Pakistan
Women's Cricket World Cup

Parity and calamity in abundance at CWC22

CWC22

By Daniel Beswick

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Competition among Cricket World Cup competitors means the tournament’s predicted ending is far from a foregone conclusion.

If you came to the Basin Reserve with a fresh pair of eyes to watch Australia take on Bangladesh at the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup, you would have been hard-pressed figuring out who were competition favourites, and who were making their tournament debut.

Scratching around at 70/5, chasing Bangladesh’s 135/6, Australia eventually scratched and scraped their way to the target in Wellington, maintaining their unbeaten run.

Goliath may have prevailed in the rain-affected clash, though the stories of the day belonged to Bangladesh and the level of competition in New Zealand. As Salma Khatun sent shockwaves through the Australian batting order, the parity among the great eight was shown in all its glory.

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Since the tournament’s first iteration in 1973, it’s fair to say we haven’t seen a competition like we are witnessing in front of us in 2022. While it’s not the first time every team has tasted victory at a Women’s Cricket World Cup, it’s the gap-bridging consistency of competition that has turned heads in the sporting world. Not many cricket tournaments can boast a highlight reel of classic catches that lasts over three minutes with only half the matches played.

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The feeling in the land of the long white cloud is that there is never a certain outcome waiting for us at the end of each day. For those lucky enough to witness the competition as fans, surprises have been prevalent, and the ending to every tale is never truly known until the final ball is bowled. It’s a feeling that will now be shared with a wider community too, with 100% capacity crowds now allowed around the country.

Final-over thrillers and nervous finishes have been a hallmark of a tournament that is all but certain to have further twists and turns at the business end. We’ve seen three successful last-over chases, five teams winning by ten runs or fewer, and a one-wicket victory for England over New Zealand at Eden Park. Throw in England’s valiant chase against Australia and Pakistan’s penultimate-over success over the West Indies, and you have almost a dozen of the tournament’s matches delivering drama in spades.

When Omaima Sohail swept over mid-wicket to seal Pakistan’s famous win at Seddon Park, their measured celebration suggested that victory was just the next step of the journey. For Bismah Maroof and her team, the message did not need to be reinforced by an exuberant celebration, but rather hammered in by a clinical effort on the field. Being the eighth and final team to taste victory at the tournament was par for the course in their eyes. After all, seven more runs on the board would have been enough to overrun an impressive South Africa in match nine.

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Cricket has proven time and time again to be a great leveller, and the World Cup has shown to be another example. Stafanie Taylor’s West Indies set the tone of surprises, holding the hosts at bay in the Bay of Plenty, though they now sit precariously on seven points, sweating on other results to see if they need to book a later flight home. South Africa delivered a hammer blow to New Zealand’s home campaign, and Australia, while unbeaten, were humbled by the tricks of the Bangladesh spinners.

And then, throughout all of the drama, you turn to the defending champions in England, with their three-defeat start just another fascinating subplot. Rescuing their campaign with a nervy win over India in Tauranga, and prevailing by the skin of their teeth over New Zealand in Auckland, their run at the tournament only reinforces the same point.

For some, all of cricket’s calm and calamity has been felt in a matter of moments.

Take Marizanne Kapp for instance, who has experienced almost every emotion even as a Player of the Tournament candidate. Furious by self-proclamation after falling late in South Africa’s chase against England, Kapp was almost too nervous to watch the ending, relieved in victory, and eventually ecstatic when she was enveloped by her triumphant teammates.

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A Player of the Match accolade was a just reward for her exploits, a feat she repeated in the Proteas' next outing against New Zealand - though it was not without the nerves of a teeth-gritting chase. Truly indicative of a champion, Kapp appeared calmer in the middle than on the other side of the boundary, assertive from the non-striker’s end to help Ayabonga Khaka squeeze a match-winning single.

Kapp’s nerve is no outlier. From Shabnim Ismail’s clutch catch to deny Pakistan, to Deandra Dottin’s last-over heroics, and the Sneh Rana/Pooja Vastrakar partnership to save India from defeat to Pakistan, the level of competition has allowed many to showcase their steel, and the tag line of Let’s Show Them has turned into a personal challenge of every player in New Zealand.

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Beth Mooney, similarly unflustered despite Australia’s trip-up against Bangladesh, was well-measured, reflecting on the competition, impressed by the field.

“I think predictions have gone out the window pretty quickly in this World Cup.”

“It’s been really impressive to watch the skills that have been on show, and it just goes to show the investment that people make into cricket can go a long way to making an exciting product for everyone to watch and be a part of.”

In a testament to the parity among the competition, it took until match 24 of 28 to eliminate a team from semi-final qualification. As of this moment, six teams are still alive in the competition, with the final knockout spot only to be determined after the final group game between India and South Africa.

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“We’ve seen some unbelievable games unfold which is why we have to wait until Sunday night to see who is in those semi-finals,” Mooney continued.

“Hopefully there’s a couple more exciting games to come leading into the semi-finals and we can finish this World Cup off exactly how it started, with some high-quality cricket being played and a lot of respect among the teams as well.”

Representing all eight teams in New Zealand, the fans lucky enough to attend matches have dared to dream, all with the belief that their team could, or could have, been the one to lift the trophy on April 3. For probably the first time at an ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup, almost every fan at one point had realistic aspirations.

And even with an Australian team blessed with a glut of talent, the history books only have to take you back to September to show that the only undefeated team aren’t necessarily unbeatable. 

After all, the other teams vying to knock over Meg Lanning’s high-flyers haven’t put forward the script yet.

They’ll show us, when the time is right.

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