The advantage(?) of winning the toss

I set out to quantify the advantage of winning the toss in cricket tests and one day internationals. To my surprise, there does not seem to be a significant advantage in winning the toss in test matches and at best a marginal advantage in one-day internationals.

The data used was 430 tests played between 7 November 1997 and 4 August 2006 and 1200 one day internations played between 1 January 1997 and 6 August 2006. For the purpose of calculating an overall score, wins were counted as a whole point and draws and ties were counted as half a point.

With the tests, the side winning the toss won 155 tests, drew 108 and lost 167 for an overall score of 209/430 (48.6%).

For one day internationals, the side winning the toss won 613 games, lost 576 and had 11 ties for an overall score of 618½/1200 (51.5%).

Full details are provided in the table below. The table also includes the results for teams that lose the toss. The win percentage is very similar regardless of the team winning or losing the toss. It is clear that the home ground advantage is a much greater advantage than the result of winning the toss.

If we analyze the data using basic statistical techniques, we find that the difference between winning and losing the toss is not statistically significant, the difference could occur by chance.

It seems that in the majority of matches, winning the toss is not a significant factor in the overall result.

wins draws losses overall %
Home team wins toss 92 57 60 57.7
Home team loses toss 104 51 60 60.2
Away team wins toss 60 51 104 39.8
Away team loses toss 60 57 92 42.3
Wins toss at neutral venue 3 0 3 50.0
Total 155 108 167 48.6

One day internationals
wins ties losses overall %
Home team wins toss 235 5 175 57.2
Home team loses toss 221 3 182 54.8
Away team wins toss 182 3 221 45.2
Away team loses toss 175 5 235 42.8
Wins toss at neutral venue 196 3 180 52.1
Total 613 11 576 51.5

Note that the win, draw and losses columns don't add up to the total row because any match with a home team is included twice, e.g. if the home team wins the toss, the match is also included in the away team losing the toss row.

Please email any comments or queries to Shane Booth.

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Last modified: August 14, 2006