When it looked like the Australian cricket team would be chasing between 100 and 200 runs to win in the fourth innings against Sri Lanka last week, commentators continuously pumped up the Lankans’ chances, and Aussie cricket fans chewed their fingernails. The reason was the well-known belief that “Australians have trouble chasing small totals”. I always thought this was a bit overblown: if you’re a successful team like Australia that often chases small totals, you’re bound to stuff up a chase every now and then.As it turns out, this belief is not just overblown, it’s almost completely wrong! Since 2003, in the 15 Tests where Australia has had to chase between 50 and 200 runs in the fourth innings to win, it’s only lost once, in the ‘dead rubber’ against India in 2004. Even if you count the loss against New Zealand in Hobart when it was chasing a bit more than 200, there’s really very little to support the view that the modern Australian team has trouble chasing a small total down.
2013: v SL – won chasing 1412012: v WI – won chasing 192
2010: v NZL – won chasing 1062006 v ENG – won chasing 168
2006 v SA – won chasing 952005 v WI – won chasing 78
2005 v WI – won chasing 182
2005 v NZL – won chasing 1642005 v NZL – won chasing 133
2005 v PAK – won chasing 622004 v PAK – won chasing 126
2004 v IND – lost chasing 1072003 v IND – won chasing 95
2003 v ZIM – won chasing 172
2003 v WI – won chasing 147So where does this belief spring from then? It’s probably mainly due to the twin disasters against the West Indies and South Africa in 1993 and 1994, and of course the famous loss against England at Headingley in 1981. But the Windies and SA matches are now a couple of generations ago, and almost all of the current team were not even born when Ian Botham conjured up that unlikely victory at Headingley. So relax Aussies, your team can chase down small totals just fine.