Shrubsole game-changer in game that changed cricket

Times Media


CRICKET will never be the same in the wake of England beating India by nine runs on Sunday in one of the most thrilling matches yet played in the history of the game.

Anya Shrubsole, easily among the best swing bowlers anywhere, regardless of anything, took a career-best 6/46, claiming her last five wickets for 11 runs in the space of 19 deliveries.

She condemned India to a total of 219, in which they lost their last seven wickets for 28 runs in 38 balls, in reply to England’s 228/7.

That the match was a World Cup final only added to its glory.

That it was played at Lord’s added a layer of lustre to the ground’s already burnished history.

That it was the final of a World Cup played by women shone a light on the future of a sport that, for too long, has been dominated by men.

This tournament, beamed as it has been onto exponentially more screens than ever before for a women’s event, should — if the suits have any sense — change the game forever.

Who would not want to watch talented, skilled, spirited, competitive cricketers play a game for the ages? If they don’t want to watch because those cricketers are women, to hell with them.

We have seen many such contests this past month, and the fact that India have been involved in several of them — not least Sunday’s cliffhanger — should be a golden ticket to a glittering future.

For the simple fact is that what’s good for India is good for the game, regardless of the dismantling of cricket’s big three. In financial terms, at least.

Now that India’s women’s team have earned themselves a sliver of the spotlight that is, in all cricket-playing countries, unfairly hogged by men, recognition for their efforts and achievements should follow.

And with that will come money — perhaps enough to establish a women’s version of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Unlike in the men’s game, where the IPL is cast as a crisis for world cricket, a tournament of its stature for women will be a great leap forward.

Not only will women be able to earn more from playing professionally, they will benefit from the additional exposure and, perchance, be taken more seriously by the legions of misogynists who struggle to fit cricket and women into the same sentence.

But do women need men to take them seriously as cricketers?

They have delivered a compelling tournament that was eminently more watchable than plenty of the defensive, dour drivel dished up far too often by their male counterparts, and Sunday’s game was no exception.

England’s total was cobbled together from stands of 47 between openers Laura Winfield and Tammy Beaumont, 83 shared by Sarah Taylor and Natalie Sciver, and a pair of 32-run stands — both featuring Jenny Gunn — and Katherine Brunt and Laura Marsh.

Sciver’s 51, which came off 68 balls, was the only half-century.

India bowled with nous to curb the home side’s scoring, and they had imposing seamer Jhulan Goswami — who dismissed Taylor and Fran Wilson with consecutive deliveries in her haul of 3/23.

The Indians’ reply meandered to 144/3 in the 35th over, when wicketkeeper Taylor missed a stumping off off-spinner Marsh that would have removed Punam Raut for 63.

Three overs later, with medium pacer Gunn bowling, Heather Knight somehow dropped the simplest of chances at extra cover to reprieve Veda Krishnamurthy on 14.

That seemed to have turned the game in India’s favour, but this game had another, bigger idea.

Shrubsole trapped Raut in front for 86 in 43rd over, and suddenly the slide was on.

There was time for one more twist when Gunn dropped a simple chance at mid-off that would have dismissed Poonam Yadav.

Shrubsole, the bowler, didn’t blink. Instead she walked back to her mark — and cleanbowled Rajeshwari Gayakwad with her next ball to end the match.

That’s class, and she has it in spades.

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