England captain Heather Knight said a heart-breaking defeat by Australia last year had been the “making of the team” after their dramatic Women’s World Cup final win over India at Lord’s on Sunday.
India looked on course for a maiden World Cup title on the same ground where their men’s side, led by Kapil Dev, won a first World Cup trophy back in 1983.
But from 191 for three, chasing 229 to win, they lost their last seven wickets for 28 runs and finished on 219 all out as England won by nine runs with eight balls to spare.
Anya Shrubsole did the the damage with a stunning spell of five wickets for 11 runs in 19 deliveries on her way to figures of six for 46 — the best return by any bowler in a Women’s World Cup final.
It was almost a mirror image of last year’s Women’s World T20 semi-final in Delhi.
England were 89 for one, chasing 133, but then lost six wickets for 28 runs before being held to a total of 127 for seven in a five-run loss.
Afterwards, then recently-appointed England women’s coach Mark Robinson, a former county-level pace bowler, slammed England’s fitness levels.
And when the team returned home, Robinson also effectively forced long-serving captain Charlotte Edwards into international retirement, saying England had become dangerously over-reliant on the star batsman.
Sunday’s victory was certainly evidence of England’s increased speed between the wickets and in the field.
“I can’t stop smiling,” said Knight, who succeeded Edwards as England captain. “I am so proud of this group of girls. We made it hard for ourselves but I couldn’t care less.
“We won tight games and that was something we wanted to work on,” added Knight, whose side beat reigning champions Australia by three runs in pool play before defeating South Africa by just two wickets in a tense semi-final. “Back in Delhi was a long time ago but it was the making of this team. Anya Shrubsole — what a hero.”
While Punam Raut was making 86, India looked as if they would repeat their opening pool win over England.
But her exit, lbw to Shrubsole, sparked a collapse that saw England win their first major trophy since 2009.
Victory also gave England a fourth World Cup title in 11 editions and third in the three staged on their home soil
“I am a little lost for words,” said pace bowler Shrubsole. “We could have easily fallen away but to stay in the game and be world champions is amazing.”
Right time for women’s IPL: Raj
India captain Mithali Raj said now was time to “create the base” of a female equivalent to the Indian Premier League.
“Everybody was very nervous and I think that resulted in our defeat,” Raj, the all-time leading run-scorer in women’s one-day internationals told reporters.
But the skipper said her side had established a solid foundation for women’s cricket in India, the sport’s financial superpower.
“The response from the public is very positive,” said Raj. “I’m sure the BCCI is very proud of the team. When we lost to South Africa and Australia (in pool play), no one thought we would get to the final. A team like that has come to the finals and given a good fight to the home team.”
She added: “The WBBL has given exposure to the two girls who have played (Smriti Mandhana and Kaur). If more girls participate in such leagues, it will give them experience and help them to improve their own game. If you ask me, they should have (women’s) IPL because now is the right time to create that base.”