It's a Batsman's World (Cup)

Features

  • Author: Patrick Rhodes
  • Date: 15 Apr 2015
  • Copyright: All images and artwork created by Patrick Rhodes

The 2015 Cricket World Cup rewrote the record books in dramatic fashion. Amidst the usual insanity that surrounds this event, there were some amazingly good - and bad - performances. Batting-wise, some of the previous records were smashed into oblivion. There are several reasons for this, but recent rule changes seem to have tipped the scales in favor of those men who can wield the willow. As the pinnacle event for the world's (arguably) second-most popular sport comes to a close, let's take a look at some of the more outstanding feats.

thumbnail image: It's a Batsman's World (Cup)

Feat #1: Pakistan goes 1 for 4

Let's start with a record in futility first. In a group-stage match against the West Indies (ODI match #3608) in which Pakistan were favored to win, things couldn't have started worse for the Green Shirts. Choosing to bat last due to a bit of moisture still on the pitch, Pakistan hoped to make quick work of the West Indies' openers. In fact, this plan worked rather well as the first four batsman started sluggishly, only managing a run-rate of around 4. However, things picked up for the West Indies as they tallied 310 runs on the day.

Now faced with a substantial chase, Pakistan needed to come out swinging. Anchored by the veteran batsman Younis Khan, Pakistan's openers were aggressive - perhaps too aggressive. In what can be only described as a debacle, the first four Pakistani batsmen swung away recklessly and were dismissed after only 19 balls had been bowled. In less than half an hour, Pakistan set the mark for futility, scoring only a single run over four wickets[1] (see Figure 1). That means Pakistan only scored one more run than 4 blokes off the street would have scored.

worst four wicket start cricket

Figure 1

Unable to recover from their atrocious start, Pakistan lost the match by 150 runs going all out in 39 overs. What makes this even more remarkable are recent rule changes which have likely led to increased scoring (covered in the next section). This just wasn't Pakistan's day.

Feat #2: Highest Collective Run-Rate

This World Cup is nothing if not a display of batting prowess (Pakistan's futility excepted). Runs are being scored in abundance, putting immense pressure on teams with sub-par batsmen to keep pace. The collective run rate for the 2015 World cup set a new standard: a staggering 5.65 per over[2]. Compare that to previous editions of this tournament where the 5-per-over barrier was broken only once (2011 World Cup) - just barely. When the World Cup was first played in 1975 and then again in 1979, the run-rate didn't even manage to crack the 4-per-over barrier (3.91 and 3.54, respectively).

In the 2015 World Cup, yet another batting record was smashed when New Zealand's Brendan McCullum recorded the fastest 50 in World Cup history[3] (51 runs off 18 balls).

One theory behind this phenomenon is based on a recent rule change. In October of 2012, the ICC (International Cricket Council) enacted significant rule changes which greatly impacted the game of ODI cricket. The one I'm going to focus on is this one:

41.2.4 During the non Powerplay Overs, no more than four fieldsmen shall be permitted outside the fielding restriction area referred to in clause 41.2.3 (a) above.

This rule means that only four fielders can be staged outside the 30-yard circle. In effect, a team can only have four 'outfielders'. Prior to this rule, up to five fieldsmen were permitted in the outfield. This gives batsmen more empty spots to target, resulting in higher scores. The effect of this rule is suggested in Figure 2:


historical run rate world cup cricket

Figure 2

This isn't the only factor impacting game-play. Cricket bats, while unable to increase in width (by rule), have increased in depth, allowing batsmen to hit farther with less effort. There was also another rule change which introduced two new balls (instead of one). A newer ball towards the end of the match is firmer, which helps batsmen to hit it farther. Retired world-renowned Australian captain and batsman Ricky Ponting had this to say about the rule changes:

"The two new balls and the field restrictions having changed a little bit . . ., it probably has put it more in favor of the batsman. I think what is has done, with the field restrictions anyway, it's made spin bowling incredibly difficult. We've seen guys able to score 360 degrees around the wicket these days. When they've only got four guys outside the circle, it makes it tougher."[4]

- Ricky Ponting

Feat #3: Australia beats Afghanistan by Largest Margin

Like many of the records broken in the 2015 World Cup, this one is also related to batting. In a match that pitted the mighty Australians vs the first-timers of Afghanistan, we witnessed the most lopsided score in World Cup history. Australia not only scored the most runs in a WC match at 417, but they also beat the Afghans by the largest margin of victory[5] at 275.

Afghanistan made their World Cup debut in 2015, making them the 20th total team to qualify in the history of the event. Their record for the 2015 World cup was 1 win and 5 losses, the lone win coming against Scotland.

At first, I thought this was due to the rule changes enacted in 2012 (mentioned above). And, truth be told, those rule changes likely factor into this lopsided match to a degree. However, there is something else at play here: the large gap in skill between ICC full members and associate members. After all, the 'membership level' is based on the number of leagues/teams that each country supports. Thus, full members, by definition, have more organized cricket leagues which are going to produce better players. As we can see below, barring the 1975 World Cup, the average margin of victory jumped way up once the World Cup accepted 4 or more associate members (i.e. since 2003).

There are some, like Ricky Ponting, that believe the World Cup should probably reduce the number of teams that compete in that tournament. As he notes in a recent interview and what the graph in Figure 3 shows, many of these associate member teams are getting flogged at this level of competition.

"World Cup must be just for the best teams"[6]

- Ricky Ponting


That tells me the rule changes probably favor the teams that have the skill to take advantage of them. First time World Cup entrants probably don't have the talent to bat against the world's best bowlers, so the margin of victory continues to climb. In other words, the gap between the full and associate members might close a little if the rule mentioned in the previous section is amended to allow five fielders in the boundary area. More importantly, however, the associate members need to beef up their cricket programs to become more competitive on the world stage.

margin of victory average runs scored increasing cricket world cup

Figure 3

Feat #4: Four Consecutive Hundreds

Batting in cricket is unpredictable, not to mention stressful. In ODI matches like the World Cup, a batsmen has one and only one out before his innings are over. Just one mishit or one expertly bowled ball and you find yourself slinking back to the pavilion. Adding to this unpredictability, a batsmen sees multiple bowlers during his single appearance, forcing him to adjust his technique frequently. Thus, you can have great batsman dismissed after a duck or, conversely, unremarkable batsmen hitting for a century. With that in mind, what Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara did is truly spectacular.

A 'double century' occurs when a batsman scores at least 200 runs in a single match. This has only occurred 6 times in ODI cricket history, including a 237* by Martin Guptill (New Zealand) at the 2015 World Cup[7]. (*not out)

Nobody - nobody - in ODI history, much less World Cup history, has ever scored a century in four consecutive innings. In other words, for four consecutive matches a batsman has to score a minimum of one hundred runs in each of them. Enter Kumar Sangakkara - Sri Lanka's prolific batsman. His World Cup was very pedestrian in the beginning, going for 39 against New Zealand and a miserable 7 against Afghanistan before breaking out. After that, he torched Bangladesh, England, Australia and Scotland in order, scoring 105, 117, 104 and 124 runs, respectively[8]. More impressively, he wasn't yet out against Bangladesh and England before either fifty innings were reached or Sri Lanka successfully chased.

four consecutive hundreds odi cricket history

Figure 4

Unfortunately, he only batted for 45 in the quarterfinals against South Africa where his team batted horribly, only managing 133 runs in an eliminating loss.

Feat #5: Australia wins the World Cup

Is anybody really surprised at this? Rather than list some of their more impressive World Cup records[9] in type, I created an infographic to celebrate this momentous occasion:

australian world cup facts records infographic

By the way, if you want to hear the team song, click here.

Conclusion

Each edition of the Cricket World Cup brings us outstanding play, but 2015 really produced some whoppers. We've examined five of them in this article and made note of a few others. While it makes for an entertaining story, when records are being broken so often, one has to wonder where World Cup cricket is going. The gap in skill between the full and associate members is painfully obvious, producing matches which bordered on being comical. While I think most of the world doesn't want to see a reduction in the number of teams involved, we do want to see a more competitive group stage. Hopefully, the associate member nations will take steps to improve and become more competitive against the big boys.

In four year's time (2019), the next World Cup will be played out before the world in England and Wales. Anyone brave enough to predict which records might be broken at that time?

References

  1. ESPNCricInfo, Records / One-Day Internationals / Partnership records / Lowest score at each fall of wicket (last accessed April 13, 2015); available from http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/283495.html
  2. ESPNCricInfo, Statistics / Statsguru / One-Day Internationals / Team Records (last accessed April 13, 2015); available from http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?class=2;filter=advanced;groupby=season;orderby=runs_per_over;size=200;template=resu
    lts;trophy=12;type=team
  3. ESPNCricInfo, Records / One-Day Internationals / Batting Records / Fastest fifties (last accessed April 13, 2015); available from http://stats.espncricinfo.com/wi/content/records/284095.html
  4. Ponting, Ricky. "World Cup must be just for the best teams." Interview. ESPNCricInfo. N.p., 15 Mar. 2015. Web. http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/video_audio/852787.html
  5. ESPNCricInfo, Records / One-Day Internationals / Team Records (last accessed April 13, 2015); available from http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/283902.html
  6. Ponting, Ricky. "World Cup must be just for the best teams." Interview. ESPNCricInfo. N.p., 15 Mar. 2015. Web. http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/video_audio/852787.html
  7. ESPNCricInfo, Records / One-Day Internationals / Batting Records / Most runs in an innings (last accessed April 13, 2015); available from http://stats.espncricinfo.com/wi/content/records/216972.html
  8. ESPNCricInfo, Records / One-Day Internationals / Batting Records / Hundreds in consecutive innings (last accessed April 13, 2015); available from http://stats.espncricinfo.com/wi/content/records/282969.html
  9. International Cricket Council, Cricket World Cup Stats - All Time Team Records (last accessed April 13, 2015); available from http://www.icc-cricket.com/cricket-world-cup/stats/records/team

Bio: For more information on the author of this article, please visit: http://rhodestales.com/

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