And last but the most famous on this roll undoubtedly was India’s victory after following-on against the fearsome Australian side on a 16-Test winning spree at the Eden Gardens – certainly one of the greatest matches played ever – there too the Baggy Greens slamming a 400-plus first innings score led from the front by skipper Steve Waugh.

Coming to overall analysis of all matches when a team scores 400-plus runs in their first innings, we find that before today’s one, this has happened a total of 93 times with the team batting first winning on 30 occasions and losing just the six of them as documented. One match was tied – the only second tied Test ever between again the familiar foes of India and Australia at Chennai. The rest 56 have had failed to produce a result.

Also Read: Statistician’s Journal : Is this the toughest era to win a test series overseas?

Coming to touring sides, 11 times such sides has won from 40 instances after scoring 400 or more in the first innings. Six times among those 11 wins, the visitors did pile up 500-plus on the board. Again, six of those visiting sides were from the Caribbean – ranging from the early-1950s to mid-1990s. South Africa did it twice, followed by one each by Australia, Pakistan and England. Leaving behind those 5 losses, the visitors have managed to save the Test 24 times.

So going by the visitor’s manual, it’s almost 28% winning chance against just 13% for losing for England hereon. Closing the figures for this specific match, England can take heart from the fact that no side has lost a match scoring over 350 in the first at Wankhede. However, 23 years back, it was England who lost by an innings to India here – the latter, buoyed by a young Vinod Kambli, replying with a 591 to the visitor’s 347 (highest in Mumbai for a losing cause). The Graham Gooch led side was whitewashed that season.

Then again, Alastair Cook and his men can take heart from the game 10 years back at the same iconic venue where England thrashed India by a massive 212 runs – their first innings score too being an identical 400. Captain Andrew Flintoff led from the front with both the bat and the ball as India capitulated for just 100 on the final day. Only English pacer James Anderson remains the only figure from that series-leveling victory in the playing XI from either sides to be on playing terms in this ongoing game. For the current skipper Cook, the cricinfo’s so-called “Ring of Fire” at Wankhede was the only Test that he has missed since debuting in the series itself.

In that tour in March 2006, England first lost at Mohali and next turned it around in Mumbai. Will history repeat itself with the Englishmen putting an exact team total and a southpaw opener getting a century? Perhaps and perhaps not.

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