February 20, 2015

The slog-over deluge

Early numbers indicate this could be the best World Cup of all for batsmen, especially in the last ten overs

David Miller scored 74 runs off 29 balls in the last ten overs in South Africa's World Cup opener against Zimbabwe © AFP

This was supposed to be a World Cup that bowlers would enjoy, with pitches offering more pace and bounce, and with two new balls to further exploit these conditions. These are admittedly early days in the tournament, with only eight games done out of 49, but the indications are that batsmen aren't having too much trouble coping with the conditions.

There have already been six totals in excess of 300, which is more than the number of such totals in the entire 1996 World Cup. Only three World Cups have had more than six 300-plus totals, with the record being 17, in 2011. With 41 matches to go here, it's highly unlikely that record won't be surpassed, and by a substantial margin. So far in this tournament, the average run rate is 5.71, well in excess of 2011's 5.03.

The stats in the batting Powerplay aren't very different from the 2011 edition: in 2011, the average run rate in the first ten overs was 4.73, and the average runs per wicket 34.19. This time, the average run rate has been 4.69, and the runs per wicket 35.76.

The bowlers have kept things in check at the start of the innings, but thereafter, the batsmen have taken over. In the middle overs (11th to 40th), the average run rate has been 5.42, up from 4.71 in 2011, while the biggest difference has been in the last ten: the average in this World Cup so far has been 8.40, up from 7.01 in 2011, an increase of 20%.

Already in this tournament, four times teams have scored 100 or more runs in the last ten: South Africa made 146 against Zimbabwe in Hamilton, while West Indies blasted 124 against Ireland in Nelson. Also, on the very first day of the tournament, both home teams made 100-plus in the last ten: Australia got 105 versus England, and New Zealand managed 102 against Sri Lanka.

The numbers look particularly good - from the batting point of view - for the matches played in New Zealand so far. In eight innings, the average run rate in the last ten overs there is 8.89, compared with 7.60 in the six innings in Australia. The average balls per four is almost the same in both countries so far - 6.72 in New Zealand, and 6.75 in Australia, but the smaller grounds in New Zealand are helping swell the sixes tally there: there has been an average of one struck every 19.5 balls, compared to one every 35.7 balls in Australia. Because there have been more balls bowled in the last ten overs in matches played in New Zealand so far, the overall average is closer to the average currently in New Zealand. At the moment, the frequency of sixes in this World Cup is significantly better than the previous one, though that should change as more matches are played in Australia.

Stats in the last ten overs in each World Cup since 1999
Year Inns 4s 6s Ave Run rate Balls per 6 Balls per 4
 2015  14  98  28  22.56  8.40  23.57  6.73
 2011  74  341  96  16.95  7.01  36.40  10.25
 2007  72  289  127  21.96  6.98  27.06  11.89
 2003  72  283  93  22.26  6.66  38.99  12.81
 1999  71  256  65  20.93  6.34  52.37  13.30

Stats in the first ten overs in each World Cup, since 1999
Year Inns Run rate Wickets Ave
 2011  97  4.73  134  34.19
 2015  16  4.69  21  35.76
 2003  103  4.54  162  28.67
 2007  102  4.38  151  29.61
 1999  84  3.72  109  28.35

Pace versus spin
In the 2011 World Cup, spinners bowled 47% of the total overs in the tournament, and took 44% of the total wickets. Those numbers were a huge increase from previous World Cups. Early indications are that they won't be matched this time around. After eight games, spinners have bowled 232.1 out of 720.1 overs (32%) and taken 30 out of 120 wickets (25%).

The pitches and the playing conditions have meant that spinners have been doing most of their bowling in the middle overs - between the 11th and 40th overs. They have bowled only five overs within the first ten of an innings, and 19.5 overs after the 40th. The rest - 207.2 overs - have been in the middle overs, including 22.2 in the batting Powerplays. In these middle overs, they have gone at five an over and conceded 41.52 runs per wicket, while seamers have gone at 5.68 and averaged 35.38.

The three five-wicket hauls - Mitchell Marsh's 5 for 33 against England, Sohail Khan's 5 for 55 against India, and Steven Finn's 5 for 71 against Australia - have all been by quick bowlers, while Mohammed Shami took 4 for 35 against Pakistan. The best by a spinner so far is Daniel Vettori's 3 for 24 against Scotland, while Imran Tahir and George Dockrell also took three apiece in a game.

The fast bowlers have taken more wickets, but they have also gone for plenty of runs so far - 5.84 runs per over. They have leaked runs at the rate of 8.53 per over in the last ten, a stat they'll want to improve on over the next five weeks of the tournament.

Pace and spin in the 2015 World Cup so far
  Overs Wickets Average Econ rate
Pace 488.0 90 31.68 5.84
Spin 232.1 30 40.10 5.18

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