India’s dream of winning their first women’s World Cup came to a shattering end as Anya Shrubsole bowled England to a nine-run victory at Lord’s amid scenes of nail-biting tension. Mithali Raj’s team — who had captured the attention of the global game during their path to the final — were on course to lift the trophy when they reached 191 for three in the 43rd over in pursuit of 229. Glory beckoned, perhaps distractingly so.
Instead, Shrubsole returned to take five for 11 in 19 balls of unadulterated panic, as India lost their last seven wickets for 28 runs. It was a cruel conclusion to a tournament that should change the way women’s cricket is perceived around the world forever. That, though, may be little consolation in the coming days as India wrestle with the knowledge that this was a game they really should have won.
Their hero looked like being Punam Raut, the pint-sized opener who had begun the tournament with 86 against England at Derby, and followed up with a century against the mighty Australians. Now, as she moved bravely to 86 once more, and English heads began to drop, the chance was there to etch her name indelibly into India’s cricket history — a history that until now has been the preserve of men.
But that was to reckon without Shrubsole, a belt-and-braces competitor of a seam bowler, whose father Ian earlier in the week had tweeted a picture of her as a nine-year-old peering over the white picket fences that surround the Lord’s outfield. This, the story suggested, was her destiny.
After Veda Krishnamurthy carted her for two fours, Shrubsole trapped Raut plumb in front. India’s opener hesitated over whether to take a review, and was finally told she had taken too long. The technology would have confirmed her demise in any case — and her dismissal lifted England.
Sushma Verma was quickly bowled round her legs by the left-arm spin of Alex Hartley, but the killer blows were applied in the next over by Shrubsole, charging in with a spring in her step and a glint in her eye. The dangerous Krishnamurthy skyed to midwicket for 35, and two balls later Jhulan Goswami — who had bowled beautifully earlier in the day to take three for 22 — lost her leg stump second ball. It meant a world-record 17th duck in one-day internationals.
That left India 201 for seven, and — with Deepti Sharma still at the crease — all was not lost. Sharma chipped Hartley for four, then survived the tightest of stumping calls on 12 after some typically brilliant glovework from Taylor. But, with 11 runs needed off 16 balls, Shikha Pandey was run out, thanks to some smart work at point by Shrubsole after thinking better of a tight single, and it was 218 for nine when Sharma was caught by Nat Sciver off Shrubsole for 14.
Gunn dropped the easiest of chances at mid-off to reprieve Poonam Yadav, and for a moment it looked as if it would be England regretting a missed opportunity. But Shrubsole’s next ball was full and straight, and too much for Poonam. Afterwards, Raj cut a philosophical figure at the end of what was her final World Cup game.
“The lower order could not handle the pressure,” she said. At one point, the game was in the balance, but it’s just a matter of thinking about calculations and keeping you cool in the middle. “The way they have fought throughout the tournament was very heart-warming and the Indian women’s team has a very bright future in the coming years.”
That much had been confirmed by India’s dogged performance with the ball, led by the experienced Goswami, who managed only five wickets during seven group games but rose to the challenge both in the semi-final against Australia and again in the final.
After having Sarah Taylor caught behind down the leg side to end an important fourth-wicket stand of 83 with Nat Sciver, Goswami removed Fran Wilson leg-before first ball. Later she removed Sciver for 51, and was the driving force behind limiting England to 228 for seven.
But the pitch was slow and low — perhaps too slow and low for a World Cup final at the game’s most famous venue — and India’s reply got off to a shaky start when Shrubsole bowled Smriti Mandhana for a duck in the second over.
Disaster then struck when Raj was run out for 17 by some smart work from Sciver and Taylor, with the Indian captain failing to stretch for the crease.
Harmanpreet Kaur, the slayer of Australia, joined forces with Raut to add what looked like a match-winning 95, before she swept Hartley to deep backward square to depart for an innings of 51 in which 50 runs were scored on the leg side.
But Raut and Krishnamurthy seemed to have regained control for India — until Shrubsole’s late, heart-breaking intervention. Her figures of six for 46 will go down in England’s history, if not India’s.
— Lawrence Booth is the editor of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and a cricket writer for the Daily Mail.