It was the second World Cup final for Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, both of whom were part of the team that reached the final of the 2005 edition. What was it like for the others? Did it make a difference that the veterans had the experience of a summit clash?
It was the same for everyone, opined Punam Raut, reasoning that the brouhaha and the extensive coverage that the entire tournament, and the final as well, got was nothing like Raj and Goswami had experienced.
“The pressure was high this time because of our performance throughout the tournament and the global telecast,” Raut told Women’s CricZone over a call.
The D-day didn’t really begin on a sound note as the coin fell in Heather Knight’s favour and the English captain had no hesitation in batting first.
Lauren Winfield and Tammy Beaumont began in sound fashion, negotiating the first ten overs safely, moving to 43 without loss. Rajeshwari Gayakwad applied the brakes on the scoring and ended up getting the breakthrough by dismissing Winfield. Soon, Poonam Yadav got into the act by sending Beaumont and Knight back in succession.
It seemed India’s spinners would be England’s undoing. But that’s when Sarah Taylor and Natalie Sciver got together. They kept rotating the strike and hit the odd boundary to keep England on course and stitched an 83-run stand. While the former missed her half century, the latter completed hers before both fell to Goswami.
That partnership formed the backbone of the hosts’ innings and aided by some useful contributions with the bat by Katherine Brunt, Jenny Gunn and Laura Marsh, England posted 228 for seven. Goswami finished with figures of 10-3-23-3, the best of the lot.
India were pretty confident and had a positive mindset at the halfway stage, said Raut, adding, “England’s middle and lower-order was playing well and it seemed as if they’ll easily score 280 or more. But hats off to our bowlers for restricting them to 229. Jhulu di, PY (Yadav), Rajeshwari bowled really well. It was the best I had seen Jhulu di bowl. Credit to them for restricting England.”
In 2012, at the same venue, India had successfully chased down the 230-run target. Raut, Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur had all made important contributions with the bat then. That acted as a friendly reminder for the team at that stage in 2017.
“The total was gettable,” asserted Raut, “but before walking out to bat, I wanted to be alone for some time. I had lunch on my own.”
The start to the chase wasn’t ideal for India, who lost Smriti Mandhana as early as in the second over. But Raut and Raj then kept the scorecard ticking.
“I was having a mindset of just scoring runs, without bothering about losing my wicket. Since the asking rate was just above 4, it was a matter of scoring there and thereabouts and thinking how do we score 4-5 runs in an over.”
Raut’s confidence reflected in her game. She took a special liking to Anya Shrubsole, specially hitting her for a six over long on in the eighth over. Soon, she would lose Raj to a run out, but that did not waver her confidence one bit and she continued steadily.
“I was thinking about seeing the ball and hitting, without worrying about losing my wicket. My intention was to whack the balls in my zone and play bravely.”
Along with Kaur, Raut added 95 runs for the third wicket, before the former holed out to deep backward square leg for 51.
But the decisive blow in the game came when Raut misjudged an incoming delivery from Shrubsole and was trapped in front. She was gone for 86 and India were four for 191. The 53-run partnership between Raut and Veda Krishnamurthy had ended and that opened the floodgates.
“I think we took a lot of pressure in the last ten overs,” said Raut, whose fall left India needing 38 off 43 balls. The next two overs saw Sushma Verma and Krishnamurthy depart, which turned the match on its head.
“There was a bit of moisture on the wicket. That’s why the wicket kept a bit low and was stopping a bit,” Raut lamented.
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“I felt if a top-order batter would have been in the middle at that point, the situation could have been easier. I thought Deepti Sharma should have come before Sushma Verma, because she is a top-order batter and was batting in the middle order. Since she is an opener, it could have probably made a difference.”
India lost their last seven wickets for just 28 runs, thanks largely to Shrubsole, who finished with a career-best six for 46. The tourists fell short by a mere nine runs; the trophy slipped right from their hands. England had won their fourth World Cup.
"I was in a state of shock. Others shed tears and showed emotions but I couldn’t do anything. I was wondering how we lost from a position of strength,” recalled Raut.
“When our coach then asked us to express ourselves, Mithali and Jhulan talked and I felt sad when they broke down. We had wished that we would win the World Cup for them. I had imagined carrying them on our shoulders and making a round of the Lord’s.”
Well, come 2021, India will have yet another opportunity to give a winning farewell to the veterans. That is, if COVID-19 makes way and enables the tournament to go ahead.
You can read more rewind stories here.