When Jenny Gunn dropped a sitter from Poonam Yadav, India’s last wicket with 10 runs needed for victory on Sunday (July 23), Heather Knight, the England captain, was convinced her teammate had dropped the World Cup.
“It was a hard one to deal with. I think we were slightly on top at that stage we knew it was quite a big ask for their 10, 11 to get those runs, but I thought we’d won it and then that drop went down,” she said, beaming behind a glittering World Cup trophy. “But at the end of the day we got over the line and that’s the main thing.”
Knight herself had dropped Veda Krishnamurthy in the 38th over, but, she said cheekily, “luckily it wasn’t as bad as Jenny Gunn’s drop”. It was a sign of nerves in a close contest, but it was to England’s credit that it held on for a little longer.
“Every game of cricket, you have you try and win and you’re fighting for the trophy, fighting for your teammates, fighting for your country and we knew that if we kept it (required run-rate) around five, six, cricket is a funny game and pressure is a funny thing. In a World Cup final, we knew if we held our nerve we’d be in with a chance.
“It did feel like it was slipping away a little bit at 190 for 3, but we fought it out this tournament and today was no different. I’m so proud of the girls and Anya (Shrubsole, who picked up six wickets), about how we fought back. It’s been a theme of the tournament, us fighting hard and holding our nerve, which we did today luckily.”
England did well to ensure a lower order rally after the Indians pulled things back with the ball. “I felt we were slightly under par, but runs on the board in a final is massively key,” said Knight. “We fought hard to get to that total, felt like we were due for a lot more when Sarah (Taylor) and Nat (Sciver) were going, but lost wickets at key times.
“Looking back at the day I won’t be looking back on that, I’ll be looking at lifting the trophy in front of a full house.”
There was a heavy sense of occasion at Lord’s for the final, with an atmosphere never seen before in a women’s game. In a touching gesture, there was tribute paid to Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, who got the tournament going back in 1973 and forced Lord’s to open its doors to women. Eileen Ash, at 105 England’s oldest living female cricketer, rang the bell. Then, the winning team was warmly embraced by Enid Bakewell, another England all-time great.
“I actually got quite emotional during the anthems, seeing Rachael’s face on the screen and then Eileen Ash ringing the bell. I met Eileen last November, 105 years old and she’s an absolute champion. To see her ring the bell was special.
“We’ve looked a lot at the past and our place in history and we wanted 2017 to be among ’73, ’93 and 2009. Rachael has paved the way for that, she’s the first one to start the World Cup, to fight hard for women to play at Lord’s and I’d like to think that she’d be looking down with a smile seeing us lift the trophy in front of a full house. Us as players we’ve got a hell of a lot [to thank] Rachael and the rest for, who have paved the way for us.”
Mark Robinson, the coach, said that although England had worked towards being in the final, given the unknowns for the side – a new side, injuries coming in, Sarah Taylor’s return from a break, lack of matches all year against top opposition – it wasn’t certain where it would finish. And now, with the World Cup behind it, the development would continue.
“As a team, we have always said we are not finished yet, we feel like we’ve got a lot of growth with this group of girls and [wondered] whether this world cup was too soon,” added Knight. “Turns out it isn’t, but we’ve got a long way to go as a team. This isn’t the end of a journey.
“Obviously we’ve got a massive winter ahead with the Ashes (in Australia). It’s going to be a great contest. You saw in that contest at Bristol the sort of contest that our two teams can have. I’m getting excited already thinking about the Ashes down under. Hopefully, they get the pay dispute sorted.”