@Ben_Wisden 3 minute read
The 2022 edition of the Women’s Cricket World Cup was hailed in the build-up as having the potential to be the best version of the tournament in history.
But it has still defied all expectations in an action-packed opening two weeks, with close game following nail-biter following upset to lead some to suggest that it could be the most exciting World Cup, men’s or women’s, there has ever been.
Still, this is a fairly routine claim, with similar suggested of the 2019 men’s Cricket World Cup, despite a rain-sodden group stage and a predictable final four, mainly due to Pakistan’s doomed surge for the semis and an all-time great final.
But there is a way to look at this statistically, with a newly devised Matches Per Thriller (MPT) measure. For the purposes of this, we’ve defined a ‘Thriller’ as any game that ends as a tie, or is won by fewer than 15 runs or two wickets, or is won by the chasing side in the final over. This is slightly arbitrary, and there are some such games that don’t feel all that thrilling, or some games that don’t qualify that do excite to the last. For the former, see New Zealand’s two-wicket win over Bangladesh in 2019, with the Black Caps stumbling over the line from a position of strength, or any game unnecessarily taken to the last over by MS Dhoni. But it will do for these purposes.
Under this measure, the 2022 edition performs extraordinarily well. There have so far been six games won by 15 runs or fewer, and two games won by two wickets or fewer or in the final over, out of 17 games played. No Women’s World Cup has come close. No tournament before had had more than three wins by 15 runs or fewer, with 2017 leading the way for two-wicket wins, on two, and no tournament having more than one last-over win either.
Only one tournament, the 2019 Cricket World Cup, has seen more close games of these types, but that was also a longer tournament, with 48 games in total. By the MPT measure, the 1983 men’s Cricket World Cup is the current top dog, with 3.86 MPT. As it stands, the Women’s Cricket World Cup is way out in front, with 2.13 MPT. And even if there isn’t a single other Thriller in the whole rest of the tournament, it would still end with an MPT of 3.88, only a fraction behind 1983. Just one more Thriller would see the 2022 Women’s Cricket World Cup comfortably into top spot.
Still, this only measures a kind of micro, game-by-game excitement, rather than whole-tournament thrill level. This is harder to measure, but the end of the group stage of the 2022 Women’s Cricket World Cup is shaping up nicely. While South Africa and Australia have both won four games from four, every other team has lost at least twice, with only Pakistan without a win so far. Bangladesh, at their first ever Women’s Cricket World Cup, have already beaten Pakistan, as well as pushing West Indies all the way, going down by four runs having at one point had the Caribbean side 70-7.
Even South Africa, one of the two pace-setters, have not been without hiccup, having supplied three Thrillers out of four games so far, including a six-run win over winless Pakistan, while even their one win was hardly routine, kept to 207 by Bangladesh and bowling them out for 175 in response.
The only blot on this panacea of point-sharing are Australia, who came into the competition as heavy favourites, and have done plenty to justify that tag so far. While their first game was a Thriller, beating England by 12 runs, since then, two seven-wicket wins over West Indies and Pakistan either side of a 141-run thumping of New Zealand have firmly justified their pre-tournament status.
Should they suffer a similar fate to the 2017 Women’s World Cup, in which they lost just once in the group stage but found themselves on the wrong end of a Harmanpreet Kaur day out in the semis, this tournament’s place at the top of the tree will surely be safe. Even just being pushed in the knockouts would be enough. However, if they coast to the trophy while those beneath them scrap simply for the honour of being beaten by Meg Lanning and her team, the debate could be left open.