'This team - it doesn't feel like we ever panic'

Heather Knight, Jenny Gunn, Tammy Beaumont, Nat Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, and coach Mark Robinson tell the story of England's World Cup journey

Australia defeated England in the 2016 World T20 semi-final by five runs.
Jenny Gunn: I'm really glad you brought this back up.
Mark Robinson gave an honest press conference after that match.
Robinson: There were certain things that were blatantly obvious. We had players that weren't fit enough. The girls had come back from the Big Bash; only two of them had come back in the right state, the rest of them had come back and let themselves down. It was just certain things that were fundamentally wrong, and they could be easily dealt with. It was a case of what we needed to be doing.
Gunn: I think that's what we've really done over the last year and a half. We knew back then that this is what we needed to work on: we needed to work on our fitness, we needed to be more attacking, and I think we've really shown that this tournament.
England made a huge move and decided to move on from their greatest ever player, Charlotte Edwards.
Gunn: It's always hard. She's been my captain for what - the last ten years? Played in the same team when I was 13, so it always comes as a bit of a shock.
"We've fought like hell this tournament. It's been a theme of the tournament - us fighting hard and holding our nerve"
Heather Knight
Fran Wilson: It was quite a turbulent time because Charlotte's always been a part of the England team, as long as I can remember. It was quite a big shock and probably affected the girls a little bit. But I think in the long run, what Mark Robinson has done has been really good for the team. That's just testament to Robbo and the kind of faith he's shown in all of us.
Tammy Beaumont: It was a tough month or so. Charlotte has been probably quite a big influence on the first half of my career. She's also a good friend. She can look back at her career knowing that she did a great job for England and left us in a good place.
Robinson: I just knew it was right. When it's that simple in your mind - and it wasn't against Charlotte, because Charlotte was still a very good player, but the team had to go in a different direction and we had to put things differently in place, and I think it was something like 18 months before the next competition - this one. It was too long to wait and get through to before you start making changes. It was about looking big picture really, and luckily Clare Connor backed the decision.
It was now Robinson's team to outsiders, and he went about changing the problems he saw.
Beaumont: I think he's just been really honest. It was pretty obvious what was wrong in the World T20 semi-final in India. It was one of those where you know we may have been blinded for a few years and it took something like that.
Natalie Sciver: He's the starting point. He's had coaches come in and help along the way. In our team, we've created an open and honest environment where we can all give each other feedback, take feedback, but not let it affect you - take it on the chin and let each other thrive in the environment. It's a really special kind of culture that we've created and I think it really shows on the pitch when we're all smiling and looking like we're having fun. It's not forced. Looking like we're having fun and just being happy out there representing your country with your best friends.
Gunn: I think it's helped [to have a coach] coming from men's cricket, really. He's got us all fitter, anyway. He's brought in the support staff which has been brilliant, really. We've got Ian Salisbury for the spinners, Tom Smith for allrounders, Ali Maiden batting.
Robinson: Mistakes are okay. You will make mistakes, you will get out; it's what kind of mistakes you'll make. I would rather you make a positive mistake, rather you make a mistake by being on the front foot than going into your shell and doing things for the sake of it.
Wilson: He's very honest with us - if we need something, some feedback which isn't something we necessarily want to hear, but in the long run is going to help our game, that is something for me the biggest thing the coach has done for me. Growing up I didn't want to be told what to do because I thought I was right, but the environment he's created is this open and honest environment where everyone's opinion counts and everyone helps each other. When someone else scores runs, you feel like you've helped them get there because you've been giving them feedback and helping them with their game. I think that's the biggest thing with our environment.
Beaumont: When Robbo came in, I saw it as a second chance. It made it very simple for me. If you have any doubt over what shot to play, don't. He'd tell me off for poking around.
England lost to India in their first game of this tournament. Their bowlers struggled with line and length, and their middle order ran itself out.
Wilson: As the home team, you are under more pressure. Just a few things didn't go our way and we came out on the wrong side.
Beaumont: This tournament has been built up for four years, and for us as, a home nation hosting it, it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's one of those things that can happen. In a way, we hadn't actually played any international cricket for over six months before that, so we probably hadn't tested ourselves in that way - obviously we played warm-up games against India and West Indies in favourable conditions for us, when they'd just got off the plane, so you take the results with a pinch of salt. It is different when you step out at Derby and have that pressure of a World Cup game, and I think it was a good reminder to us that we need to keep doing what we've been doing and get better with every game.
Gunn: Towards the back end we had to score at what - eight or nine an over? So we were going to take some silly runs and we were going to get run out.
"I couldn't play tennis because I kept hitting the ball too far. I wanted to hit it hard but it just wouldn't stay in the court. Luckily, here I'm allowed to do that"
Nat Sciver
Robinson: I always felt that we'd get better as the competition went on. Anya hadn't played since November, she was down on overs, down on confidence. [Katherine] Brunty had picked up an injury in the Big Bash - she was down on overs, down on confidence. Heather Knight had just had this foot injury, no cricket, bit anxious herself. We missed [Lauren] Winfield. Sarah [Taylor], everybody was hoping and praying that she was going to be okay. There was a lot of hopes and not a lot of guarantees.
Wilson on her run-out: I thought I was in. I thought I was miles in, to be honest. I was gutted to get out in that way. Looking back now on that game, I think every cloud has a silver lining. It was the best thing that happened. It really gave us a bit of a kick, put us under a bit of pressure.
Robinson: We took the game deep, and on another day we could've pinched it. We wouldn't have deserved it, but we could have pinched it, and that's what we always talk about - taking games deep, staying in games as long as you can to keep them alive. We actually took confidence from that and then we played Pakistan and Sri Lanka and got some momentum and were off running.
Sciver: I think also we didn't do the good things for long enough. We had all the plans, knew what we wanted to do, but just didn't quite execute. The first game of the tournament and it was bigged up a lot. Obviously there were a few nerves around and there still are - we're just better at controlling it now.
After hitting three consecutive sixes in her first ever ODI hundred, Sciver was asked about how she hits the ball so hard. She started answering in a sports-science way, before stopping and saying, "It's not rocket science."
Heather Knight: (sitting next to Sciver in a post-match presser) I'm going to embarrass her now - I think it was the best innings I've seen Nat play. I think she hit the ball brilliantly from ball one, as she often does, and she is one of the cleanest strikers of the ball in the world.
Gunn: She hits balls so hard. She hits like a man. I feel for people who have to field against her, but it's just so nice to do it on a big stage. How she scored two hundreds in the tournament - it just shows that she's a world-class batter, and she's up there with some of the best players I've ever played with.
Wilson: I guess it's not really a surprise for people like us because we see it in training. We see Nat smash sixes every day in training.
Against India in the final, she brought up a leg-side-dominant fifty off 65 balls in a low-scoring game.
Beaumont: She's incredible, the way that she can strike the ball. Nat is superhuman, I think.
Sciver: When I was younger, I played a lot of tennis and hockey and things like that, so I had the hand-eye coordination. I couldn't play tennis because I kept hitting the ball too far. I wanted to hit it hard but it just wouldn't stay in the court. Luckily, here I'm allowed to do that.
Beaumont was the leading run scorer this tournament.
Sciver: She's got her own little mannerisms. She likes to do a lot of gardening. When she and Lauren Winfield bat together, they kind of do it together.
Beaumont: Heather's nicknamed us Twinfield. That's quite cute. Lauren and I go back a long time. We used to open the batting together at university and we're really good friends off the pitch as well.
Robinson: I couldn't understand why Lauren Winfield wasn't scoring any runs, and I couldn't understand why Tammy Beaumont wasn't in the squad or in the team. The first thing was to try and negotiate her into the reckoning. She'd had a lot of baggage within the group and with those who had written her off.
"She will never lay down, she will win. It's a great thing to have someone like that in your team"
Fran Wilson on Alex Hartley
Beaumont: I've had a pretty good 12 months coming in, had a bit of a breakthrough against Pakistan last summer. It's been nice, this tournament, to test myself against the better bowling attacks in the world, and that is something I've been working towards for a long time. I think for me it's all about getting the team off to a good start
Robsinon: She managed to get into the T20 team in India by default really, because Charlotte was ill for a game. She came in and she got fifty and got herself in. She'd had a good T20 campaign, so when we came out of that - as we do with all the players - we sit down and identify what they need to do. We wanted Tammy to tighten up off stump. Management of off stump, as you're opening the batting, is the obvious thing to do. Then all we did was back her and give her the freedom to play as we have all the players.
Beaumont: I almost went away and said, "Right, I want to be the world's best opening batter." I'm still not there yet - I've still got a long way to go - but I'm working towards that.
When I told Beaumont that she had been picked in some informal teams of the tournament, she said, "Really! Wow." In two years she has gone from outside the team to World Cup player of the tournament.
Robinson: She's an emotional girl, and she'll always ride that rollercoaster of emotions. She's ever so talented and it was pretty obvious.
Beaumont: I personally would happily get a duck if we win. Kind of.
In a recent interview with the Guardian Hartley spoke about how she regularly gets tweets telling her how she can't bat or field, and so she has improved those skills largely to spite the haters. This tournament she has dismissed Meg Lanning, Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, Beth Mooney and Hayley Matthews.
Beaumont: I lived with the girl for a couple of years and she's a massive fighter. She's so determined, so that almost comes out in her bowling.
Gunn: She's picked up wickets regularly, and big wickets as well which no one's complaining about. She's just willing to learn and she wants to do so much for the team. Ian Salisbury has really helped her understand her bowling a bit more. She's doing really well.
Wilson: She's just a very very gritty player. Batting and fielding hasn't always come naturally to her, and with her bowling, she was dropped out of the academy squad when she was 14. Ever since then she just trains so hard and she's just so resilient and gritty. When you're facing her that just comes out. She will never lay down, she will win. It's a great thing to have someone like that in your team.
Beaumont: When she sets her mind to something, she'll go out and get it. She had to overcome a lot of things to get into the squad in the first place, so it was kind of an uphill struggle for her to get into the squad.
Robinson: She doesn't go away, and she keeps getting people out. You can't ignore that. I'd been watching her. Jonathan Finch, who's our performance director, he'd just been to Sri Lanka and he kept talking about Alex. None of the batters played her well, she attacked both edges, and she kept getting people out. You can't ignore that. She's a bit different and she's a bit quirky but she's ever so resilient as well. Everyone told her what she can't do and that she's not good enough, and she's not gone away. I like players like that. You watch her in her performances - it was about giving her opportunities.
Beaumont: She's kind of unfazed by anything and she's not necessarily from the biggest cricket background. At Surrey Stars last year, she met Alec Stewart. She went, "Sorry, who are you?" I was like, "Alex, that's the captain of England, wicketkeeper, opening bat. Just shut up." Nothing fazes her. It doesn't matter if she's bowling at Meg Lanning or a No. 11. She knows exactly her job, to nail the stumps, always keep hitting the stumps and she's worked incredibly hard over the last 12 months to hone her bowling.
Hartley on bowling to Lanning: It's just another batter to me when I'm bowling. We're all in it, we're all capable of getting her out. If I think about it too much, I get too nervous. Before I bowled that ball, I was like "Quicker ball, slower ball, quicker ball, slower ball?" I was like, "Slower ball." And it worked! I'm new on the scene, so I had to keep chill.
The Indian top order played her well, but it was Hartley who took the important wicket of Harmanpreet Kaur.
"Mental health is new to a lot of people but helping and supporting Yards [Michael Yardy] helped me as a human being, and it helped me be able to manage cricketers. The same with Sarah"
Mark Robinson
Taylor took an absence from the game for mental-health reasons. Robinson was Sussex coach before he became the women's coach, so he was involved with Michael Yardy's struggle with mental health.
Robinson: The difference with Sarah from the Yards situation was it was a lot more integrated. The ECB have more experience now, so we've had a lot more openness and access about what is happening through Sarah that allows it to be a lot easier.
Wilson: I think it just gives you a bit of a reality check because it puts everything into perspective, because your health is more important than anything, and Sarah's life is more important than anything that happens on the pitch. I think that gave us as a squad a bit of perspective and also made us more open with maybe being a bit nervous or worried. It is a high-pressure environment, and Sarah being so open about what she went through helped.
Robinson: Mental health is new to a lot of people but helping and supporting Yards helped me as a human being, it helped me as a dad, helped me as a husband, and it helped me be able to manage cricketers. The same with Sarah, to share the experiences with what's happening with Sarah to the group - we do a lot of not trying to normalise emotion. Everybody's going to be nervous as hell, you're going to feel your heart going, and it's okay. It's absolutely normal to do it.
Gunn: We went to Abu Dhabi as a training side and she scored runs out there. It was like she'd never been away. We know how good she can play, and yes, she's had a year off but once she picked up a bat - it was like "Okay, Sarah's back."
Taylor made 396 runs at 49 this tournament.
Robinson: You're going to fail as well as succeed. Anxiety from Sarah - she's obviously got it to an extreme, but we all get anxious at times. She helps players deal with it by saying some of the distractions that she uses.
Beaumont: Anytime Sarah's got a smile on her face it's great to see, and when she's scoring runs in an England shirt that's even better.
England slumped to 174 for 6 against Australia when Gunn and Brunt started to bat together.
Gunn: I think a few people would've thought: shit. If I can say that.
Wilson: This team - it doesn't feel like we ever panic. That shows on the pitch, with the way that we've got over the line in a few games. Even when Katherine and Jenny went in, we all knew how capable they are.
Gunn: Our batters are normally too good, so I don't normally get a go. It was nice to bat with Katherine. I haven't batted with her for ages - it's still like old times. She still tells me what to do all the time! But we got a decent score on the board.
Yes, we had to kind of rebuild. We were both kind of new to the crease, so it's always trying to figure out where our scoring options are to certain bowlers. It was a really good track that day, so I think that helped, but we knew that we probably had to target a few more towards the end - like [Kristen] Beam's bowling.
I think as well, on any day, Katherine - if she hits it well, she can clear any boundary. I don't think she likes it when people hit sixes bigger than her. It was really nice to get up to a score where we thought it was a bit more above par, because it was a good track and with that team they can obviously chase 260.
Wilson: For me, watching, I was a bit nervous in general, but in the back of my mind I always knew that they could do it.
"It's more when I have a drink I don't shut up. So I get called Verbal Valerie, because I don't shut up. Val just comes out. The other day when we were batting against Australia - they just said, 'Oh, Val's out!'"
Jenny Gunn
Sciver: I always find it harder to watch a batting innings when you're not out there, so you can't control it yourself. I was a bit nervous but I was just excited for them to show what they could do because I know that Katherine and Jenny can both score runs and also clear the ropes.
Gunn: I think we can actually bat down the lower order. In the past our batters have performed so we haven't had to score runs really, but we do bat right down the order. I think you just kind of bat time, and we had a lot of time to bat for a change, whereas normally we get five balls and it's like, swing and hope for the best. It was nice to have some time, and I know Katherine's game really well. We bat together quite a lot. We run well and actually managed to get it up there, where we could actually have some fun and actually try and hit some boundaries.
Wilson: Off the pitch, Jen is like the caring mum of the group, and then when I went out there, she was very relaxed, just really stern. I was like, "Woah, she's like flipped!" She actually has this alter ego called Val.
Sciver: She's verbal, Val, but she can also be the confident, outrageous alter ego of Jenny Gunn. We like to have Val on the pitch with us.
Gunn: It's more when I have a drink I don't shut up. So I get called Verbal Valerie, because I don't shut up. Val just comes out. The other day when we were batting against Australia - they just said, "Oh, Val's out!" I think it was more when I hit a one-handed six - it wasn't a one-handed six, but when it came off the bat, they were like, "Oh that's so arrogant, that's Val!" I was like, "It's not Val - I just literally wasn't there so my hand just came off!" It's just the girls having a bit of fun, saying "Val's out!" all the time.
The Brunt-Val partnership ensured that England had enough runs to squeak by against Australia and book their semi final place.
In the semi-final, they had a similar collapse. When Laura Marsh was dismissed, they needed three balls to get two runs with two wickets remaining to play in the final. Shrubsole came to the crease to bat with Gunn.
Shrubsole: I gave myself quite a long walk by staying in the dressing room as opposed to sitting down on the bench.
Gunn: Anya - we call her Hoof, because she sometimes walks like a show pony with her feet. She strode out to the wicket and I was like "Yes, this is Hoof." She was proper serious and I was like "We've got this." First of all I told her she might get an offcutter, but she didn't listen to a word I said.
Shrubsole: She's been telling everyone I didn't listen to her, but I 100% did! She said that she'd been walking at [Shabnim] Ismail, so I was like "Oh, that sounds like a great idea."
Beaumont: We always joke - one of our old assistant coaches, Jack Birkenshaw, he used to say, "One day Anya can bat like Donald Bradman, another day she can bat like Donald Duck." Over the last year or so she bats more like Don Bradman.
Shrubsole: I was just thinking to get some bat on it and to try get Jen back on strike. I thought I'd try and walk outside the line of the ball, so at least if it hit me on the pad, I wasn't going to be out and just get Jen back on strike.
Hartley was next in to bat.
Beaumont: I felt a little sorry for little Alex Hartley. She was stood trembling in the corner next to us. When I looked over and it was two to win off three balls, I was like, "Alex, are you really going to keep that thigh pad on?" She had so much protection. She was like "Why, I can't take it off!"
"Well you'll run faster!"
So we end up having a debate with the No. 11 over whether you should take your thigh pad off because she'll run faster.
"She was stood trembling in the corner next to us. When I looked over and it was two to win off three balls, I was like, 'Alex, are you really going to keep that thigh pad on?'
Tammy Beaumont to Alex Hartley in the semi-final
"Well, what if I get hit on my leg?"
"Well, it really won't matter because you can't be out and you'll run faster and we'll win."
Gunn: Anya just charged and smashed it through the covers.
Sciver: Anya Shrubsole crunched it through the covers for four, which we'd all been trying to do for the whole innings. She just nailed it first ball, so it was just meant to be.
Gunn: She jumped at me. It was nice that Anya hit the winning runs. To be fair, if anyone hit the winning runs that day I didn't care, it was just nice to get over the line.
Shrubsole: I was just lucky that the ball was in the right place and stole a little bit of the glory from all the girls who'd done the hard work before.
Before the final, Ian Shrubsole, tweeted a photo of his daughter leaning over the fence at Lord's when he was playing a village cup final. The tweet said: "@Anya_shrubsole 2001- What a place! I'd like to play here ....for England ... in a World Cup final. #WWC17"
Shrubsole: My dad is this new-media superstar. It was an amazing photo, to be here watching him play when I was ten, and then to be back here 16 years later. If someone had told me I'd be back in a World Cup final and winning a World Cup final I'd have laughed them away.
Knight: I know Ian Shrubsole, Anya's dad. He's a very proud parent, and Anya massively looks up to him.
I remember coming here as a kid for my first training session and being in awe of the ground and the history of the place, so to come here today and win the World Cup final in front of a full house, is something I never thought I could do.
India need 38 runs with seven wickets in hand, Shrubsole is bowling.
Knight: It did feel like it was slipping away, but we've fought like hell this tournament. It's been a theme of the tournament - us fighting hard and holding our nerve.
Shrubsole: Heather said she was about to take me off.
Knight: We had the experience of getting over the line in tight games against Australia and South Africa in the semi, so if we got the chance, we thought we'd take it.
Shrubsole takes the wicket of Punam Raut. Then she takes more wickets. She also gets a run-out. And then for the last wicket, the ball floats gently to Gunn, who drops the easiest catch of her career. Knight had already started celebrating.
Knight: It felt like she dropped the World Cup, to be honest. It was a hard one to deal with. I thought we'd won it, and then that drop went down.
Next ball, Shrubsole slams one into the stumps. She stands mid-pitch with her arms outstretched as her team embraces her. There is no more need for words: England have won the World Cup.

Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber