England women on verge of making history

England Women's Anya Shrubsole celebrates hitting the winning runs with Jenny Gunn (left) against South Africa Women.
England Women's Anya Shrubsole celebrates hitting the winning runs with Jenny Gunn (left) against South Africa Women.
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Revenge will be on the mind when England attempt to win the women’s World Cup for a fourth time, and third on home soil, at Lord’s tomorrow.

England take on dark horses India at the Home of Cricket where a sell-out crowd of more than 26,500 are expected.

A champagne moment for Heather Knight’s England team would represent another defining moment in the progression of women’s cricket on these shores, which has seen participation levels in the girls’ game swell in recent years.

However, in opponents India, England must conquer the only team to have beaten them during the 2017 tournament having lost by 35 runs in Derby on the opening day of the tournament.

Since then, England have also been in impressive form with the bat throughout the competition, blitzing scores of 377-7 against Pakistan and 373-5 over South Africa.

Heather Knight, Tammy Beaumont, Sarah Taylor and Natalie Sciver have all scored centuries and Taylor and Beaumonth compiled the highest partnership for any wicket in a Women’s Cricket World Cup match in the massive total against South Africa.

It has, however, been a disappointing tournament with the bat for Yorkshire Diamonds captain Lauren Winfield who has failed to pass the 26 scored against Sri Lanka at the start of the month.

Yorkshire team-mate Katherine Brunt has also not had just rewards for her pace bowling with five wickets in eight matches, although she produced a match-winning 45 not out against Australia.

Nevertheless, England have made assured progress throughout the competition and topped the table at the end of the group phase.

Nerves of steel were then required in Tuesday’s dramatic semi-final victory over South Africa as the hosts overcame a target of 219 with two wickets and two balls to spare.

India had an easier progression into tomorrow’s showpiece after Harampreet Kaur fired the biggest score of the tournament to set up a 35-run win over Australia in Derby.

Kaur blazed an unbeaten 171 from 115 balls – including 
seven sixes – from No 4 to compile the highest score by a woman in knock-out stages of a World Cup.

England will know all about the talented top order India possess having conceded 281 runs for just three wickets reward when the two sides met in the opening game of the tournament.

On that occasion, openers Smriti Mandhana (90) and Punam Raut (86) caused the destruction before captain Raj scored her seventh successive one-day international half-century to send her side to a winning total.

India are seeking their first World Cup triumph in a competition which they have rarely prospered.

They have reached the final only once before – when losing to six-time winners Australia in 2005 – and failed to make it out of the group stages as disappointing hosts four years ago.

However, fortunes have turned around and the fourth-ranked nation in the world standings possess quality throughout their ranks including captain Mithali Raj, second in the ODI batting rankings.

India are on an equally-impressive run as England with 16 wins from their last 19.

“For sure, we have got some momentum going, having done what we have done and the run that we are on and the confidence that goes with that,” said 
England’s head coach Mark Robinson, the former Yorkshire player.

“But you might say India have some momentum, too, having just beaten the current holders of the competition.

“The confidence in the camp is high and the mood is starting to build up.

“We gave the girls a bit of space – we trained today in two groups – and we will come tomorrow afternoon and really start to ramp up the preparations for the big game.

England have celebrated World Cup victories three times before but Sunday’s showcase would represent the most substantial by some distance, given the development of the game around the world.

The women’s game was still at its infancy when England first lifted the trophy in 1973 when the winner was decided on points, while the 1993 final saw only 323 runs scored in 115 overs.

Victory under Charlotte 
Edwards’s captaincy in Australia eight years ago was seen as a 
momentous moment for the game.

But the 2017 tournament has taken the game to new levels with viewing figures up and the average scores increased by 53 (from 152 to 205).

Tomorrow’s sold-out spectacle at Lord’s will shatter the record for a crowd in an ICC Women’s World Cup match in the biggest advert the women’s game has had.

Ticket sales throughout the tournament have averaged at almost 1,700 per game – almost double the average daily gates in the County Championship this season.