July 2020 marked one year since England won *THAT* epic final at Lord’s against New Zealand. Eoin Morgan and Co claimed the world champions tag in the most incredible fashion. Two years earlier, Heather Knight’s team had won the women’s World Cup trophy at Lord’s in a similarly spectacular final.
The climax was not as dramatic as the men’s summit clash but England’s women team scripted an incredible turnaround against Mithali Raj and Co. to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The 2017 World Cup edition was a significant milestone in the history of women’s cricket and the final provided the perfect finale to a tournament that started with the Indians upsetting the hosts by 35 runs on the opening day of the tournament.
The fortunes of the two teams took different paths from there on with the hosts enjoying a superb run till the final as they topped the pool table by winning their next six matches while India came home third with five wins and two defeats.
But Raj and Co. were on a high going into the final as they had decimated New Zealand in the last group game, winning the match by 186 runs and then Harmanpreet Kaur played a blinder in the semi-final against Australia to take the team to their second World Cup final.
The hosts had won the two World Cups held at home in 73 and 93 and were keen on a hat-trick while India looked primed to lift their first World Cup trophy on the basis of their overall 2017 form and their performance in the last two matches.
England won the toss and decided to bat first to probably avoid facing the Indian spinners in the second innings. The Indian bowlers, on their part, were fairly accurate and ensured that the hosts did not get off to a flying start.
In fact, the hosts were reeling at 63 for 3 at one stage before Natalie Sciver (51) and Sarah Taylor (45) added 83 runs for the fourth wicket. Katherine Brunt and Jenny Gunn then added a few runs in the lower middle order to take England beyond 200 – the final total reading 228 for 7.
Despite the occasion, it was a total that was well within reach of the solid Indian batting line up. Though Smriti Mandhana fell without troubling the scorers, her opening partner Punam Raut was rock solid at the other end and laid the foundation with skipper Raj for Harmapreet Kaur to walk in, in the 13th over.
Harmanpreet wasn’t as explosive as in the semifinals against Australia, but the hard-hitting batsman quickly took control of the chase and reached yet another half century. She had Raut added 95 runs for the third wicket and it looked like the sizeable crowd at Lord’s would have to watch a one-sided final.
Even after Harmanpreet’s departure, there wouldn’t have been any butterflies in the Indian camp as Raut (86) and Veda Krishnamurthy (35) motored on to take India near the 200 run mark.
But that is when Anya Shrubsole, who was the non-playing member of the squad in the 2009 edition which England won, came to the party. She removed Raut and then accounted for Krishnamurthy and the experienced Jhulan Goswami in the span of eight deliveries.
It looked like Shrubsole couldn’t do any wrong as she was instrumental in running out Shikha Pandey in the 48th over. When she came on to bowl the penultimate over with India needing just 11 runs, the hosts still had their backs to the wall.
But she began by sending off the dangerous Deepti Sharma on the first ball of the over and then disturbed the woodwork of Rajeshwari Gayakwad to kick off a frenzied celebration in the English camp.
The then 26-year-old finished with figures of 6 for 46 with the last five wickets costing her just 11 runs.
The Indians seemed to have succumbed to the pressure in the final overs and credit to the hosts that they kept their nerves and fashioned a turnaround that would continue to haunt Raj and Co for years to come.
But despite the defeat, the Indian teams run to the summit clash and the interest it generated back home and among fans world over, the 2017 World Cup edition and especially the final would be remembered as the turning point for women’s cricket in the world and especially in India.