On Friday, Ian Shrubsole, Anya Shrubsole’s father, shared a picture of his daughter as a 10-year-old leaning over the fence at the ground captioned: “Anya Shrubsole 2001 – What a place! I'd like to play here ... for England ... in a World Cup final.”
On Sunday (July 23), Anya and her teammates will get to live out their dream.
It’s not like a World Cup Final, especially one that sees the women’s game at a tipping point into something truly mainstream and special, needs more to add to the sense of occasion. But the fact that the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 final between England and India will be at Lord’s has added to the sense of excitement.
However, while England comes into the game as the host, the team isn't really at ‘home’ on this ground. International women’s games at Lord’s have been few and far between, with only 14 ever held (and one washed out).
“In a perfect world, we’d know the ground,” said Mark Robinson, the England coach. “The nature of women’s cricket is that we don’t know any of the venues that we play at very well. The uniqueness of Lord’s and its characteristics with the slope and everything, you’re desperate to play here.”
Rain on Saturday afternoon also denied the home team a chance to find their feet in the middle. Robinson added: “We’re a little bit gutted about the weather at the moment because they wouldn’t allow us on the middle yesterday to do any fielding or anything.”
Yet, England has made an effort to make sure the ladies aren’t overawed by where they are. In April they were at the venue to hear from Alex Danson, captain of the 2012 gold medal-winning Great Britain hockey team. In May, they practised here, “just to try and be ready if the dream came true”.
“A lot us have grown up training here,” added Heather Knight, the captain. “A lot of the squad have been on the MCC Young Cricketers Scheme and have spent lots of summers here training. Obviously not playing at the ground, but being at the venue and taking it all in. I live eight miles down the road so it almost feels like a second home to me, I spend so much time here.
“It is different when you play at Lord’s. There’s that history and it’s the best ground in the world in my opinion. There’s different things to factor in about the slope and getting lost in the pavilion. I think Alex Hartley has been complaining about getting lost sometimes!
“We’ve prepared for this. Everything we’ve done has been about making this final, and coming here earlier in the year definitely helped us be less overawed by the venue.”
In England’s journey to Lord’s, it has defeated every other side at the tournament, other than India in the opener. Knight was convinced that match wouldn’t have a bearing on Sunday, given both teams have made strides since then.
“It’s nice to come full circle and we get a chance to play them again. We have improved as the tournament has gone on but the pleasing thing is the amount of people who have stood up, from one to 11. There have been people who have put their hands up at different times in the competition which, as a captain, is lovely to see.”
After her whirlwind 171 not out against Australia, Harmanpreet Kaur stands out as one of the biggest threats in the Indian side. “What an innings that was!” said Knight. “As a cricket fan, it was good to watch. It was such a high-pressure game. Hopefully she can’t back it up! But yes, we’ve got our plans to her.
“Any batter, it’s important to get them out early… It’s important that we take wickets, and try and contain them in that way. And if they do get in, it’s about our bowlers being smart.”
The captain and coach said they would stick to the same combination for the final, “subject to the weather”.
“If we go to a shorter game, then we have to maybe have a rethink,” said Robinson. “We’re hoping to avoid things like DLS in the second-half. We’re all praying for sunshine, 50 overs and everything’s nice and simple for both teams.”