Pressure. It’s all about pressure. Some people thrive on it, others don’t. When it came down to it, amid the carnage of a frenetic and ever more panicky run chase, it was Anya Shrubsole who held her nerve, bowled straight and stole a win for England that they had no right to claim. What a time to produce career best ODI bowling figures of 6-46.
England’s total of 228-7 was competitive, just – but better than it looked like it was going to be when they slumped to 164-6 with the dismissal of Natalie Sciver for a well made 51. Jenny Gunn’s coolness with the bat helped England into the final, and here alongside Katherine Brunt she got her team to at least a defendable total, if not one that left anyone with a great deal of certainty that they could do so.
A couple of early wickets were just what was needed and the crazy run out of Mithali Raj probably gave notice of what was to come. Yet India after that point were serene. If Kaur didn’t provide the explosiveness of her semi final innings, she instead batted responsibly and with the outstanding Punam Raut took her side most of the way to victory.
191-3, a required rate well below 6 an over, just 38 needed. In print it looks a doddle but even at the time the tension was there, and the feeling that India weren’t totally confident of getting there prevalent. Perhaps it’s not surprising, reaching the World Cup final was a huge achievement for them and one that will stand women’s cricket in India in good stead for the future, however it feels this evening.
The Indian collapse was extraordinary. Seven wickets for 28 runs in under six overs, and they will unquestionably feel they threw the game away. They weren’t alone in feeling the tension, Jenny Gunn of all people dropped a sitter just before the coup de grace, fielders made errors, and even the third umpire had to adjudicate on the tightest of stumping decisions as the game was in the balance.
Some of the shots played were dire, a reflection of the tenseness of the situation rather than anything else. Anyone who has played will know the feeling of desperation that can afflict a side who aren’t certain of their ability to get over the line. No matter how many times the players might say to each other that knocking the ball about is all that’s needed, it doesn’t happen, and each batter plays the kind of shot that leaves them aghast afterwards, and unable to explain why they did it.
Yet it only happens if the opposition are gutsy enough to stay in a game that they’re losing, that keeps it tight, waiting for the one mistake that lets them back in. Shrubsole gave little away in her final spell, creating the feeling among the batting side that the shackles needed to be broken. Laura Marsh had gone wicketless, but she was the one who started to claw the match back, the necessary precursor to allow her team mate to seize the moment.
It may be thought afterwards that there was a inevitability about the way England won, but Deepti Sharma nearly got her team there, and the manner of her dismissal, having played so calmly, came as something of a surprise. It was the last hope gone.
As for what it means for women’s cricket, this final had more attention than any previous edition, and the sell out crowd at Lords were perhaps more animated than is normally the case. It was a match that deserved a sellout and the reasonable pricing for tickets allowed that to happen, although given the ECB and Lords track record on this, doubtless next time it will be seen as an opportunity to increase them substantially. But it seems a reasonable bet that there will be more demand, and as posted yesterday this had the feel of women’s cricket coming of age.
It was flawed, but it was thrilling. Congratulations to England and for India, it may well just be the start.