Jul 24, 2017

England snatches World Cup in thrilling final

A transformative World Cup for women's cricket ended with the final it deserved. A near full-house at Lord's, a tense finish, and every imaginable thrill and spill. In the end, of all the heroes of an overcast and occasionally drizzly day, it was Anya Shrubsole who stood tallest.

With India needing 10 to win with their last pair at the crease, Shrubsole gestured to her team-mates to calm down when Jenny Gunn put down a sitter, off her bowling, at mid-off. Shrubsole had no doubt the wicket ball would come, soon, and off her own bowling. She ran in again, knocked back Rajeshwari Gayakwad's off stump, and finished with the best ever figures in a Women's World Cup final: 6 for 46.

The experience told in the end. This was England's fifth final. India were playing only their second; the last one had come 12 years ago.

And bit by bit, India let slip a chase that was in their control for most part. A third-wicket partnership of 95 between Punam Raut and Harmanpreet Kaur had brought the equation down to 91 off 100 balls when the latter picked out deep square leg with an airborne sweep. Then, after Shrubsole's slower offcutter sent back Raut for 86, India promoted Sushma Verma - a wicketkeeper-batsman with an average of 6.40 after 13 innings - ahead of Deepti Sharma, who has seven fifties and a 188 in ODIs.

Then Veda Krishnamurthy, who had lived on the line between enterprise and recklessness in scoring 35 at over a run a ball, slogged at Shrubsole and holed out when India needed 29 off 33. The gates were wide open, and Shrubsole stormed through, yorking Jhulan Goswami two balls later to tilt the match decisively England's way.

That wicket was symbolic, one bowling hero surpassing another. Goswami, playing what was perhaps her last World Cup match, had been instrumental in restricting England to what seemed a below-par 228 for 7. Her new-ball spell - 5-2-9-0 - had kept England's run rate in check even while their openers scored at eight an over at the other end. Her second - 5-1-14-3 - had ripped the heart out of England's innings.

When Goswami began her second spell, Sarah Taylor and Nat Sciver had put on 70 for the fourth wicket, and England, at 133 for 3 after 30 overs, may have set their sights on 270. When she ended her second spell, England were 168 for 6 after 40. Thanks to their batting depth, they continued to fight, and Katherine Brunt, Gunn and Laura Marsh scrambled 60 off the last 10 overs to set India a testing target.

Shrubsole gave England their first breakthrough, nipping one back off the seam to bowl the left-handed, and thoroughly out-of-sorts, Smriti Mandhana through the gate. Then Mithali Raj came in and played two gorgeously timed square drives that suggested the pitch - which had belied its grassy look and turned out slow and decidedly low - was beginning to get easier to bat on than at any point during England's innings. With Raut stepping out of her usual, orthodox shell and slog-sweeping the seamers three times over wide mid-on, the second-wicket partnership was growing ominous until a misjudgement aborted it at 38.

It was an iffy single but Raj, running from the non-striker's end after Raut played the ball to the right of midwicket, perhaps judged it calamitous when it was merely risky. Giving up prematurely, she slowed down and ended up yards out when a sprint and dive could have saved her.

India weren't unduly rattled. Kaur, fresh off her 171 not out in the semi-final, played herself in with unwavering straightness - refusing to close her bat-face to anything in line with the stumps - while every now and then going over mid-on or midwicket. Raut, using her feet nimbly to go forward and back, explored a wider area of the field, driving the slower bowlers inside-out and late-cutting.

Even as their partnership swelled, England never made it easy. They bowled straight lines to Kaur, wary of giving her any room to free her arms, and perhaps as a consequence, only one of her 51 runs came through the off side. They kept mixing their pace, and Gunn, particularly proficient at the art, conceded only eight in her first five overs.

The gap between balls remaining and runs required narrowed, and the pressure began to tell on India as soon as Kaur fell. Verma's promotion, Krishnamurthy's slog, and Shikha Pandey's run-out - when she and Deepti had brought the equation down to 11 off 16 with three wickets left - were consequences of this pressure. It all added up to India losing their last seven wickets for 28 runs. 

(Espncricinfo.com)
 
(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by espncricinfo.com has not been edited by SLM staff)

 

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