England lift World Cup after late drama
England woke up on Sunday morning to find their women crowned world champions for the third time following a final in which they had the edge throughout against New Zealand in Sydney on Sunday. As Jonny Wilkinson had kicked his rugby side to glory in 2003 in the same city, so England's Nicky Shaw sealed success for her team to see them home, having taken a career-best 4 for 34.
This match was not quite as nail-biting as the rugby final but certainly had its moments. Though at one stage England were coasting in their chase of 167, they eventually made it home by four wickets.
And while Shaw earned the player of the match - unlike Wilkinson - she wasn't even supposed to play. Although vice-captain, it was only an injury to premier allrounder Jenny Gunn that meant her last-minute inclusion. It proved a stroke of fortune for England.
The final had promised to be a much tight affair with the best two sides in the competition contesting the ultimate honours, but Shaw's wicket burst helped keep New Zealand to a modest total and then England's big batting guns had just too much firepower when it counted.
Their all-round game was a credit, the bowlers taking wickets when it mattered, the fielders the catches and then their batsmen took advantage of bowling that was both too short and too full at times. And the most important thing was that, even though they went on to lose a few wickets, they held their nerve at the crucial point.
The key passage of the game came in the New Zealand innings, kickstarted by Shaw who removed the dangerous Suzie Bates, then Amy Satterthwaite off successive balls. New Zealand went on to lose 6 for 92, Shaw dismissing form batsman Haidee Tiffen and Nicola Browne, becoming the first woman to take four wickets in a World Cup final.
The wicket of Browne was an important one - she had offered New Zealand some hope, along with Lucy Doolan in an eighth-wicket stand of 62. Together they boosted their side from 7 for 101. Partnerships were badly lacking for New Zealand, in initial contrast to England who found themselves on 1 for 74 in their reply.
The hard-working Caroline Atkins and Sarah Taylor seized the advantage quickly and entertained with some pure cricket shots. Having pleased the crowd with her typically strong shots, Taylor then perished to a soft one, such has been her wont this tournament.
No matter, it simply brought the world's No. 1 batsman to the crease. Claire Taylor had arrived in the final averaging 75.75 for the tournament. She began by sparing no mercy on the New Zealand attack before Aimee Mason bowled her on 21, giving her opposition some hope (2 for 109).
Atkins departed soon afterwards for 40, brilliantly caught by the tumbling Sophie Devine in gully off Doolan and New Zealand had a hint of a chance. Their determined bowlers continued to try their best but with Doolan again striking, with Edwards adjudged caught behind when she hadn't touched it.
Lydia Greenway then fell top-edging to midwicket, before Beth Morgan ran herself out failing to push back into her crease. With 15 runs required and four wickets in hand, Tiffen then dropped a hard chance off Holly Colvin, but Shaw stood defiant, with some classy drives that belied the pressure of the final.
Both sides had started nervously - the usually solid Tiffen consistently poking away from her body under Katherine Brunt's pace and swing, while the bowler and her fellow opener Isa Guha delivered some wides. But it was all about who held their nerve and, while England's bowlers struck golden rhythm and crucial wickets, New Zealand's batsmen were prone to losing their heads.
It could have been the same story for England at one point, but with a vast bank of experience from which to draw, they stood firm.
England played the more complete cricket and deserved the trophy. They will now enjoy the benefit of the world No. 1 ranking for the foreseeable future - perhaps even until the World Cup in 2013. And with the World Twenty20 coming up, England are already looking a fair bet. For now, though, they will enjoy their first World Cup title since 1993.
Jenny Roesler is a former assistant editor at Cricinfo