A batting extravaganza, the rise of the international cricketing mum and frustration over tickets – Kristy Havill shares the highlights and lowlights of the CWC22 so far.
When the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 finally roared into life, with the home side New Zealand meeting a mercurial West Indies, three questions arose around the tournament opener.
Will it be a game of decent quality? Will people turn up? Will everything run smoothly? Thankfully, you can answer ‘yes’ to all three.
The first match was a spectacle to behold – not just for cricket fans in New Zealand but capturing the attention of the global cricket community.
Since then, we’ve seen runs being scored at a faster rate than at previous World Cups, more boundaries and sixes being struck, and previous record innings totals being obliterated by the day.
We shouldn’t expect that to change over the coming weeks, especially as teams get into their groove and get used to the conditions and different grounds around the country.
West Indian Hayley Matthews and Australian Rachael Haynes are already evidence of that, backing up their respective tons with solid knocks again in their second matches.
Now, back to that unforgettable first match at Bay Oval. A spine-tingling opening ceremony; the blaring of ‘God Defend New Zealand’ for the first time. Matthews scoring the first century of the tournament, before Sophie Devine returned serve with one of her own. And a stuttering White Ferns run chase before launching themselves into a winning position, needing six runs from the last over.
And then it happened. A moment that has etched itself into Cricket World Cup folklore.
West Indies captain Stafanie Taylor was looking around surveying her options as to who she could entrust with bowling the match-defining over. Before the imposing figure of Deandra Dottin loomed large beside her and demanded the ball.
Make no mistake, Dottin is a world class all-rounder – but one who has barely bowled over the last couple of years due to an ongoing shoulder injury. She hadn’t rolled the arm over at all in trainings or in warm-up matches since the team touched down on Aotearoa soil.
But here she was, giving Taylor no choice but to put the white Kookaburra ball in the hands of the wily veteran. No warm-up, no practise deliveries, no fuss.
First of all, not many would have the courage to give their skipper no choice but to give them the ball. And second – even fewer would have executed like Dottin did.
She nailed it from ball one, a perfect delivery on a good line and length to Jess Kerr for only a single. Two wickets and a run out later, and it was curtains for the White Ferns; West Indies claiming a three-run victory. It was theatre of the highest order, and the first of three women’s World Cups on our shores over the next couple of years was ignited.
Which leads us quickly on to the first lowlight – the White Ferns losing. Arguably the West Indies could have made much quicker headway into the White Ferns’ lower batting order if they had taken half of the six catches they shelled.
But you ride your luck in this fickle sport, and the White Ferns’ timed their run chase to perfection as a result. Needing 20 runs off the last two overs, they rightly targeted the penultimate over so it left them with as fewer runs as possible to get off the last.
With the equation at six runs from six balls, you would take that every single day of the week and twice on Sundays as a cricketer. They didn’t bottle the last over – they got Dottin’d. And there’s no shame in that.
A win would have set them on their way in their home World Cup, but it wasn’t to be.
Luckily to take our minds off that nailbiter, there have been endless highlights every day since.
On that note, a quick line on social media – it’s fantastic to see the depth and breadth of coverage of this World Cup from all around the world filling timelines on Twitter, Instagram and Tik Tok (to name a few). It’s extremely difficult to keep up-to-date with it all, which is a brilliant issue to have and that’s exactly how it should be. Long may it continue.
The milestones kept coming, as Rachael Haynes (Australia) and Nat Sciver (England) added centuries three and four to the tournament tally in their sides’ Ashes rematch runfest down at Seddon Park.
This match in particular signalled how far women’s cricket has come since the last edition in 2017, with over 600 runs scored in 100 overs.
They’re not necessarily small boundary sizes at these venues either. Women are getting the opportunity to demonstrate they are strong and powerful at the crease, and are seizing it with both hands.
For all of the runs being scored, there’s a risk of there being nothing in the pitches for the bowlers. Never fear though, for the ground staff at Bay Oval, Seddon Park and University Oval have produced some brilliant surfaces so far, ensuring there’s a little bit of something in the wicket for everyone.
Pace bowlers are seeing consistent bounce and carry, as well as swing and seam off of the surface, while the spinners are getting a lot of purchase and turn every time they have the ball in hand.
It makes for an even contest between bat and ball, providing a platform for the world’s best to showcase the full array of their skill and talent.
A big shout-out to the ground staff at University Oval in Dunedin who worked their tails off on Monday to ensure the White Ferns v Bangladesh match could go ahead in a shortened 27 overs fixture.
An abandoned game would have seen the White Ferns’ World Cup chances on life support, and a lot of rain had fallen throughout the day. But it’s testament to the ground staff’s dedication to their craft that they got the outfield and pitch to a point where it was playable.
And how good was that White Ferns win? A nine-wicket victory was a fantastic result after a long day on tenterhooks waiting for the rain to clear. The spin trio of Amelia Kerr, Frances Mackay and Amy Satterthwaite were phenomenal at slowing down the fast-starting Bangladesh batters. But nothing warmed the heart more than watching Suzie Bates have an absolute field day scoring runs on her home track in Dunedin in the black shirt for the very first time.
It was a long wait for Bates to tick this off, and it was an occasion to remember as she also joined Debbie Hockley as the only White Fern to have scored over 1000 runs in World Cup cricket.
To see her walking off arm-in-arm with her Otago Sparks teammates Katey Martin and Hayley Jensen, smiling and giving thumbs up to family and friends in the grandstand was priceless.
One thing rankling a few people has been the lack of communication around ticket availability throughout the World Cup. Most ticketholders were refunded earlier in February due to the uncertainty around crowds, and it wasn’t until three days out from the opener the ICC announced they had secured an exemption from the New Zealand government to have 10 percent capacity at venues.
Even then, the tickets released were only for the first five days of matches. Releasing tickets with such a short lead-in before the event doesn’t bode well for trying to get the allocation of tickets sold, with fans often needing more notice to keep their diaries free.
That was evident last Friday when the 10 percent capacity wasn’t quite filled for the opening match.
The next instalment of tickets was released on Tuesday this week, which for games such as New Zealand v India today wasn’t ideal at all for people to suddenly alter their work schedules or rearrange afterschool activities.
Before Tuesday’s announcement, there was no communication to previous ticketholders about what was going on, or anything on the ticketing website to indicate tickets were ‘coming soon’ or possibly ‘sold out’.
While we all appreciate the complications Covid-19 poses in staging events, a quick email outlining what the organisers are working through and when they are hoping to communicate the outcome wouldn’t go astray.
Engaging as many of the New Zealand public as possible is important for the legacy of this World Cup, and frustrating the fans by not communicating with them until the last minute should be avoided.
And last but not least: how great are the mothers at this tournament?
We all look forward to the day when having mums in sports teams becomes the norm, and not something that still needs to be highlighted. But for now, it’s time to celebrate them.
There are eight in total playing in this edition of the World Cup: New Zealand’s Amy Satterthwaite and Lea Tahuhu; Megan Schutt and Rachael Haynes (Australia); Lizelle Lee and Masabata Klaas (South Africa); Afy Fletcher (West Indies); and Bismah Mahroof (Pakistan).
New Zealand cricket fans are now accustomed to seeing Grace Satterthwaite, the daughter of White Ferns’ Satterthwaite and Tahuhu, running around the various cricket grounds. And now she’s joined for company by six-month-old Fatima – the daughter of Pakistan captain Mahroof.
Images captured by photographers before Pakistan’s opening match against India, as Mahroof carried Fatima into the ground, sent hearts aflutter, before Twitter fully went into overdrive after the game when some of India’s superstars crowded around Mahroof and Fatima for catch-ups and selfies.
Mahroof was the first player to benefit from the Pakistan Cricket Board’s new parental policy, which enabled her to receive her full contract while on parental leave and be guaranteed a contract on her return to the game.
She was also able to transition into a non-playing role if she wanted to while pregnant, and the PCB are covering half of the costs with having Mahroof’s mother tour New Zealand with the team as Fatima’s carer.
For a culture that does not always approve of women continuing to play sport after they marry, let alone have children, it was extremely progressive of the PCB to adopt this policy – the first subcontinent country to do so.
And now, in her first international cricket since giving birth, Mahroof is leading her side on the world’s biggest stage – something that a couple of years ago would not have been possible.
When Mahroof scored an unbeaten 78 on International Women’s Day (in Pakistan’s seven-wicket loss to Australia), and made a cradle rocking motion towards the team viewing room where her daughter was being held by a teammate, it was a fitting tribute to how inspiring these women are and how lucky we are to have them breaking glass ceilings for generations to come.
And if your ticker can handle another blockbuster match after yesterday’s heart-stopping seven-run win by the West Indies over defending champs England in Dunedin, then the White Ferns v India today in Hamilton will not disappoint.
Facing a team in a tournament is very different to a series, so buckle your seatbelts. White Ferns need the win to stay well-placed in the top four race, which is now even more wide open.