At the start of Tuesday (July 18), there were a small number of tickets still available for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 final at Lord’s on Sunday.
Halfway through England’s chase in the first semifinal in Bristol, when the home side looked on course for a win against South Africa, word came from the ICC that the game was sold out, with more than 26,500 expected to be in attendance at the Home of Cricket.
When at the end of 99.4 overs in the day, England pulled through for an emotional two-wicket win in a thriller that was the perfect advertisement for the passion with which this tournament has been contested, anyone who missed out would be kicking themselves.
“The plan was to get to Lord’s and get a chance to sing our song there,” said a delighted Heather Knight, the captain still beaming from the frenetic chase of South Africa’s 218 for 6. “Everything we have done since the last 18 months has been towards that and (now) we are able to be there.
“It’s special ... Final at Lord’s in a home World Cup, there is nothing better than that.”
“It’s packed? It’s packed?” Sarah Taylor’s jaw dropped, before she composed herself. “It’s the pinnacle, isn’t it. You want to play at Lord’s, you want to play in front of a packed house, you want to play in a World Cup final.”
“It’s about enjoying it, embracing it,” said Fran Wilson, whose uninhibited 38-ball 30 and 40-run stand with Jenny Gunn when the equation was 46 required from 46 deliveries helped ward off a South African fightback. It was almost as if she was convincing herself. “It is also about doing the little things well because the ground changes and it means how you play also changes.”
“One more game.”
And to think that when this tournament started back in 1973, MCC denied Rachael Heyhoe-Flint’s request to be allowed to hold the final at the ground. The story goes that the former England captain and women’s cricket pioneer threatened to take them before the Equal Opportunities Commission. The gates were finally thrown open in 1976 for an England-Australia contest, which the hosts won.
Since then, 15 women’s ODIs have taken place there, including the 1993 final, which again England won.
That of the thousands of tickets sold 50% are to girls and women and 31% to under-16s only goes to show how much an impact this particular edition has had in dragging the women’s game into the future.
“It is credit to the players and the kind of cricket they have played. There have been some outstanding games in this tournament. The standard seems to be getting better, which makes it better to watch and brings people into the game. We as players have got a sense that the profile is going up and up. As players we have to keep getting better as cricketers, keep trying to put up performances across the board as well. All the teams kind of do that,” said Knight.
Given that at the peak attendance during this tournament, even with sold-out grounds, not more than 4700 people have been at any match, it will take another inspired performance from the side to soak in the pressure.
Since the World T20 in 2016, when England in a similarly winning position threw it away against Australia, it is better equipped to handle the demands of the big stage, said Anya Shrubsole, whose driven boundary first ball decided Tuesday’s game.
“It’s one of the things we’ve put a high price on working on over the last 12-18 months. It’s getting a little more battle hardened as a team, finding a way to get over the line. That’s definitely something we did [in the semifinal].”
“We’ve done it (won) batting first, we’ve done it batting second now, so in terms of prep for a World Cup final, we’re ticking a lot of boxes,” said Taylor.
“We keep finding ways to win,” agreed Knight. “We haven’t yet put our perfect performance ... We were quite smart with our bowling, gave a few runs on the field, obviously it is not ideal for one of the top five batters not batting through till the end. It would have made things a lot easier.
“We find ways to win, which is a good thing. There is still one game to go and if we put in a perfect performance then I will be happy.”
We don’t know yet what that England song Knight was referring to is. But if it does get a chance to belt it out, a very happy chorus of 26,000 is likely to join in.