The saying – ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’ was validated once again as India’s leading pacer and all-time highest wicket taker in ODIs, Jhulan Goswami helped India claw back to restrict England to 228/7 with figures of 10-2-23-3 in the biggest match of her career – The ICC Women’s World cup 2017 final at Lord’s, on Sunday.
England started off well but then India bounced back in the middle overs before a late surge which saw England score 60/1 in the last ten overs propelled the hosts to a fairly competitive total, given the occasion.
It wasn't the best of starts for India as Mithali Raj, leading her team in what might well be her last World Cup appearance, lost the toss to her English counterpart Heather Knight, and was asked to field on what was generally perceived to be good batting pitch.
England openers, Lauren Winfield and Tammy Beaumont began cautiously against Goswami, seeing her off while taking on Shikha Pandey. Pandey didn’t find rhythm early on, as she was greeted by two boundaries in her first over and gave away 21 runs in her first three overs. She was soon taken out of the attack and replaced by Rajeshwari Gayakwad who continued with her tactic of sticking to a stump to stump line.
England seemed to be in a comfortable position as they strolled to 46 for no loss. However, the momentum soon swung India’s way as their spinners struck in succession with Gayakwad accounting for the dangerous Beaumont, and Poonam Yadav sending back Winfield and captain Knight in a space of five deliveries.
Poonam Yadav, who has deceived batswomen throughout the tournament with her dip and drift, was unplayable at times. With the pitch showing signs of low bounce, her looping leg-spinners became much more effective, as she choked England in the middle overs. Such was the hold of Poonam on the English batswomen that at one point, she had bowled 18 dot balls in her first five overs.
However, Sarah Taylor, considered one of the best batswomen of the modern age, found an able ally in Natalie Sciver and the two started the stabilisation process. The duo milked the singles and along with judicious footwork, added 83 runs for the fourth wicket. The contrasting approaches of the two players, with Sciver aiming for the boundaries while Taylor being content with singles, brought a sense of calm to the proceedings. Without taking any undue risks, the two slowly upped the ante.
However, then came the turning point of the innings as Raj brought back Goswami for her second spell. It was time to step on the paddle and India's pace spearhead was up for the challenge.
Goswami, who had not been at her best in the tournament so far saved the best for the big occasion. She struck in the second over of her second spell with a fortunate wicket of Sarah Taylor who was strangled down the leg side but made it two in two with a scorching in-swinging yorker to Fran Wilson, trapping her in front of the wicket.
England’s saving grace, Sciver, who had reached her fifty, looked to be on the course for a big one. But Goswami ensured that the big-hiting batswoman didn't cause any more damage, as she trapped Sciver right in front to reduce England to 164/6 in an inspired spell of fast bowling, which might go down in history as one of her best performances of till date.
At one stage, it looked like England wouldn’t even reach 200, but a late charge from Jenny Gunn and Katherine Brunt and later Laura Marsh, provided the much-needed thrust.