- Host England meets India in the sold out ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 final on 23 July
- It will be the second time the home of cricket hosts the final.
- India defeated holders Australia while England saw off South Africa to reach the final
A home World Cup final in front of a packed house at Lord’s! Captain Heather Knight admits the England players have struggled to keep their focus on the present knowing what was awaiting them.
The chance to play at the home of cricket was always going to be the ultimate reward for success at the World Cup, and while England might have stumbled out of the gate, now it is in the final, Knight and her team can finally think about the magnitude of the occasion.
It hasn’t been easy but then again, England doesn’t really do easy. Still, this date with destiny has seen the host contrive ways to win games from unlikely positions, even in a semi-final against South Africa when victory looked assured, then thrown away, before finally being snatched back at the death.
Now the England players can dream of singing their song – whose identity they still refuse to reveal – and lifting a third world title on home soil.
Knight explained: “It’s special (to play the final at Lord’s). We’ve known that the final has been at Lord’s for a long time now and you try not to think about it too much but it’s been at the forefront of our minds.
“A sold out final at Lord’s in a home World Cup, there’s nothing better than that for me. To win it, we set out to try and sing that song at Lord’s and everything we’ve done in the last 18 months has been towards that and to be there.
“Credit to the ICC and the ECB for managing to sell it out and hopefully it will be a great spectacle.”
England has been in this situation before of course. In 1993, the final was also at Lord’s, played in front of 4,500 people.
On Sunday, there will more than 26,500 people there to watch, and Anya Shrubsole – who hit the winning runs in the semi-final – admits a crowd like that makes all the hard work worth it.
She said: “It’s just amazing, I heard that it’s going to be a sell-out at Lord’s. This is why you do the running sessions that no one wants to do, all the hard yards, all the training is to play in a World Cup final in front of a sell-out. It’s going to be an amazing occasion.
“I think it will probably be the biggest game (I’ve played in). A home World Cup, in front of a sell-out crowd, at Lord’s, I’m not sure it gets a huge deal bigger than that.
“It’s an occasion to enjoy. There will be nerves, that’s understandable with these tournaments but what we have shown throughout this tournament is that we are finding ways to get over the line and grind out scores when things aren’t going as well. Everything is coming together just at the right time for the final.”
On the other side of the toss will be India, a side yet to win the ICC Women’s World Cup, and which hasn’t reached the final of the tournament in 12 years.
Back then, in 2005, its achievements in South Africa were hardly recognised back home, fans too engrossed in the men’s game and TV coverage few and far between.
But fast forward to the present day and the women’s game is in a whole new stratosphere, something that India is keen to capitalise on for the future.
“It’s going to be a different experience to what I faced in 2005,” said captain Mithali Raj, who earlier in the tournament became the leading women’s scorer in ODI history.
“It wasn’t as big as it is now. Hardly anyone knew that India had qualified for the final because they were too involved in men’s cricket.
“It will be a big achievement for the girls, each one of them is very lucky to be playing in a final at Lord’s.
“It is a dream of every cricketer to play at Lord’s because of the history, we have made an effort, we’ve reached there, and I hope the girls perform their best, as they have always done.”