Photo Credit: ICC
The ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 league stage was nail-biting from start to finish.
What began with a last-over thriller between the hosts New Zealand and surprise outfit the West Indies ended with the final qualification place being decided by the last ball of the final round robin game.
That opening match in Tauranga set the precedent for a high-scoring World Cup with close finishes and incredible catches aplenty.
Deandra Dottin provided the magic in the final over to bowl the West Indies to victory by just three runs, just one of 10 games to go down to the final six balls with all results still possible.
Players from all eight teams were unsurprised at the competitiveness of the tournament, New Zealand skipper Sophie Devine revealing her pride at the feast of international cricket her country has put on.
She said: “I think the tournament’s been fantastic. I think honestly, this has probably been one of the most competitive, high scoring competitions that I’ve been involved in, and I’ve been around for a while.
“The way that teams have batted in particular has been outstanding. I think a lot of credit has to go to the ground staff and what’s been prepared here in New Zealand, which obviously I’m very proud of.
“I just think it’s been fantastic to see scores of 250 plus, obviously 300 at the start of the tournament with Australia and England. It shows the growth of the women’s game and when we get put on great cricket wickets, you get fantastic results.”
While scores of over 250 have been a feature across the tournament, Bangladesh were the only side to not concede more than 250 runs in any of their matches, not bad for the newcomers.
The Tigresses earned plenty of new fans as they pushed South Africa close in their maiden ODI World Cup game close before securing their first World Cup win with victory over Pakistan.
Pakistan bounced back with a victory of their own over the West Indies – a first for 13 years – as the 2022 edition became only the third World Cup after 1973 and 1993 where every team has registered at least one win.
While Australia have gone unbeaten in the group stages for the fourth time, taking a maximum 14 points, the holders England have been part of three final-over finishes, with veteran Katherine Brunt reflecting on the improvement in women’s cricket since she won the World Cup with England in 2009.
“It felt like back then we were most certainly right up there as the best team in the world. First or second for a long time,” the 36-year-old said.
“Many years later, the world has caught up and there are some brilliant teams around the globe now and some brilliant players have come out of the woodwork, some have gotten better and better.
“That’s credit to the sport and where we’re going and the professionalism of it, so everything is a lot harder now – the competition is very strong and not one game is a laid-back game.
“Everything has to be taken very seriously and that’s a credit to the game and where it’s come.”
Brunt’s England teammate Sophie Ecclestone is the leading wicket-taker after the group stage with 14 scalps but a duo from South Africa are hot on her heels.
Shabnim Ismail and Ayabonga Khaka have both taken 11 wickets for the Proteas, and after South Africa knocked out India in the final game of the league stage, Sneh Rana ended as the Women in Blue’s top bowler, also with 11 victims.
Hayley Matthews of the West Indies, England’s Charlie Dean and Marizanne Kapp of South Africa now form the chasing pack with 10 wickets apiece with at least one more game to add to their totals, having made the semi-finals, with the battle between spin and seam proving to be an even contest.
On the list of top run scorers, Laura Wolvaardt is 75 clear of Australia captain Meg Lanning with 433 and only 23 behind Debbie Hockley’s all-time record of 456 at a single World Cup, which she achieved in 1997.
The 22-year-old South African will have at least one chance to get past New Zealand’s Hockley when her side face England in the second semi-final in Christchurch on 31 March.
By that point, she may already be chasing Lanning again who will lead her side against the West Indies in Wellington the day before.
The skipper has the highest knock of the tournament so far with 135 not out against South Africa, with her 97 in a World Cup-record chase of 278 against India rounding out the top 10 innings.
But the numbers tell only half the story, the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 has also been a feast for the eyes.
From incredible flying catches and joyous celebrations to the new star of women’s cricket, baby Fatima, the daughter of Pakistan captain Bismah Maroof.
It has been a World Cup celebrating motherhood, determination, and skill. And it is not over yet.
Semi-final 1, Basin Reserve, Wellington
Australia v West Indies,
11h00 local time on Wednesday, 30 March
Semi-final 2, Hagley Oval, Christchurch
England v South Africa
14h00 local time on Thursday, 31 March