The final round of matches at the Women’s World Cup takes place tonight with Australia already in the final and one of the West Indies, England or New Zealand still with a chance at joining them. The West Indies have the easiest path at the start as they have six points to the four of England and New Zealand. All they need to do is win. England and New Zealand play each other and they both would have to win that match, hope the West Indies lose and then hope that their NRR is better than that of the Windies. England are in the slightly better position in that regard as the White Ferns’ defeat in the previous match was large enough to send their NRR below that of England.
The matches, like the ones in the last round of the group stages, are not simultaneous. This is once again a major oversight by the ICC and tournament organisers and this time gives England and New Zealand a slight advantage. They will know at some point during their match what, if anything, they can do to get into the final.
(Note about numbers: from here the words ‘around’ and ‘roughly’ will be both common and quite important. Extreme scenarios, such as a team defending a total of 100 or taking all of fifty overs to chase such a total would push the NRRs a bit above or below the maxima or minima I give, but they are so unlikely and the differences so small I have rounded.)
The analysis is very simple if the West Indies win the match against Australia: the same two teams will meet in the final. If the West Indies lose, however, both England and New Zealand will look very carefully at the margin. The NRR for both teams will probably drop even with a win, but a very large victory for Australia, something in the neighbourhood of 45-50 runs or with 10-12 overs to spare (or more, in both cases) then the NRR of the West Indies will drop so low it will make the England v New Zealand match effectively a semi-final.
England and New Zealand won’t know their task until late, but they will both know at the start of the match that a high-scoring affair will suit them well. The West Indies’ NRR will not be more than about 0.900 even with a very narrow defeat and whilst the NRR’s of both England and New Zealand could drop well below that (to about 0.785 and 0.725, respectively) the higher the total score in their match is, the less the NRR will drop. For England, a first innings score of greater than 225 (for either them or New Zealand) should be enough to ensure that if they win and the West Indies lose it will be England playing Australia in the final. There is no (realistic) corresponding number for New Zealand, but their required margin of victory also drops the higher scoring the match is. It will still be around 30-35 runs at best, however.
England are in far from an ideal spot, needing help from the Aussies, but it is far from gloom and doom for them. All three teams will probably fancy their chances from here. In summary:
Any win will put them in the final and a loss by more than about 45-50 runs or 10-12 overs will send their NRR so low that they will be out of the tournament. Anything between and they are cheering for New Zealand to win by a relatively narrow margin, certainly fewer than forty runs.
Need the West Indies to lose first and then need to beat New Zealand. If they score (or concede) more than about 225 in the first innings then any margin of victory will do, but for lower scores they may have to win by as many as 25-30 runs or five to eight overs, depending on how close the first match is.
Need the West Indies to lose and need to beat England, possibly by as many as forty runs or ten overs. If Australia win by a large enough margin, however, any win will do.