Seven sessions of grind

Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Abu Dhabi, 3rd day, September 30, 2017 September 30, 2017

Test matches take time to unfold in the UAE. The heat, more than anything else, saps the pace out of the match. Batsmen find it difficult to find the concentration that is required to score runs in these conditions. Pitches aren't exactly belters, and scoring is not easy. Pitches don't wear down in the first three days of the match and wicket-taking is tough. Cricket is at its attritional best: batsmen try to wear down the bowlers, bowlers try to return the favour and the heat wears down everyone.

This Abu Dhabi Test has been a perfect example of Test cricket in this side of the world: the build-up to the finish is slow and the build-up lasts longer than it does elsewhere. In seven out of the nine sessions so far, the economy for the session has been less than 3.0 runs an over and at most two wickets have fallen.

This is the only match in the last ten years that has seen as many as seven such 'slow' sessions in the first-three days. There are only three other instances in the last decade with six such sessions in the first three days of a match and three of those have come in the UAE. The previous such match was played almost three years ago, between Pakistan and New Zealand in Sharjah.

Tests with most 'slow* sessions' on first three days, last-ten years
Test Season Venue, Country Slow Sessions
 Pak v SL  2017-18  Abu Dhabi, UAE  7
 Pak v NZ  2014-15  Sharjah, UAE  6
 Pak v SL  2013-14  Dubai, UAE  6
 Zim v Pak  2011-12  Bulawayo, Zimbabwe  6

UAE has hosted Tests that have had the highest percentage of such slow sessions in the last five years. On an average, Tests in the UAE have 3.2 such sessions per match - one session a match higher than the next country of venues in the list, the West Indies. England is at the other end of the spectrum producing on an average just one such session per match.

County-wise percentages of 'slow* sessions', last five years
Country Tests Slow sessions Total Sessions (overs >=28) %age slow sessions Slow sessions/Test
 UAE  17  55  135  40.74  3.2
 WI  18  40  115  34.78  2.2
 ZIM  9  25  77  32.46  2.8
 SA  22  32  110  29.09  1.5
 NZ  21  39  144  27.08  1.9
 IND  27  54  223  24.21  2.0
 SL  25  42  179  23.46  1.7
 BAN  18  25  119  21.00  1.4
 AUS  27  33  177  18.64  1.2
 ENG  34  33  186  17.74  1.0

Not surprisingly then that the UAE has hosted the highest percentage of five-day Tests in the last five years. That is not to say that you don't get 'result' pitches in the UAE: As many as 13 of the 16 Tests played in the last five years in the UAE (before the ongoing one) have ended in a decisive result. That's a result percentage of over 80% - by-and-large similar to other parts of the world if you discount rain-affected matches in countries like New Zealand and Bangladesh. It is just that Tests in this part of the world play out over the full five days more often than not. And if that's anything to go by, there's much more that is left to be unravelled in Abu Dhabi over the next two days.

Country-wise five-day result Tests, last five years
Country 5-day wins Tests won Mats % 5-day wins Win %age
  UAE  11  13  16  84.6  81.3
  ZIM  6  9  9  66.7  100.0
  SL  15  23  25  65.2  92.0
  WI  8  16  19  50.0  84.2
  BAN  5  11  18  45.5  61.1
  IND  10  23  27  43.5  85.2
  AUS  9  21  27  42.9  77.8
  NZ  5  14  21  35.7  66.7
  ENG  10  30  35  33.3  85.7
  RSA  6  18  22  33.3  81.8

* Slow sessions have been taken as those with scoring rates of less than 3.0 and fewer than 3 wickets (min 28 overs bowled)

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