The Indian women’s cricket team let slip a historic title triumph in a tense summit clash against England, leaving Mithali Raj’s giant-slaying side with the runners-up tag for a second time in the ICC
World Cup. India was well on course for a memorable triumph, sitting pretty at 191 for three in 42.5. But a collapse in the batting order saw them being bowled out for 219 in 48.4 overs. The Indians lost seven wickets for 28 runs in just 6.5 overs. India was making their second appearance in a World Cup final. They lost their previous final, against Australia in Centurion, by 98 runs in 2005.
Openers Punam Raut (86) and Harmanpreet Kaur’s (51) steady half centuries had set a platform for high score. But once they departed, it was far from a smooth ride, as England’s consistent strikes turned it into a cliff-hanger match. Veda Krishnamurthy (35 off 34 balls), Sushma Verma’s (0) and Jhulan Goswami (0) were dismissed in a space of nine balls.
Krishnamurthy had raised hopes with a cameo but her sloppy shot selection off Anya Shrubsole in the 45th over changed the script as it exposed the tailenders to a pressure situation which they could not cope with.
Nevertheless, Indian women team emerged as a force in world cricket with some inpsiring peformances such as Harmanpreet Kaur’s fearless strokeplay.
However, it was one last chance for captain Mithali Raj and veteran Jhulan Goswami to have a World title in their cupboards. India were making their second appearance in a World Cup final. They lost their previous final, against Australia in Centurion, by 98 runs in 2005.
A proven performer for far too long, Jhulan delivered with three wickets in the most widely watched game in the history of women’s cricket as India restricted the hosts to 228 for seven.
Smriti Mandhana (0) must have been desperate to break her run-less streak but a four-ball duck ended her campaign in the tournament as Anya Shrubsole crashed through her defence in the second over of the Indian innings.
Mithali Raj (17 off 31) and Punam Raut added 38 runs for the second wicket before the captain trudged back to pavilion following a lazy run out. Surprisingly, Raj gave up half way after Raut called her for a run.
India were steady, going little under four an over, but England were fielding well to ensure there were no freebies.
Harmanpreet came to the crease with a bag of burden on her shoulder and batted with maturity.
In company of Raut, she kept the scoreboard ticking and twice lofted left-arm sppiner Alex Hartley over the ropes, siganling that things were very much under control.
India reached 100 in the 27th over and Raut rasied her half-century with a single off Shrubsole. Harmanpreet too got to the milestone soon when she glanced Brunt to fine leg.
With two batswomen going about their business untroubled, India had a firm control over the proceedings. But England got exactly what India did not want to lose at that time: Harmanpreet’s wicket.
The Moga girl swept Hartley straight to Beaumont at deep square leg when even England had not expected a wicket and that too of the most dangerous batter in Indian line-up.
She did not set the field on fire like the way she batted against Australia but it was a significant knock, although it did not prove to be enough in the end.
Earlier, the coin landed in the opponents’ favour at the toss was hardly a deterrent as India went about the task in a professional manner.
Leading the show was the redoubtable Goswami, who scythed through the English middle-order.
The highlight of the lanky Bengali’s outing was the back-to-back dismissals of Sarah Taylor and Fran Wilson, which pegged England back.
Taylor is a legend of the women’s game and Sciver entered the marquee match on the back of two centuries, and Jhulan had them caught behind and trapped in front of the wicket.
In what could be her last match, Taylor walked off to an ovation from the almost sell-out Lord’s crowd after scoring 45 off 62 balls. The veteran English batswoman, surprisingly, could not hit a boundary in her innings.
The in-from Sciver struck 51 off 68 balls, hitting five boundaries in the process, before her recovery act was cut short by Jhulan in the first ball of the 38th over.
A former ICC Player of the Year, Jhulan finished her spell with impressive figures of 3/23 in the allotted 10 overs, which included three maidens.
The end of Jhulan’s spell proved to be a boon for England, who rode on Katherine Brunt’s 42-ball 34 and Jenny Gunn’s 25 off 38 balls towards the end to sign off with a respectable total.
After Jhulan, leg-spinner Poonam Yadav was the most impressive bowler, finishing with two 2/36 in her quota of 10 overs.
England were off to a decent start with openers Lauren Winfield (24) and Tammy Beaumont (23) putting on 47 runs in a little over 11 overs. Rajeshwari Gayakwad gave the spirited visitors their first breakthrough when she removed Winfield.
Yadav dismissed the other opener and skipper Knight in a span of two overs to leave England in a spot of bother at 63 for three in the 17th over.
Taylor and Sciver steadied the ship with a partnership before spearhead Jhulan returned and removed Sciver.
The hosts then got some useful runs from the willows of Brunt and Gunn.