New Delhi: The underdogs had sprung a surprise and there was a hope lit in all eyes--that of winning a World Cup. And not from our much pampered Men in Blue, but this time it was from our bravehearts, the Women Cricket Team. And they almost made it, it was an anti-climactic result for India since they were well on course for a memorable triumph, sitting pretty at 191 for three in 42.5 before a batting collapse saw them bowled out for 219 in 48.4 overs. Though every Indian heart was beating for our women cricketers few can match the enthusiasm of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was boosting the cricket team even before the match started. And then he was on a tweeting spree encouraging the Indian team. Here are his tweets:
-As our women's cricket team plays the World Cup finals today, I join the 125 crore Indians in wishing them the very best! @BCCIWomen -Captain Mithali Raj has been leading from the front. Her cool approach to the game shall surely help the entire team. @M_Raj03 -All the best @mandhana_smriti! Have a great game out there and play with calm and poise -India wishes Poonam Raut the very best for the Women's World Cup Final. Her game makes all of us very proud. -Who is not a fan of Harmanpreet Kaur? Her stellar innings in semi finals will always be remembered. Do your best today! @y! @ImHarmanpreet -Good luck to Deepti Sharma for the finals. She adds immense value to the team & her game has changed the course of many matches. -The experienced Veda Krishnamurthy gives a much needed stability to the middle order. All the best for today. @vedakmurthy08 -Sushma Verma plays the important role of the wicket keeper. Remember, catches win matches :) @ImSushVerma -Jhulan Goswami is India's pride, whose wonderful bowling helps the team in key situations. All the best Jhulan. -Shikha Pandey's all round performances are crucial to the team. Best of luck -Poonam Yadav's fantastic bowling can be lethal for even the best batsmen. Best wishes! -Rajeshwari Gayakwad is known for her economic bowling performances. Good luck! -Our women cricketers gave their best today. They have shown remarkable tenacity & skill through the World Cup. Proud of the team! @BCCIWomen. Needing just 38 runs off 43 balls,the Indian lower middle order committed harakiri losing seven wickets for 28 runs in 6.5 overs.
Opener Punam Raut (86) and Harmanpreet Kaur's (51) steady half centuries had set the platform but once they departed it was far from a smooth ride as England's consistent strikes turned it into a cliff-hanger.
Veda Krishnamurthy (35 off 34 balls), Sushma Verma's (0) and Jhulan Goswami (0) were dismissed in space of nine balls.
Krishnamurthy had raised hopes with a cameo but her sloppy shot selection off Anya Shrubsole in the 45th over changed the script as it exposed the tailenders to a pressure situation which they could not cope with.
Nevertheless, Indian women team emerged as a force in world cricket with some inpsiring peformances such as Harmanpreet Kaur's fearless strokeplay.
However, it was one last chance for captain Mithali Raj and veteran Jhulan Goswami to have a World title in their cupboards. India were making their second appearance in a World Cup final. They lost their previous final, against Australia in Centurion, by 98 runs in 2005.
A proven performer for far too long, Jhulan delivered with three wickets in the most widely watched game in the history of women's cricket as India restricted the hosts to 228 for seven.
Smriti Mandhana (0) must have been desperate to break her run-less streak but a four-ball duck ended her campaign in the tournament as Anya Shrubsole crashed through her defence in the second over of the Indian innings.
Mithali Raj (17 off 31) and Punam Raut added 38 runs for the second wicket before the captain trudged back to pavilion following a lazy run out. Surprisingly, Raj gave up half way after Raut called her for a run.
India were steady, going little under four an over, but England were fielding well to ensure there were no freebies.
Harmanpreet came to the crease with a bag of burden on her shoulder and batted with maturity.
In company of Raut, she kept the scoreboard ticking and twice lofted left-arm sppiner Alex Hartley over the ropes, siganling that things were very much under control.
India reached 100 in the 27th over and Raut rasied her half-century with a single off Shrubsole. Harmanpreet too got to the milestone soon when she glanced Brunt to fine leg.
With two batswomen going about their business untroubled, India had a firm control over the proceedings. But England got exactly what India did not want to lose at that time: Harmanpreet's wicket.
The Moga girl swept Hartley straight to Beaumont at deep square leg when even England had not expected a wicket and that too of the most dangerous batter in Indian line-up.
She did not set the field on fire like the way she batted against Australia but it was a significant knock, although it did not prove to be enough in the end.
Earlier, the coin landed in the opponents' favour at the toss was hardly a deterrent as India went about the task in a professional manner.
Leading the show was the redoubtable Goswami, who scythed through the English middle-order.
The highlight of the lanky Bengali's outing was the back-to-back dismissals of Sarah Taylor and Fran Wilson, which pegged England back.
Taylor is a legend of the women's game and Sciver entered the marquee match on the back of two centuries, and Jhulan had them caught behind and trapped in front of the wicket.
In what could be her last match, Taylor walked off to an ovation from the almost sell-out Lord's crowd after scoring 45 off 62 balls. The veteran English batswoman, surprisingly, could not hit a boundary in her innings.
The in-from Sciver struck 51 off 68 balls, hitting five boundaries in the process, before her recovery act was cut short by Jhulan in the first ball of the 38th over.
A former ICC Player of the Year, Jhulan finished her spell with impressive figures of 3/23 in the allotted 10 overs, which included three maidens.
The end of Jhulan's spell proved to be a boon for England, who rode on Katherine Brunt's 42-ball 34 and Jenny Gunn's 25 off 38 balls towards the end to sign off with a respectable total.
After Jhulan, leg-spinner Poonam Yadav was the most impressive bowler, finishing with two 2/36 in her quota of 10 overs.
England were off to a decent start with openers Lauren Winfield (24) and Tammy Beaumont (23) putting on 47 runs in a little over 11 overs. Rajeshwari Gayakwad gave the spirited visitors their first breakthrough when she removed Winfield.
Yadav dismissed the other opener and skipper Knight in a span of two overs to leave England in a spot of bother at 63 for three in the 17th over.
Taylor and Sciver steadied the ship with a partnership before spearhead Jhulan returned and removed Sciver.