England women claim SPOTY Team of Year Award
The England women's cricket team have capped a memorable year in which they won the World Cup at Lord's in a pulsating final against India, by claiming the Team of the Year award at the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards in Liverpool.
On a memorable night for England's women cricketers, who have for so long lived in the shadows of their male counterparts, Heather Knight's team topped a shortlist of teams including the British & Irish Lions, Celtic, Team GB's para-athletics and England's World-Cup-winning U17s footballers.
Their award was richly deserved following a World Cup triumph that could hardly have been a more worthy advertisement for their sport. In a showpiece event in front of a packed house at Lord's, England battled back from the brink of defeat thanks largely to the efforts of Anya Shrubsole, who claimed five wickets in nine balls to seal an agonising nine-run victory with figures of 6 for 46.
Off the back of her efforts, Shrubsole became the first women's cricketer to be nominated for the individual SPOTY award, which was eventually claimed by the athlete, Sir Mo Farah.
The announcement was a timely fillip for English cricket, coming as it did on the eve of what could well be an Ashes-sealing defeat for the men in Australia, when play resumes at Perth overnight. The women's team were also unsuccessful in their own Ashes campaign in October, although they did emerge with honour intact after battling back from an 8-4 points deficit to square the multi-format series 8-8.
Despite still being considered the national summer sport, cricket has been noticeably under-represented at the SPOTY awards in recent years - arguably due to the sport's invisibility on free-to-air TV. The last player to be nominated for the individual award was Ian Bell in 2013, while Andrew Flintoff was the last winner, following his starring role in the 2005 Ashes victory.
"Without a doubt I sense this is a good thing for the sport, not just women's cricket," Shrubsole told The Guardian in the wake of her individual nomination. "Anytime cricket gets recognised on something like that - on a national scale, on a huge evening celebrating sport - it's brilliant. And having a female cricketer shows where the sport is at. A few years ago, you'd never have had that."