Hosts England triumphed in a wonderfully topsy-turvy World Cup final against India at the home of cricket. Lord’s witnessed a final that reminded me of what a wonderful game cricket is, and how quickly fortunes can change in any format of the game. Having lost to India in their opening match of the World Cup, England had gone unbeaten throughout the rest of the tournament, but looked to be heading to defeat towards the end of the final, before a wonderful spell of bowling from Anya Shrubsole tore through the Indian middle- and lower-order and took England to a nine-run victory.
After winning the toss, England chose to bat first and made a promising start, with Lauren Winfield and Tammy Beaumont sharing an opening stand of 47. But after Winfield was bowled by Rajeshwari Gayakwad, the home side lost their early momentum, and Beaumont and captain Heather Knight quickly followed Winfield back to the pavilion, leaving England under pressure at 63-3.
Sarah Taylor and Nat Sciver have been two of England’s most impressive performers throughout this tournament, and they steadied the ship with an excellent 83-run partnership to wrest back the initiative. Just as they seemed to be ready to accelerate on, and set India a daunting total, Taylor feathered a catch down the leg side off the bowling of Jhulan Goswami and was followed next ball by Fran Wilson, trapped lbw. Sciver followed a few overs later with the score at 164-6 and with England struggling to put the runs on the board during the crucial late overs of the game.
Katherine Brunt put on another crucial 32 runs alongside Jenny Gunn, before being run out by India’s young star Deepti Sharma, and Gunn and Laura Marsh then guided England through to the end of the 50 overs, putting on another 32 runs, leaving India with a below par target of 229 to win. In the Group Stage match in Derby, India had set England a total of 282 to win, and seen England fall all out for just 246, so the target seemed well within India’s reach, but then a World Cup final can do funny things to people.
England started the Indian innings fantastically, breaking through in the second over as Shrubsole caught Smriti Mandhana in front lbw. When Sciver ran out dangerous Indian captain Mithali Raj for just 17, India were wobbling at 43-2. Poonam Raut and Harmanpreet Kaur steadied the ship, and looked to have taken the match away from England in another excellent partnership, putting on 95 runs for the third wicket. Kaur eventually holed out to Tammy Beaumont off the bowling of Alex Hartley, but Veda Krishnamurthy picked up where Kaur had left off, and as the game ran into the final ten overs, India seemed to be on course for victory, to the delight of the large India-supporting sections of the Lord’s crowd.
Anya Shrubsole had obviously not read the Indian script. Her father had earlier shared an image of her as a nine-year old visiting Lord’s, and just when England needed a saviour, up she stepped, first trapping Raut lbw, then watching Hartley bowl Devi the next over, before Shrubsole had the dangerous Krishamurthy caught by Sciver, and then bowled Goswami two balls later. India had gone from 191-3 to 201-7 in the space of just over two overs, but even then, the game was not won. England had seemed to be on the wrong side of luck on a few occasions, with dropped catches and misfields only heightening the tension on the day.
Needing just 28 runs off 30 balls, India were happy to pick up singles and inch their way towards victory. Dot balls were cheered by the crowd, but then a boundary from Deepti Sharma released some of the pressure. Having moved onto 218 runs, and now needing just 11 runs from 16 balls, Shikha Pandy was run out after an excellent throw by Shrubsole and quick work by wicketkeeper Taylor. Suddenly, India were marooned, with all of their recognised batters back in the hutch. Three dot balls later, Shrubsole was back, and with the first ball of her over she had Sharma caught by Sciver. Two balls later Jenny Gunn, usually so reliable, dropped a dolly of a catch to reprieve Poonam Yadav, but Shrubsole was not to be denied. She bowled another beautiful straight ball, lighting up the bails behind Gayakawad, to leave India ten runs short of victory.
What a wonderful advert this was for the women’s game, full of drama and tension, and a fitting end to a wonderful tournament. India will feel they could, indeed possibly should, have triumphed, but England will rejoice in their never-say-die attitude that has brought them to the pinnacle of the women’s game.