LONDON: 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 Twenty20 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.”
For India captain Mithali Raj, at the age of 34 this was probably her last chance to win the World Cup.
But having seen her side upset the form-book to beat Australia in the semi-finals, Mithali said: “It wasn’t easy for England but credit to them. They kept their nerve…We panicked and they came out victorious.
“I would like to tell the girls I am very proud of them. They didn’t make any match look easy for the opposition.”
Meanwhile England great Geoffrey Boycott praised Knight’s team, contrasting their performance with that of the men’s side, who suffered a 340-run thrashing by South Africa in the second Test at Trent Bridge on Monday.
“England Ladies wonderful match! Fantastic win! You are playing better than the men #worldcup”, tweeted former opener and ex-England captain Boycott.
British prime Minister Theresa May congratulated the England women on a weekend where Britain’s Chris Froome also won cycling’s Tour de France.
“Fantastic weekend for British sport. Congrats to the England women’s cricket team & Chris Froome. Great to see you on top of the world,” said May’s official Twitter account.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was equally hailed his compatriots too, tweeting: “Our women cricketers gave their best today.
“They have shown remarkable tenacity & skill through the World Cup. Proud of the team!”