“I probably looked a little bit more confident than I was. I guess it’s why even as bowlers you do your batting practice!”
Anya Shrubsole, England’s No. 10, came to the crease in the ICC Women’s World Cup semi-final against South Africa on Tuesday (July 18) with two runs to get in three balls. First ball, facing the pacy Shabnim Ismail, she shuffled to her right and when the bowler gave her width, scythed through a packed infield for a boundary through cover.
“I was telling her how to play it, told her [Ismail] might bowl an offcutter. She didn’t listen to a word I said and just smashed it through the offside!” said Jenny Gunn, who was, in her captain’s words, the “wise head” at the other end on a well-struck run-a-ball 27.
“I definitely listened,” laughed Shrubsole later. “I was lucky that the ball was in the one area I can hit seam quite confidently. I’ve definitely come and taken the glory a little bit from all the hard work that was done by the batters who came in front of me.”
The last-gasp victory overshadowed everything that had happened in the hours before, including Sarah Taylor’s fifty and a disciplined England bowling performance to keep South Africa to 218 for 6.
“I literally am speechless now. I honestly can’t remember now what we did,” admitted Gunn. (“You bowled well Jen, well done,” offered Heather Knight, her captain, helpfully.)
Also bowling well was Shrubsole. Having had an lbw decision of the dangerous Lizelle Lee overturned, she had the opener bowled for a single-digit score. Her 1 for 33 would come in the first 10-over spell she’s bowled all tournament, coming into the tournament from a recent injury.
Mark Robinson, the coach, had identified her as one of the uncertainties coming in, but continued to back her, and she has shown why.
“It was a little bit slow starting. I didn’t bowl as well as I could do at the start of the tournament. Both Mark and Heather have shown a lot of faith in me, a lot of confidence, and kept telling me that I’d get better as the tournament goes on and I’ve kind of done that.
“It was a big wicket and one I’m glad I got.”
Another player to thrive under the management’s constant backing has been Taylor, player of the match for her knock and a piece of brilliance behind the stumps.
The wicketkeeper-batter’s struggles with anxiety have been a constant talking point of the England campaign – not so much in a prying manner, but as a celebration of this new, bold and free England, that allows everyone to be.
“I turned up this morning and Robbo said congrats. I had no idea what for, and he said for being here. For waking up this morning and turning up and putting the kit on and arriving on the ground really. It’s those moments you look back on and think, ‘I’ve done that!’ The cricket takes care of itself.
“A year ago, I wasn’t even thinking that I’d potentially be playing cricket again. So it’s just massive. I’ve probably not reflected on it enough. Come the end of the tour, whatever happens, I should be really proud of all the things I’ve achieved and the environment that the girls have created and come in and allowed me to play the way I want to play. Robbo’s instrumental in that. It grounds me a lot. He reminds me every day that I should be really proud.”
She wasn’t expecting to play every game, she admits. And it hasn’t hit her yet. After the tournament, she will sit back and reflect. But for now, there’s another day, a big one, to take on.