6 days is an awfully long time in cricket. From shock results to breathless comebacks via blistering batting performances and bowling masterclasses, the women’s ICC World Cup has had the absolute lot. And we’re not even at the business end yet.
The tournament’s opening match may not have been much to write home about, save for the crowd-pleasing nature of host nation India’s opening day victory over the West Indies, but Friday 1st February saw what may be women’s cricket’s biggest tournament shock for many a year, with early favourites England outfought, out-thought and utterly hustled by a devastatingly committed Sri Lankan team. Any pre-tournament complacency went right out the window, and a clearly bruised England team were right under the pump when the insanely powerful Stafani Taylor and her West Indian team mates blew England’s first-match conquerors out of the water with a 209 run victory inspired by Taylor’s 137 ball 171, a knock containing no fewer than 20 boundaries. Despite moments of uncertainty, England duly prevailed in their second Group match against India, with captain Charlotte Edwards becoming women’s cricket’s highest ever one-day run scorer in the process, leaving Group A qualification boundaries entirely open going into this morning’s final group matches.
Suddenly, England’s bowling attack came alive; the dangerous West Indian top-5 removed for a grand total of 35 runs, 33 of which came from the bat of Kyshona Knight in a battling but ultimately far-too-restricted innings of 86 balls. With just 101 on the board, England were left with a tiny target to chase, arriving with a comfortable 6 wickets to spare, the winning runs accumulated at a run-rate more akin to 5-day cricket. Such were the vagaries of qualification calculations that the less crushing the victory, the potentially more beneficial to English qualification for the latter stages, with West Indian qualification in defeat actually preferably to Sri Lankan qualification from an English perspective. Go figure.
In the event, such mathematical impacts were thankfully unnecessary (thankfully in the interests of sportsmanship, at least), with Sri Lanka upsetting the odds – and the home crowd – with an astonishing 138 run victory over India, ensuring their own qualification and an unbelievable Indian exit at the first stages.
England – 4
Sri Lanka – 4
West Indies – 2
India – 2 (India eliminated by virtue of a lower net run rate than West Indies)
Shocks in Group B were noticeably harder to come by, though at the same time England were limping to defeat against outsiders Sri Lanka, so Australia looked like they may plumb similar depths themselves in being dismissed for just 175 runs by a Pakistan team that had been forced to sleep at the Barabati Stadium due to the threat of political violence against them had they left the stadium. Where England’s bowling line-up failed in its first test, the Aussies succeeded, though, taking Pakistan’s 10 wickets for 84 runs, en route to a 3-victory Group whitewash which probably announces them as the form team going into the Super Six stages.
From Group B, they will be joined by New Zealand (possessors of the highest net run rate in the entire competition thanks to some stupendously swashbuckling batting performances, most notably Sophie Devine’s 133 ball 145 against South Africa, containing 6 massive 6s) and South Africa, who qualify on the back of a final match ‘winner takes all’ match against Pakistan, prevailing by a comfortable 126 run margin.
Australia – 6
New Zealand – 4
South Africa – 2
Pakistan – 0
The Super 6 stages commence on February 8th with England vs Australia, a still potential final match up, at the Brabourne Stadium. Beforehand, on Feburary 7th, India and Pakistan will contest the 7th/8th placed playoff which, given its constituents and the presence of the home team, promises to be a somewhat lively affair. On a serious note, for a moment, we truly hope that the Pakistan team are met by a competitive but respectful home crowd and that the exit of the home team at the first hurdle doesn’t unduly hurt attendance figures for the remainder of the tournament.