February 15, 2013

No longer lesser teams

One of the features of the 2013 women's World Cup has been the challenge the other teams have posed the top three - Australia, England and New Zealand

There used to be a time when women's cricket used to comprise these three teams: England, Australia and New Zealand. In the seven World Cup finals so far, 13 out of 14 teams that have played the finals have come from one of these three countries. India breached that bastion in 2005 when they reached the title round, but in that match they were completely outplayed by Australia, being bundled out for 117 when chasing a target of 216.

Among teams outside the top three, though, India were clearly the best: before the 2013 tournament, they hadn't lost a single World Cup game to a team other than Australia, England or New Zealand; in fact, they were the only team outside the top three to boast of such a record. However, when India played the top three in World Cups, they were clearly outclassed, managing a 6-22 win-loss ratio, though it was still better than what the other teams achieved. (India's record against these teams was poor till before the 2005 World Cup, but over the 2005 and 2009 tournaments, they had a 4-4 record against these teams.)

On the other hand, the top three teams hardly ever lost to the other sides (save India). In all World Cups before the ongoing one, Australia, England and New Zealand had lost eight matches out of 119 to one of the other teams, of which six were against India. The only other upsets were achieved by an International XI Women's team against New Zealand, way back in 1973, and by South Africa against England in 2000. In the current World Cup, there have been three such results in one tournament, with England losing to Sri Lanka, and Australia and New Zealand going down to West Indies. Both Sri Lanka and West Indies had never beaten the top three teams in World Cup matches before. Sri Lanka had a first-time win against India as well, dumping them out of the tournament.

Going through the tournament-wise stats for each World Cup, it's clear that the 2013 one has been the best one for batsmen. In the last four World Cups before this one, the scoring rate for the tournament hovered around the three-and-a-half runs per over mark; this time, it has jumped up to 4.25 so far, an increase of 19% over the previous edition. An even bigger difference is seen in the number of centuries that have been scored: ten in this edition so far, three in each of the last two tournaments before this one. The number of fifties scored has remained almost the same, which means the conversion rate has improved significantly.

Stats in each World Cup
Year Matches Runs per wkt Run rate 100s/ 50s
1973 20 18.59 2.63 4/ 15
1978 6 17.73 2.66 0/ 5
1982 31 18.78 2.59 2/ 31
1988 22 23.00 2.73 5/ 21
1993 29 17.69 2.57 5/ 20
1997 30 20.41 3.62 6/ 27
2000 31 22.73 3.45 6/ 37
2005 27 20.51 3.35 3/ 27
2009 25 21.53 3.58 3/ 29
2013 22 23.65 4.25 10/ 28

Aus, Eng and NZ against other teams in World Cups
  Before 2013-P/W/L Bat ave/ RR Bowl ave/ ER In 2013-P/W/L Bat ave/ RR Bowl ave/ ER
Australia 41/ 38/ 2 42.38/ 4.25 12.94/ 2.35 4/ 3/ 1 23.32/ 4.01 14.53/ 3.22
New Zealand 40/ 36/ 2 34.07/ 3.88 11.24/ 2.15 4/ 3/ 1 34.80/ 4.72 14.97/ 3.34
England 38/ 34/ 4 44.37/ 4.15 13.36/ 2.34 4/ 3/ 1 30.17/ 4.80 17.42/ 3.98

Not only have more hundreds been scored in the 2013 World Cup (more than the two previous tournaments put together), but there have also been more teams joining in on the centuries bandwagon. In the previous nine editions of the World Cup, 33 out of 34 centuries had been scored by England (17 hundreds), Australia (nine) and New Zealand (seven). The only other centurion was South Africa's Linda Olivier, who scored an unbeaten 101 against Ireland in 2001.

In the 2013 edition, though, six different teams have accounted for the ten centuries that have been scored so far. After not having a single centurion in 50 previous World Cup games, India had three in four matches, with Thirush Kamini, Harmanpreet Kaur and Mithali Raj all getting hundreds. The individual landmarks couldn't help India escape a shock elimination before the Super Sixes, but that's another matter. There was also a first World Cup century for West Indies, with Stafanie Taylor scoring an unforgettable 171 against Sri Lanka, while Marizanne Kapp added a second century for South Africa in these tournaments with an unbeaten 102 against Pakistan. Overall, the batting stats for these teams has improved far more than the bowling numbers.

Meanwhile, there have been only five hundreds from Australia, England and New Zealand in the 2013 tournament, with New Zealand accounting for three of those. In terms of contribution of hundreds, the percentage for the three historically heavyweight teams is down to 50% (five out of ten) in this tournament, from 97% (33 out of 34) in the earlier World Cups.

Teams other than Aus, Eng and NZ in World Cups
  Matches Bat ave /RR Bowl ave/ ER Inngs batted 100s/ 50s
Before 2013 World Cup 179 14.78/ 2.58 25.71/ 3.47 2275 1/ 77
In 2013 World Cup 19 21.03/ 4.09 27.60/ 4.53 262 5/ 19
Centuries in World Cups
  Total 100s By Aus, Eng, NZ By other teams Percentage
Before 2013 34 33 1 97.06
In 2013 10 5 5 50.00

In matches against the traditional top teams too, the other sides have upped their game in this tournament compared to previous World Cups, particularly in batting. Their scoring rate has gone up from 2.28 to 3.51, an increase of 54%, though part of the reason for that is also the generally favourable batting conditions in the venues for this World Cup.

Other teams v Aus, Eng, and NZ in World Cups
  Matches Won/ lost Bat ave Run rate Bowl ave Econ rate
Before 2013 119 8/ 108 12.48 2.28 39.81 4.09
In 2013 12 3/ 9 15.62 3.51 28.77 4.49

That's also reflected in the partnership stats for these teams against England, Australia and New Zealand. In the 119 World Cup matches before the current one, there had been only one century partnership, of 106 runs between India's Anjum Chopra and Rumeli Dhar against England in 2005. On the other hand, in just 12 matches against England, Australia and New Zealand in 2013, there were three century stands, two against England by India and Sri Lanka, and one by South Africa against Australia.

West Indies reaching the final is good news not only for their supporters but also for women's cricket in general. More teams have challenged the top sides in this World Cup, and if that continues to happen, it can only generate more interest in the game.

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter