The Mixed Zone’s Laura Winter was the stadium presenter at Lord’s for the World Cup final. Here, she relives the drama and subsequent celebrations from one of the greatest days in the history of women’s sport in this country
I have been lucky enough to watch some amazing sporting moments in recent history. But I can safely say, without doubt, that the World Cup final at Lord’s was one of the best. It had everything. Shakespeare could not have scripted it any better.
A final between India and England was exactly what everyone had wanted to see. Of course, the hosts had to make the final – though they almost didn’t, beating South Africa by just three runs in the semi-finals. Then, to play India, a passionate and vociferous nation where cricket is almost a religion, would create sporting drama of the very finest.
As the wickets began to tumble, thanks to the sheer brilliance of Anya Shrubsole, Lord’s reached fever pitch. And, suddenly, there it was: a catch to win the World Cup. Dropped. The World Cup bounced out of Jenny Gunn’s hands. The England fans screamed in anguish; India’s contingent screeched in joy. Their women still had a chance.
But then, with the very next delivery, Shrubsole bowled Rajeshwari Gayakwad to claim her sixth wicket. Lord’s rose to its feet as one. The roar will live with me for a long time.
To do it at Lord’s – at the home of cricket, which until 1999 would not admit women to its Long Room … it gives me goosebumps, even now, just thinking about it. A glass ceiling was well and truly smashed, and hit for six for good measure.
It was a genuine privilege to witness that moment England won the World Cup, and an honour to play a tiny part in it, to contribute a few decibels more to the roars for these magnificent women out on the pitch.
Because that is what bowled me over. When I looked around Lord’s, I saw more than 25,000 people fully engaged with the spectacle we were witnessing. They weren’t walking to and from the bars and drinking too much, using cricket as a backdrop to a fun day out with an Instagram post or two. They were fans, intelligent, learned, who had invested in England and India. They were as tribal, as feverish, as fervent and as passionate as any fans you’re likely to see at a sports events – men’s or women’s.
Even singles and dot-balls were cheered. Everyone was on the edge of their seat, watching through their fingers, hanging on every delivery, every wicket, every run.
I had heard stories of Indian fans jumping on planes two days before the final, and hoping to get tickets at the gate. A member of staff at Lord’s told me that in six years of working at one-day internationals, this was the best match he had seen. Old boys in blazers shouted “Come on, girls, you can do it” as the rain clouds gathered and the overs whittled down. People were actually turning their backs, unable to watch, such was the tension with three overs left to bowl.
Women, female cricketers, once rejected, ridiculed and disrespected, had a full house at Lord’s on its knees, at the mercy of one of the greatest sporting dramas I have seen.
It is difficult to overstate the significance, the symbolism and the impact of what happened on Sunday. One hundred million viewers worldwide. The online live BBC coverage was the most popular BBC webpage. Back and front pages were littered with photos of the glorious celebrations. And a generation of girls now know it is possible to play cricket and win a World Cup.
Their gender mattered not one iota. It was sport at its finest: enthralling, captivating and remarkable. It’s simple: good sport is good sport, no matter who has a bat and ball in their hands.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Winter is a sports journalist, presenter and event host. She worked in sports communications for the International Rowing Federation for two years, before working and training as a journalist in Gloucestershire, covering a variety of sports including rugby, boxing, football, and triathlon. She then turned freelance at the end of 2014 and is part of the team who founded Voxwomen, a women’s cycling show that seeks to give the female elite peloton the coverage they deserve. Laura’s latest articles.