With two runs needed off three balls for England to win their semi-final against South Africa in Bristol on Tuesday, Anya Shrubsole walked in with confidence, despite the high-pressure situations. On the other end was Jenny Gun, unbeaten on 27 off 27 balls, a vital knock that had kept England afloat after the mini-collapse.
South Africa had bowled out of their skins to defend a modest score of 218 after England got a good start with a third-wicket partnership of 78 between Sarah Taylor and England captain Heather Knight. A wicket in the last over meant the match could go either way.
But Shrubsole held her nerve and guided the first delivery she faced for four to power the narrow two-wicket win with two balls to spare and take England through to a sell-out Lord’s final on Sunday. The scenes after were one to remember – England celebrating, South Africa distraught on the ground, the English coming to comfort them, and all of them in tears. It was a semi-final the Women’s World Cup deserved after the quality of cricket over the last few weeks.
It was an extremely nervous time to come in to bat, but for 25-year-old, it was better to be in the centre than in the dugout.
“When you’re next in you’re only ever one ball away from getting in. But I’m a strong believer that when you’re in you can do something about the situation, it’s a hundred times worse sat up there not in control. I was probably more nervous sat up there than when I actually got out in the middle. It was nice to have a calming influence like Jenny Gunn to meet me,” Shrubsole said after the win.
Talking about her match-winning shot, she said that the ball was bowled in her zone. “The ball was thankfully in the only area I could confidently hit seam and that’s just how it goes. You know here that if you get it past the infield, it will go for four,” she said of the delivery from Shabnim Ismail.
And what was her first reaction when she realised she had done it? “There was relief, and then obviously there was elation, it takes a while for everything to sink in and realise you are in a World Cup final but definitely the first feeling was of relief,” she said, adding in a word about the Proteas. “You always empathise with the opposition. I’ve played in semi-finals and World Cup finals where we’ve lost and you know how it feels to lose those games and particularly a close game.”
Earlier, Shrubsole had an eventful spell where she bowled her full quota of 10 overs for the first time this World Cup, finishing with 1/33. She got the wicket of the dangerous opener Lizelle Lee, crashing her stumps on 7 after having had a LBW decision reversed on DRS in the previous over.
“I’m all good. It’s probably the first time in the tournament I’ve deserved to bowl ten overs. I’d be the first to admit that I didn’t bowl as well as I could have in the early stages of the tournament. So, it’s nice to get to the crunch stages and finally be finding some form and to be able to contribute to the team out in the middle,” Shrubsole candidly admitted.
England have won the previous two World Cup editions they have hosted and are now in the finals again as hosts. Can they go all the way? If their display on Tuesday was any indication, they have the players for all situations.