Australia's Batting Might in Numbers
Jay looks at the numbers behind Australia’s dominance during the World Cup
Imagine scoring 148 off 121 in a World Cup final and ending up on the losing side. It’s not Nat Sciver’s fault that she was up against the single most dominant team in the history of the women’s game.
It’s also not her fault that her scintillating knock was bettered by Australian opener Alyssa Healy, whose 170 of 138 is probably the best World Cup innings after Harmanpreet Kaur’s famous 171 not out. Harmanpreet’s innings is the one that knocked Australia out of the last World Cup and acted as a kick up the backside for them in the five years that followed. As is well publicized, they’ve only lost two ODIs since that heartbreaking day in Derby.
Their success, of course, is the result of having the single most professional structure in the women’s game. Up until three months ago, Alana King was nowhere near a household name. Now, along with fellow rookie Darcie Brown, she is arguably leading Australia’s bowling attack.
Moreover, in the aftermath of Derby 2017, Matthew Mott and the team management made some bold calls, which have proved to be the masterstrokes behind Australia’s victorious World Cup campaign.
Dangerous Healy and Mooney 2.0
In the lead-up to the 2017 World Cup, Healy was averaging 15.96 in 52 ODI matches being deployed primarily at the number seven position. Since being backed to open across formats by Mott and the management, she has amassed 2144 runs – more than anyone else in the world – at an average of 52.3 and a strike rate of 102. Out of all batters with at least 1000 runs in the same period, only one has a strike rate in the 90s. That batter is Beth Mooney with a strike rate of 93. We’ll have more on her in a minute!
As things stand, it is hard to argue against Healy being the world’s best white ball opener. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that she’s the world’s best batter, having been awarded the Player-of-the-tournament award after back-to-back centuries in the knockout stages of the World Cup.
Healy’s performances alone would be enough to make any team she played in a strong contender for a World Cup trophy. Yet, Australia’s entire top order has come to the party. Four out of the top six run-scorers in the tournament are Australians, with Meg Lanning, Rachel Haynes, and Mooney offering company to the belligerent opener.
Overall, while batting, Australia averaged 57.8 runs per dismissal across their campaign. Remarkably, England was a distant second, averaging nearly half of that at 30 runs per dismissal. Australia’s batters were also exceptionally hard to dismiss, losing a wicket every 59.5 deliveries.
Just let that sink in for a minute. Australia’s average partnership lasted nearly ten overs. Daylight separated them and India at 35.7.
And yes, you guessed it: Australia’s run rate of 5.82 was far superior to anyone else’s. England was next in line with a run rate of 5.16, which was inflated, no doubt, by the two scintillating hundreds Sciver scored against Australia.
Healy struck a boundary every seven balls – the best boundary count for anyone with at least 150 runs in the tournament. Dottin was up there with her at 7.6 balls per boundary, but her non-boundary strike rate (NBSR) of 31.8 was comfortably the lowest in the tournament among batters with at least 175 runs. Dottin’s NBSR was also well below the tournament average of 46.58*, whereas Healy’s was well over at 53.9.
Hitting the perfect balance between the two was Beth Mooney, who averaged a boundary every 9.9 deliveries and struck at a remarkable 67.35 off non-boundary balls. When we plot NBSR against balls per boundary, Mooney is the only batter in the top left quadrant. She is both a regular boundary hitter and she has enhanced her reputation as the world’s best strike rotator.
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Mooney opened at the 2017 World Cup but was moved down the order after making drastic improvements to her fitness and running between the wickets. Soon after the 2017 World Cup, Mott denied her request to play county cricket in England, telling her that the only thing standing in her way of being a modern day great was her fitness. Mooney soon started cycling 50 kilometers a day, admitting that she probably overdid things at the time. In any case, she was soon able to run 2 kilometers in 8 minutes and 10 seconds, comfortably better than the minimum fitness benchmark at the time.
Beth Mooney 2.0 is a big reason why Healy and Haynes have felt comfortable playing cautiously against the new ball on several occasions. Australia only scored at an average of 4.28 in the first ten overs across the tournament. However, they only lost 8 wickets, which is less than any other team. The opening pair, which put on three century stands in nine innings, had faith in both themselves and in the rest of the batting unit to catch up as the innings went on.
In addition to high non-boundary strike rates that served them well in the middle overs, Australia scored 100 runs or more on three occasions in the last ten overs. No other team managed this even once.
Look! I’ll be honest. Sometimes when crafting a piece as numerical as this, I do get a bit paralyzed by choice. There is no shortage of numbers to demonstrate just how dominant Australia has been in the last five years and during this World Cup.
Make no mistake: Australia is miles ahead of the rest of the pack. England is the only team with a comparable system and structure in place to close the gap with the Southern Stars.
However, the ECB only introduced full-time domestic contracts two years ago, and it could be another few years before we begin to see the benefits of that investment. With the next World Cup just three years away, there isn’t much time left for England and other teams to regroup and catch up.
What’s scary is that even if a team can build up to where Australia is right now, who knows where Australia will have gotten to by then.
*Stat courtesy ESPNCricinfo
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