The trends of the Cricket World Cup so far, from short, aggressive bowling to the dangers of batting first

Scyld Berry
West Indies fast bowler Oshane Thomas - PA

With 11 of the 45 Cricket World Cup group games now in the bank, we are now one quarter of the way through the opening stage - there or thereabouts.

Scyld Berry examines the trends which have emerged as the tournament has exploded into action - a tournament which looks like anyone's at this early stage.

Small margins of victory

No very close finish yet, but the margins have been getting smaller. Of the last six results, three have been by a margin of 21 runs or fewer, and another by two wickets.

Batsmen are being reigned in

This World Cup has been nothing like the slogathon in the England v Pakistan ODI series last month - or in recent World Cups. Totals have been lower than widely predicted because teams have often been dismissed within 50 overs.

As a result the run-rate in this World Cup, of 5.70 runs per over, is barely higher than in the 2015 tournament - instead of it being an noticeable increase, as one might have expected. Faster bowlers, pitching shorter, are reigning in batsmen.

England's Jos Buttler scored the first century of the World Cup Credit: Getty Images

Batting first could spell danger

In the 10 completed games, the side batting first has been dismissed six times (four times in less than 40 overs) and the side batting second twice. There has never been such a high percentage of teams bowled out after batting first - 60 per cent. So chasing targets may be dangerous on dry pitches, but so too is batting first. To date the side batting first has won five times, and the team batting second five times.

West Indies short stuff sets the tone

The West Indian fast bowlers are all from Jamaica: Oshane Thomas, Sheldon Cottrell and Andre Russell. The three of them reduced Pakistan to 62-4 (to be dismissed for 105) and Australia to 38-4. It is doubtful whether any previous World Cup has seen such aggressive short-pitched fast bowling.

Ball-tracking data only goes back as far as the 2007 World Cup, but it is safe to say this tournament has seen a higher percentage of short balls (45 per cent) - pitching more than eight metres short of the batsman’s stumps - than in the previous three tournaments.

Mitchell Starc of Australia appeals successfully as he celebrates the wicket of Chris Gayle of West Indies Credit: Getty Images

Pace bowlers quicker than ever

Old-timers may insist that bowling was faster in their day, when there was no reliable way of measuring the pace of the ball, but data says that the average speed of pace bowlers - including their slower balls - is higher in this tournament (82.34mph) than for the three previous World Cups for which there is data.

It could be argued that slower balls are more numerous than they ever were, so the average speed of pace bowlers, when their slower balls are taken out of consideration, is significantly higher than in the past.

Dry pitches suit spin

The white Kookaburra balls are reported to have been swinging more in this World Cup than in ODI cricket in recent years, because they are shinier than normal. Lower scoring may also be a consequence of relatively cool and cloudy weather, which has encouraged swing, albeit for only a few overs.

Pitches in England when under the ICC’s control for a global tournament have customarily been drier than ODI pitches in England otherwise are, and this trend continues. So far 31 per cent of overs in this World Cup have been delivered by spinners, which is around par for the World Cups outside England since 1999. This percentage can be expected to rise as more matches are staged on used pitches.

Fielders are looking sharp

While there have been some notable drops, as by Jason Roy at Trent Bridge, the standard of both ground-fielding and catching would appear to be rising: note the catches by Ben Stokes for England v South Africa, Sheldon Cottrell for West Indies v Australia, and Glenn Maxwell for Australia v West Indies.

South Africa the biggest disappointment

Three defeats in three matches. Six of their squad are aged 34 or over. And the old strengths and certainties have not been replaced. Chop-and-change selection has added to the instability.