Australia won the 1978 and 1982 Women’s Cricket World Cups and had every right to be confident about completing their hat-trick as the tournament moved to their home grounds for the first time in 1988.

As was the case at every previous edition, the World Cup was made up of Australia, England, New Zealand, and whoever could afford to join them. Even for those countries that had contested each tournament the financial burden was significant – England’s players, for example, were asked to raise around quarter of the costs themselves with many then having to take unpaid leave from jobs in order to represent their country.

In 1988, India were the team to be ruled out late in the piece, unable to secure the sponsorship needed to fund their attendance. Having found it impossible to raise the funds to attend in 1978 and 1982, the Netherlands would finally make their World Cup debut. They were joined in that achievement by Ireland who rounded out the five-team tournament.

With a six-year gap between World Cups, New Zealand’s team was virtually unidentifiable from the one which contested the 1982 World Cup at home. Debbie Hockley, Lesley Murdoch, and Nicki Turner were the only players to return, while six members of the squad would make their ODI debut in the tournament.

One player who had gathered some international experience in the intervening years was Wellington captain, Nancy Williams. Having started provincial cricket with Canterbury in 1982, where she played a World Cup warm-up match against Australia, all-rounder Williams made her ODI debut in 1985 and had become a limited overs’ fixture since then. In New Zealand’s opening match against Ireland, Williams was injured diving for a run. The injury forced her out of the tournament and saw Catherine Campbell join the list of players who would make their debut.

I was called in and played the remaining games. I was just at work [. . .] on the Friday and got the call, “you’re off”, and I left on the Saturday morning.
– Catherine Campbell on her call-up

New Zealand went in to the tournament with a new coach, Dayle Hadlee, who would introduce his side to some of the developing elements of the game, including sports psychology. Hadlee would go on to coach the men’s Under 19 side, be the BLACKCAPS’ bowling coach, and then Head Coach at the ICC’s Dubai academy. 

He was respected by everyone. [. . .] He started to bring in the psychologicl side of things. I remember thinking it was an aspect of the game that was never really touched on.
– Ingrid Jagersma on Dayle Hadlee as coach


 

New Zealand’s tournament began against Ireland who would’ve been keen to make a better showing of their World Cup debut than the Netherlands did: they were bowled out for just 29 in a record-breaking 255-run loss to the hosts. Whether they bettered that effort is debatable.

Batting first, New Zealand hit 232 for the loss of four (plus the injured Nancy Williams) with the experienced trio of Murdoch, Turner, and Hockley all passing 40 as Hockley top-scored with 76.  Ireland’s reply must be one of the dourest innings ever played in international cricket – they crawled through their 60 overs to finish at 78 for 9. Karen Gunn went for 9 runs off 9 overs while Debbie Hockley bowled 6 overs without conceding a single run. Not. One. Run.

Unfortunately, the result was of little help to New Zealand in having to wake up the next day, return to Perth’s Willetton Sports Club, and face the might of England. They made one change, forced by Williams’ injury, with Debbie Ford making her debut.

Once again, they would bat first, and again Hockley led the way, hitting 81. On this day, however, she lacked the support that was a feature of the Ireland victory and New Zealand could post only 186. It would’ve been much worse if not for the 20 wides England bowled.

Although no one could pass 50 for England, contributions at the top were backed up by a match-winning 47* from Jo Chamberlain as they eased to victory with 3 wickets and 10 balls remaining. New Zealand were still chasing the World Cup win over England that had eluded them since their first meeting in 1973.


 

New Zealand responded to the English loss by dishing out one of the most emphatic victories ever seen in ODI cricket, beating the Netherlands by 210 runs in Sydney. Batting first, New Zealand scored 297 for 5 to break the record for the highest total in women’s ODI – a record set just a week earlier by Australia against the same opposition.

A first-wicket partnership of 167 set up New Zealand’s total as Jackie Clark, opening as Murdoch moved down the order, hit 85 before being replaced by Hockley who hit her third consecutive 50+ score. The anchor around which they batted was Nicki Turner, who hit a magnificent 114.

The Netherlands improved on their 29 made against Australia, bowled out for 87. The star of the bowling return was Catherine Campbell who, having just joined the side and making her ODI debut, claimed 3 for 27 off her full complement of 12 overs. Hockley again proved to be an effective choice with the ball too: 4 overs for 3 runs on this occasion.


 

Huge victory over easy-beats was again followed by a match against much sterner opposition. This time it was back-to-back match-ups with the hosts, resulting in back-to-back losses. Although Clark, Hockley, and Murdoch continued to get starts, the lack of a big score or any support saw New Zealand score just 121 and 136 in those games.

Big wins in rematches with the Ireland and the Netherlands would follow, with tight bowling being particularly notable in the Netherlands game. In something of a carbon copy of their previous batting effort against the New Zealanders, the Dutch line-up were bowled out for 78 in the final over. New Zealand’s new-ball pair of Brigit Legg and Gunn bowled 24 overs for a total of 17 maidens, just 12 runs, and 4 wickets. Legg took 3 for 4 off 12.


 

1988 women's cricket world cup
With five 50s in the tournament, Debbie Hockley was the second-highest run-scorer at the 1988 Women’s Cricket World Cup.

Next up was England, who were flying high after finally ending the Australian’s winning streak which stretched back to the final game of the 1973 World Cup. Throughout the tournament, New Zealand had proven themselves to be an excellent fielding side, in part due to some excellent work from Catherine Campbell in the gully. Against England it would prove the difference.

Having won the toss and chosen to bat, England’s top order all contributed as they reached 145 for 4 before losing their last 6 wickets for just 32 runs. New Zealand benefited from creating pressure in the field which resulted in, a remarkable, five run outs. Helping pin down the English line-up was, once again, Brigit Legg who took the new ball and bowled 11 overs for 14 runs.

The innings wasn’t without controversy, however, as a slow over rate saw New Zealand fined two overs. That gave them 58 overs to chase 178 for victory.

Nicki Turner stepped up at the top once more, hitting 43, but Hockley (50*) and Ingrid Jagersma (37*) were the heroes for NZ. After two run outs of their own created some nerves, the pair hit an unbeaten 50-run partnership to see them home with 3 overs to spare.

While the win tied England and New Zealand together on 20 points, England had a game in hand and, with the Netherlands the opponents, a win was almost a foregone conclusion. They duly won by 180 runs to set-up another final against Australia.

For New Zealand, the trend-breaking win over England would be important in setting up future World Cups, but they would again bow out disappointed. There was one final match to be played as an odd third place playoff with Ireland took place. It only solidified Brigit Legg’s class as she took 2 for 14 off 12 finishing the tournament with an economy rate of 1.57.


 

The tournament concluded at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where 3000 fans rattled around the 90,000-seat stadium. For the players, especially the English, the experience was surreal,

The ground was wall-to-wall seating with no one sitting in them. . .
– England’s Jan Brittin

Australia, once again, cruised to victory and England were the first team to play at the MCG and feel what the BLACKCAPS did in 2015, the MCG really is so big when all you want to do is hide.