At the Cricket World Cup, some things don’t change. India doing a Sharjah on Pakistan. Bangladesh eking out a win against a top-ranked side. New Zealand punching above their weight. Pakistan being ridiculous and sublime. And yet, as the game evolves, so does the World Cup. The ongoing 2019 Cricket World Cup has thrown its fair share of evolution, especially on the batting side.
This World Cup has seen, on average, more runs being scored, continuing the trend of incremental addition. The 2007 edition saw a median score—the mid-point where the number of scores above and below are identical—of 182 runs. A year later, T20 cricket had its breakout moment, with the Indian Premier League. That median score increased to 194 runs in the 2011 World Cup and 214 runs in 2015. In 2019, until the semi-finals, that median score shot up to 247 runs, despite the tournament being played in England, where conditions tend to aid swing and seam.
One aspect of more runs being scored are partnerships. On average, a match in World Cup 2019 has seen 3.63 partnerships of 50 runs or more. This is the highest since 2007, the edition for which our data starts. Even the average number of 100-plus partnerships increased in 2019, compared to 2015, but this increase is marginal.
In 2019, 68% of matches saw at least one century partnership. This was lower than the 71% figure recorded in 2015. But the one difference in 2019 is that the number of matches where both sides competing recorded at least one century partnership increased from 19% in 2015 to 24% in 2019. This is one reason why, in 2019, even when teams were batting first and recording 300-plus totals, the margin of victory was lower than in previous editions.
The improvement in batting numbers starts from the beginning of an innings. In terms of wickets lost in the first 10 overs, when teams are trying to take advantage of fielding restrictions while not losing wickets, this edition has raised the bar to a new level. In matches played till July 1, the latest for which this data is available from Cricsheet, teams lost an average of 1.21 wickets in the first 10 overs, compared to 1.57 wickets in 2015. As many as seven out of 10 teams showed an improvement over their 2015 numbers, the exceptions being England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. India led all teams, averaging just 0.67 wickets lost in the first 10 overs, continuing the solidity at the very top of the order from 2015 – a trend that was dramatically broken by New Zealand in the semi-finals. At the other extreme, West Indies were woeful, averaging a loss of more than two wickets in the first ten overs.
For all the additional runs they have scored in the 2019 World Cup, more so in the backdrop of the T20 format impact, teams have not dispatched more balls to the boundary for fours and sixes. The share of boundary balls has actually dropped from 10.2% in 2015 to 9.5% in 2019. Correspondingly, the share of runs scored via fours and sixes has dropped from 51.5% to 47.6%.
At the same time, the share of dot balls—from which no run is scored—has also fallen. In other words, teams are deriving a greater share of runs from knocking the ball around and running their runs.
There are, however, some interesting team variances, notably for host countries. In each of the last three editions, the host country has been a cut above the others in boundary balls. In 2015, for example, while India averaged 10.4% boundary balls, co-hosts Australia and New Zealand managed 13.6% and 13.3%, respectively, to lead in this metric.
The trend continues in 2019 as well. England, one of the four semi-finalists and the host country, lead all teams with 11.2% boundary balls. Of the other three semi-finalists, Australia followed with 10.9%, India with 9.8% and New Zealand with 8.6%.
New Zealand has felt the squeeze at both ends in 2019. On the one hand, its batsmen have not managed many from boundaries—the side was ranked seventh in the share of boundary balls. On the other hand, it also lags in dot balls: New Zealand batsmen, on average, could not score of 51% of deliveries they faced and were again ranked 7th.
Seven of the 10 sides in the tournament played fewer dot balls than 2015: the ones who didn’t, other than New Zealand, were Sri Lanka and South Africa. India was ranked fourth in terms of share of dot balls, with 45.5%, which is still its best among the last four world cups.
None of these metrics are, by themselves, pathways to success. But they are steps on that path, and how they come together on a given day, or how one can compensate for the other, does influence how a team’s batting comes along. And, in 2019, batsmen nudged the boundaries in one-day internationals a little further.
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