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Feature

WWC 2022: An opening-day thriller, near-upsets, and forgettable fielding (not to forget Fatima)

Nine games in, the tournament has already thrown up some unpredictable results and some extraordinary individual performances

Vishal Dikshit
Vishal Dikshit
11-Mar-2022
Deandra Dottin celebrates with team-mates after catching Lauren Winfield-Hill, England vs West Indies, Women's World Cup, Dunedin, March 9, 2022

West Indies' two upset wins lit up the first week of the tournament  •  ICC via Getty Images

The ongoing Women's World Cup has only run for a week so far, but it has already thrown up some thrilling finishes, upsets and near-upsets, unpredictable results, and some extraordinary individual performances. Here's a lookback after the first nine games.
The opening game the World Cup needed
New Zealand vs West Indies was not expected to be the most high-profile match of the league stage, and, what was worse, it had to fight for eyeballs with Virat Kohli's 100th Test and the return of the Australia men's Test team on Pakistani soil after 24 long years.
But, on opening day, the two teams still brought out a match for the ages when their power-hitters - Sophie Devine and Hayley Matthews - struck centuries to set the bar high for the other teams to follow.
The five minutes of mayhem from Deandra Dottin at the end stole the show, though.
Having not bowled in her last eight ODIs, or in training recently, Dottin went on to defend just five runs in the final over in dramatic fashion and gave the World Cup the perfect advertisement it needed.
West Indies win, England don't
West Indies were next up against defending champions England. This time, West Indies were defending a lower total - 225 - and by not letting England score just 14 runs from the last 24 balls, they threw the qualification race wide open with two wins in two games. For England, it was two losses in a row.
England came into the World Cup on the back of a forgettable and winless Ashes campaign in Australia. Against the same opposition in their opening game, England showed class in getting to 298 chasing 311 for victory. There was a "shift in mindset", as Nat Sciver said after the match, after they had not scored 200 even once in the three Ashes ODIs earlier.
But they went right back to their Ashes ways in their second game. Only one of England's top six got to double-digits and left too much to do for the lower order, and went down to West Indies for the first time in the Women's World Cup, losing their first two matches in the World Cup for the first time too.
Battling Bangladesh, and near upsets
Ranked higher than West Indies and Pakistan in ODIs, Bangladesh exhibited in their opening match with a solid bowling effort that they should not be taken lightly. Led by the 19-year-old left-arm quick Fariha Trisna, Bangladesh bowled out South Africa for 207, allowing only one fifty partnership. But South Africa's bowling firepower was too much for them as they went down by 32 runs.
Bangladesh's batters, however, stepped up against New Zealand by getting off the blocks with 45 without loss in six overs against a wayward attack, but they fell flat later in the rain-curtailed game when the hosts pulled up their socks. The 50-plus opening stands in both matches was a testament to Bangladesh's improved quality at the top, as they had put up only two 50-plus opening stands in 41 ODIs before this World Cup.
The near-upsets kept coming in the tournament, especially against South Africa. On Friday, Pakistan did a Bangladesh by limiting South Africa to a chaseable 223 with a middle-order collapse and their batters were on their way to seeing them through. But South Africa's bowlers, led by Shabnim Ismail, once again kept their nerves under pressure and got them two points in the six-run win.
Fielding, forgettable
The opening game did set high standards for the thrill quotient of the rest of the World Cup but not on the fielding front. Devine was dropped twice that evening, amid other sloppy efforts, after New Zealand had put down two as well.
It barely got better from there. Laura Wolvaardt dropped two the next day, Australia spilled two sitters against England, and although there was the odd extraordinary effort - like Deandra Dottin's stunner at point against England - the same match had as many as seven spills overall.
India have been okay on the field. Pooja Vastrakar hit the stumps down for Suzie Bates's run-out but she also dropped Katey Martin later, while wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh has pushed the bar high with sharp work behind the stumps.
Overall, ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball data has recorded a total of 35 drops and missed stumping chances so far, which is a terrible average of nearly four chances gone down per match. England lead the list with a total of eight misses, West Indies seven, and Bangladesh, South Africa and India have the least (two each).
Those runs are coming fast
This World Cup has seen some low-scorers but it is so far also the best as far as scoring rate goes, at 4.76, going past the 4.69 of 2017. The tournament had also started off with a bang, seeing as many as four centuries on the first three days, from Devine, Matthews, Rachael Haynes, and Sciver.
There haven't been any since then but the conversion rate in this World Cup (four centuries in nine matches) is almost the same as in 2017 (14 in 30 games), which puts the current tournament on course to set a new record.
The real Pakistani star
Pakistan have lost all their matches so far and are languishing at the bottom of the table, but they are carrying in their team the star of the tournament. Every time their players get off the team bus, cameras zoom in on captain Bismah Maroof's daughter Fatima, who the mother carries in her arms. While Pakistan's opening game was on - against India - pictures of Maroof getting off the bus with Fatima in her arms went viral, and then videos as well of the Indian team surrounding Maroof and her daughter after the match.
Maroof took it another level in their next game, played on International Women's Day, when she brought up her half-century and brought out the baby-rocking celebration while her daughter looked on from team member Tuba Hassan's arms in the dressing room.
With stats inputs from S Rajesh and Sampath Bandarupalli

Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo