The old cricket adage ‘catches win matches’ is synonymous with an afternoon out in the field, but a recent New Zealand study indicates the phrase might be nothing more than a myth.
The study, which was conducted by researchers University of Canterbury, analysed 122 one-day international cricket matches between February 2011 and July 2012.
The research was conducted by honours student Marcus Downs and supervised by economics and finance lecturer Dr Seamus Hogan.
It involved classifying all the opportunities for a fielding dismissal – catch, run out or stumping – with a degree of difficulty based on the ball-by-ball commentary on the ESPN Cricinfo website.
The researchers then analysed the contribution those opportunities could have made to the overall performance of the team.
For New Zealand cricket fans, the results go against the old cliche, with the Black Caps ranking highest for taking catches and effecting run outs during the period but being the worst-performed team out of the eight ICC nations that were analysed.
“While obviously a brilliant catch or run-out can sometimes turn a match, we found that, in ODI cricket at least, fielding was not as vital as batting or bowling,” Hogan said.
“Specifically, according to our data, good bowling can contribute about three times as much as good fielding to the performance of the team, and good batting even more.
“Over the period of our database, New Zealand ranked first out of all the major cricketing nations in taking catches and effecting run outs, once the degree of difficulty of the catch or run out was taken into account.
“Despite this, however, over the same period, the Black Caps had the worst record in ODI cricket of all the major cricketing nations.”
The results of the cricketing summer scholarship will be presented at a public event at the University of Canterbury campus on February 8.