Beginner’s guide to women’s cricket

Most cricket fans are going to be infinitely more familiar with men’s cricket, and it’s not surprising considering the disproportionate amount of attention paid to the men’s game, and its omnipresence on our TV screens.

With the WBBL starting tomorrow, I thought I’d run through a few key statistical differences between men’s and women’s Twenty20 cricket.

For this purpose, I’m using 5419 matches which produced a result since 2003. I excluded any matches where the result was decided by Duckworth-Lewis or a similar method, or where no team won (either due to a draw or an abandoned match), or where the maximum overs was less than 20 (usually due to rain).

This includes 4773 men’s matches and 806 women’s matches, up to 2 December. I’ll explain next week precisely what is included in my database.

I should also briefly explain that I’ll be often analysing these stats by looking at the first quartile, median and third quartile. You get these measures by lining all of the scores up in a line, and taking the scores which are one-quarter, half, and three-quarters of the way along. It is useful for giving you a sense of what is ‘normal’.

In this article I’ll run through what run rate is most common for the men’s and women’s game, and will separate what is a normal run rate for a winning match and for a losing match.

I’ll also then go into what role scoring fours and sixes have in men’s and women’s Twenty20 cricket, and how that explains most of the variation.

Of course this isn’t by any means a comprehensive analysis of differences between the men and women’s game, but I think it’s a useful starting point.

Par scores

First of all, let’s just look at what is a “good score” in men’s and women’s cricket. Men tend to score more runs, so what would probably be a losing score in a men’s match is likely to be a winning score for women.

I’m going to use run rates, rather than scores, as a measure of success. This is because not all innings go for the full twenty overs. If you’re playing second, and you win, you won’t have played for the full length of time, and won’t score as many runs as you could have. For teams which lose all ten wickets, I calculate their run rate as if they scored their runs over a full innings, even if they didn’t.

(By the way, this is the way that “Net Run Rate” is calculated to break ties on the league table. A team that plays recklessly and is all out in 12 overs shouldn’t be rewarded by having their score divided by 12, whereas it would’ve been divided by a larger number if they had stayed in play for the full 20 overs.)

Gender Innings # 1st quartile Median 3rd quartile
Men’s 9546 6.54 7.51 8.55
Women’s 1612 4.80 5.80 6.71

You can see here that the median men’s score would translate to scoring 150 runs, while for the women the equivalent would be 116.

Another way to show this is to cut up the scores based on which innings the team was playing in (first or second) and whether they won or lost.

Gender Innings Result 1st quartile Median 3rd quartile
Men’s 1 Win 7.45 8.40 9.30
Men’s 1 Loss 6.00 6.95 7.85
Men’s 2 Win 7.04 7.95 8.91
Men’s 2 Loss 5.80 6.80 7.80
Women’s 1 Win 6.00 6.70 7.55
Women’s 1 Loss 4.25 5.05 5.95
Women’s 2 Win 5.39 6.24 7.14
Women’s 2 Loss 4.15 5.08 5.90

Hitting fours and sixes

Unsurprisingly, men’s Twenty20 relies a lot more on hitting boundaries.

I built a dataset of all matches, and what proportion of the runs were scored as boundaries, as extras, or as ordinary runs (by running between the wickets).

The following table shows the proportion of runs in the innings scores as fours and sixes.

For winning men’s sides, it’s normal for a majority of runs to be scored on the boundary – even for a losing side, three quarters of the time over 40% of runs are fours and sixes.

The women’s game paints a very different picture. The median boundary percent for winning women’s teams is 41.52%, and it’s only 31.75% for losing teams.

Gender Result 1st quartile Median 3rd quartile
Men’s Win 46.84% 53.49% 59.60%
Men’s Loss 40.32% 47.33% 53.59%
Women’s Win 33.33% 41.52% 49.70%
Women’s Loss 23.81% 31.75% 39.53%

We can see an uptick in the proportion of runs scored on the boundary for both men and women in the last few years in the following chart:


Another way to look at this question is to look at runs scored not as a proportion of the total, but just in raw numbers. The next table shows the run rate for three types of runs: boundaries (fours and sixes), extras (wides, no balls, byes, leg byes and penalties) and ordinary runs (singles, doubles, triples).

Gender Run type 1st quartile Median 3rd quartile
Men’s Boundary 2.89 3.80 4.80
Men’s Ordinary 2.85 3.25 3.65
Men’s Extra 0.25 0.40 0.60
Women’s Boundary 1.40 2.04 2.90
Women’s Ordinary 2.68 3.17 3.65
Women’s Extra 0.25 0.40 0.60

Here we see the real difference in scoring between men’s Twenty20 and women’s Twenty20. Men and women score extras at precisely the same rate, and men score ordinary runs only slightly higher than women (a median of 3.25 vs 3.17).

But when it comes to scoring boundaries, men score up to twice as much. The median run rate for men’s boundaries is 3.8 runs per over, compared to 2 for women, and the same pattern is seen at the 1st and 3rd quartiles.

This also explains the overall difference in scoring patterns: in the men’s game, scores are higher due to more fours and sixes.


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