Eileen Ash, aged 105 and wearing her England Women blazer from 1937, rang the Lord’s bell on Sunday morning at the start of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 final. Ben Flint, son of the late Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, the force that got the first Women’s World Cup running two years before the men’s in 1973, signalled the start of the second innings.
Former captains, Indian and English, some of whom were last week made honorary members of Marylebone Cricket Club, were in attendance, hearing what a packed stadium at a women’s final sounds like, knowing they had a part in this revolution.
The youngest of fans walked out of the ground with plastic bats. And a lesson that they too could have a future in cricket.
And bringing it all together in this defining moment for women’s cricket, were the cricketers from India and England, who played out a game befitting the occasion. At the end of the day, England was the one with its hands on the trophy, for the fourth time, holding its nerve for a pulsating nine-run win.
Jhulan Goswami, the leading One-Day International wicket-taker, at 34 likely playing her last World Cup, produced one of her best spells to take 3 for 23. A half-century from Natalie Sciver and a late rally, though, took England to 228 for 7 after it had chosen to bat. It was the second-highest total posted in a women’s final. Despite half-centuries from Poonam Raut and Harmanpreet Kaur, a match-changing spell at the death from the experienced Anya Shrubsole, who finished with 6 for 46, decided the game in England’s favour.
Shrubsole took her last five wickets while conceding only 11 runs over 19 deliveries to swing the match decisively. But before that, she had got them the first breakthrough as well.
Smriti Mandhana, who began the tournament with so much promise but then fell away, was walking back for a duck in the second over. Shrubsole, getting it to swing away from the left-hander, went past her defence to rattle the stumps.
Mithali Raj looked in great touch, placing the ball beautifully and building a steady partnership with Raut – which included a long-on six from the younger batter – when she was run out. A throw from Sciver from inside the circle to Sarah Taylor, standing right over the stumps, caught Raj well out.
Raut and Harmanpreet, who was playing with strapping and looking in discomfort all day, steadied some Indian nerves. The England bowlers invited Harmanpreet, fresh from her 171 not out, to hit out, but she was careful with her shot selection. She bossed the leg side, including for two big sixes, one over her favourite mid-wicket area and the other slog swept along square.
The duo added 95 for the third wicket, both bringing up half-centuries and keeping India ahead of the DLS par score. The relief in England was evident when Harmanpreet slogged Alex Hartley to Tammy Beaumont at deep square leg when on 51.
Raut survived a stumping chance and Veda Krishnamurthy was dropped on 14 in a nervy period of play for both sides.
With 56 to get in the last ten overs, the pressure of the chase was truly on.
Veda went at over a run-a-ball, but losing four wickets for 10 runs hurt India as it went from 191 for 3 to 201 for 7. Raut was trapped in front for a 115-ball 86, Sushma Verma was bowled, Krishnamurthy’s skyer was caught by Sciver and Goswami was bowled by a slower one.
Three of those wickets belonged to Shrubsole, whose three wickets for three runs in eight balls at that point turned the game. To that she added the run-out of Shikha Pandey in the 48th over and cleaned up the final two.
With 28 needed off the last 30 balls, Deepti Sharma had kept at it, but ran out of partners. And when she was caught at mid-on in the 49th over, that was India’s last recognised batter gone. It folded for 219 in 48.4 overs.
Earlier, Goswami followed up a special opening spell with even better ones in the middle, for a quota that included three maidens and a period of ten balls during which she took three wickets.
Her two wickets in two balls, first to send back Taylor and end a dangerous fourth-wicket partnership, and then to have Fran Wilson out first ball, helped India pull things back just when it seemed England was edging ahead.
Taylor had added 83 with Sciver to lead an England recovery from 63 for 3, when she edged behind to the wicketkeeper. Wilson received a yorker first ball, and couldn’t get her pads out of the way as England slipped to 146 for 5 in the 33rd over.
Goswami returned in the batting power play with a change of ends, to have Sciver out to another lbw while coming down the track.
In her opening spell, the veteran pacer was on point with the new ball, getting two maidens in. Shikha Pandey, though, bowling from the Pavilion End, couldn’t find her line and was punished.
Lauren Winfield welcomed Rajeshwari Gayakwad with three fours in the eighth over. Having quickly moved to 22, she was given out lbw off Goswami, before a review overturned the decision as DRS put the ball going down leg. Beaumont too got a life when Verma couldn’t hold on to an edge. The England openers added 43 in the Power Play, giving England a handy platform.
A period of spin, though, triggered a mini collapse where England lost three wickets for 16 runs. Gayakwad, the left-arm spinner, returning to bowl over the wicket, clipped the bails of Winfield. Beaumont attacked a full toss in Poonam Yadav’s first over only to find Goswami between deep mid-wicket and square leg.
Heather Knight attempted a sweep off Poonam, only to be trapped in front by one that kept straight. At that point, Poonam (2 for 36) had taken two wickets for one run over five balls.
Taylor and Sciver steadily rebuilt, getting increasingly comfortable with their feet. Sciver was brutal when going straight over the bowlers’ head.
With her gone right after her fifty, it was down to Katherine Brunt (35) and Jenny Gunn, another pair of veterans, to lift England to a challenging total. Deepti’s direct throw from mid-off to the striker’s end ended the stand at 32.
As so many times before in this tournament, England’s tail-enders showed they can bat. Gunn
(25 not out) and Laura Marsh (14 not out) ran in a hurry when the boundaries weren’t coming, as England added 60 in the last 10. The ability to exert scoreboard pressure made all the difference.