David Barry has another excellent followup statistics post. The original was on batting strategies in the first innings of one day internationals:
To take an extreme example, suppose you're a really bad team like
Bangladesh, up against a team like Australia. Whenever Bangladesh bats
first, they choose the run-maximising strategy. The results might be a
bell curve centred around 180. So a lot of scores around 170-190, a few
past 200, a few below 160, etc.
Now Australia has no problem
chasing any of those. Australia's only going to have problems when the
target's up over 250. So while the Bangladeshi averages will be
best-served by going with the run-maximising strategy, they may end up
losing every game.
On the other hand, if they play more
aggressively, then sometimes their batsmen will have a bit of luck and
they'll end up with a big score. In their long series of matches with
Australia, they'll have loads of heavy defeats, after making scores
like 120 and 150 and so on, but every now and then, they'll make 250
and have a chance at winning. So their averages will suffer, but their
win/loss ratio will improve.
Nesta replied with a comment on what exactly the Australian strategy is:
If none or one wicket is down at 15 you will see them up the tempo markedly until one of the batters falls.
same applies throughout the innings. When each partnership begins they
set the clock back to zero and try to increase the run rate in four or
five over blocks until they are at the their limit.
40 over mark they set a final target and usually one that seems just
out reach especially if 6 or more wickets are in hand.
And, finally, David Barry gives the facts and figures of Australia's relative dominance over batting first:
In day games, Australia has won 73% of matches when batting first
(ignoring no-results). Second is Sri Lanka at 49% — a whopping 24
percentage points! Australia has won 78% of matches batting second,
with South Africa second at 71% — only seven percentage points behind.
day-night games, batting first: Aus 76%, South Africa 63%; batting
second: Aus 62%, South Africa and Pakistan 55%. Once again, a bigger
difference in batting first results.
So it does look like
Australia have an advantage over their rivals when it comes to batting
first, above and beyond their general cricket superiority.