With history and tradition whispering at you from all corners, the first visit to Lord’s Cricket Ground – the spiritual home of the game – could be a daunting experience, as some of the Indian players found out during the side’s nine-run loss against England in the 2017 Women’s World Cup final on Sunday.
Scripting England’s sensational turnaround to defend 228 after India was 191 for 3 at one stage was Anya Shrubsole, who visited the home of cricket first as a ten-year-old kid with her father. A photo of her watching her father play a club game went viral on Twitter a few days before the final.
That she ended up being at the centre of the highest profile game ever in the history of women’s cricket in front of a capacity ground where female members were not entertained for a long time is quite romantic.
“My dad is now a new media superstar. He never had so much popularity on Twitter, so he is loving life,” Shrubsole said soon after claiming the player of the match award for her career-best figures of 6 for 46. “It was an amazing photo, and I guess to be here watching him play when I was 10…to be back here 16 years later, if someone told me I would be here in a World Cup Final and winning the World Cup Final, I would have laughed him away. So for it to happen is just so amazing.”
Shrubsole’s figures are the best in a World Cup Final, but numbers alone can’t capture how she turned the pressure moment to her advantage and give her country the fourth title. She had just six wickets in eight games coming to Lord’s. But more importantly for the team management, Shrubsole was finding her rhythm steadily after going wicketless in the first three games. Her confidence got a massive boost after hitting that winning boundary in a tense chase against South Africa in the semifinal, and her father’s tweet had suddenly put all the attention on her.
“I think these games are here to enjoy. You should enjoy playing World Cup semifinals and finals. Of course there is going to be pressure and you are going to be a bit nervous, but you have to enjoy the occasion and make the most of it,” she added. “This is why you do the training, that’s why you kind of do everything behind the scenes just to playing games like these. So, I wanted to take that approach, and enjoy as much as possible.”
She started from the nursery end by getting one to go between the bat and pad gap of Smriti Mandhana, but then Poonam Raut, Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur handled her well. Her first two spells had figures of 6-0-26-1. With the game slipping away from England’s grasp, Heather Knight brought back Shrubsole for her third spell from the Member’s Stand.
With in-swingers being her strength, the slope assisted and what resulted was a high-class display of pace bowling. Knight packed the offside field to force the batters to play cross-batted shots, and the persistence resulted in a cluster of wickets. She bowled fast, cross-seam deliveries as straight as possible, and the game turned around in a matter of minutes.
The wickets of Raut, Veda Krishnamurthy and Deepti Sharma went against her name, but the run out of Shikha Pandey was also architected by her dot-ball pressure. Her third spell read: 3.4-0-20-5.
Of those 20 runs, eight came through two fours in the first two balls of the 43rd over. So, effectively, she took the last five wickets in a space of 12 runs.
“I was holding the ball cross-seam. The ball was pretty beaten up by the end. I think it is just the natural angle I have on the ball,” she added. “From where I bowl, it is always going to go in towards the stumps. And then obviously I had the slope to help it towards the stumps as well.
“Always one wants to bowl to make a difference to the team. I think Heather said she was about to take me off. Hopefully I managed to pick a wicket and convinced her to keep me on,” she revealed. “But again that kind of performance just shows the kind of fighting character of this team.”
Shrubsole said that the wickets of Raut and Veda brought the belief back in the England camp. “You know in a World Cup final, if you can get a breakthrough the pressure under the new batters coming in…under that much pressure, that much noise, you know one chance and two or three pretty wickets and suddenly the pressure is all on them. We did our job, and we came out on top,” she added.
“Once we got out Raut, and once we got out Veda Krishnamurthy, those were probably the two most key wickets. Raut was batting brilliantly, and Veda has got a lot of power and can score runs quite quickly. So, they were two important wickets and then you get into the tail, and with the pressure of World Cup final coming in scoring runs was always going to be hard.”
From coming to the venue as a kid to lifting the World Cup and sing the victory song, it is a fairytale in every sense. Shrubsole, or the Hoof as she is nicknamed, could not have been happier.
“I am pretty speechless about it. You just want to help the team. The most important thing is team wins, and you just want to (contribute),” she said. “Everyone has chipped in in this tournament to kind of get us to this moment. And today it was just my turn.”