Anya Shrubsole described it as a dream come true after she took six wickets to help England clinch the Women’s Cricket World Cup with a narrow victory over India.
The hosts won by nine runs at Lord’s after a late collapse from India saw them fall agonisingly short in their pursuit of 228.
Shrubsole, who took five wickets in 19 ballssaid: “I’m a little bit lost for words, if I’m honest.
“It was just an unbelievable game, we looked for minute like we were out of it, but one of the great things about this team, we never give up.
“We never let the run rate get away from us, even though we weren’t getting wickets. We knew if we got a couple we’d be right in the game and all was well in the end.
“I think it’s a dream and a dream you never think is going to come true.”
The home of cricket was sold out while the worldwide television audience was expected to top 100million - and even the ticket touts were out in force all the way from St John’s Wood station to the Grace Gate.
England had lost to India in their opening game but impressive victories in the next six made them favourites to add to the cups they won in 1973, 1993 – both before women were admitted to the MCC – and 2009.
Captain Heather Knight won the toss and chose to bat first, but she had departed for one when talisman Natalie Sciver, dubbed the Ben Stokes of the women’s team, arrived in the middle with England 63 for three. Sciver and Sarah Taylor put on 83 for the fourth wicket, but both were victims of a stunning spell of three wickets for two runs off 10 balls by fast bowler Jhulan Goswami.
There was no sign of the ‘Natmeg’, the through-the-legs shot which has helped make Sciver one of the stars of the tournament, as the circumstances called for a little more introspection.
The only woman to make two centuries at this World Cup reached another 50, but added just one more run before she was trapped by Goswami.Katherine Brunt made a breezy 34 and Jenny Gunn an unbeaten 25, but England’s total of 228 for seven appeared distinctly gettable.
Yet Shrubsole got England off to a dream start as India began their reply, nicking the off-stump of the dangerous Smriti Mandhana for a duck in the second over.
When Mithali Raj got herself run out, by Sciver, going for a single that was never on, India were 43 for two and the encounter was finely poised.
However, that brought Harmanpreet Kaur, who destroyed Australia with a breathtaking unbeaten 171 in the semi-final, to the crease.
She clubbed two mammoth sixes on her way to 51 before holing out to Tammy Beaumont, off Alex Hartley, going for a third.
But misfields and mistakes were starting to creep in for England; Taylor missed a stumping to get rid of Poonam Raut before Knight dropped Veda Krishnamurthy.
The game seemed up by the time Raut, struggling with cramp, finally fell leg before to Shrubsole for 86, leaving India 191 for four.
But when Hartley accounted for Sushma Verma for a duck, and Shrubsole removed Krishnamurthy and Goswami in successive balls, England had a lifeline and suddenly Lord’s was hosting a thriller.
Taylor thought she had Deepthi Sharma stumped but an agonisingly drawn-out replay could not prove her foot was off the floor at the point of impact.
Yet moments later Shikha Pandey was run out, Sharma picked out Sciver off Shrubsole and India were nine down.
Unbelievably, Gunn dropped the most straightforward catch of the match, and maybe even the tournament, from Rajeshwari Gayakwad just to ramp up the tension even further.
But Shrubsole got the job done with the next ball, clean bowling Gayakwad to spark celebrations on the pitch and bedlam in the stands.