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Feature

Ice-cool Shrubsole channels chaos into confidence

Not for the first time in a World Cup, Shrubsole delivered when her team looked up to her under pressure

S Sudarshanan
S Sudarshanan
20-Mar-2022
Anya Shrubsole had an unenviable job to finish on Sunday  •  Getty Images

Anya Shrubsole had an unenviable job to finish on Sunday  •  Getty Images

It was the Women's World Cup semi-final and England had just lost their eighth wicket with two runs needed. In walked Anya Shrubsole at No. 10. Shabnim Ismail had been breathing fire. But it just took one ball for Shrubsole to skip down the track and bash the length ball through cover-point to power England into the final.
It is a must-win clash for both between New Zealand and England. When the ninth England wicket falls under dramatic circumstances - Katherine Brunt goes for a second that was not on to be run out - they still need eight runs to win.
Half an hour ago, they were cruising at 176 for 4 in the 40th over, with Nat Sciver and Sophia Dunkley involved in a 70-run stand. Frances Mackay then bowled an inspired spell, picking three for eight off 14 balls to turn the game upside down. With immense pressure, Shrubsole walked in again, at No. 11. Although she is way better than a traditional No. 11, her last double-digit score in an ODI was in 2019.
"I think we've always got to believe you can win from that position," Kate Cross said after the match. "I have said it in a few interviews that we don't really have a No. 11 in this team. The fact that Anya is batting at 11 is quite a calming influence in the group when she does go out."
Shrubsole plays three dots before taking a single to retain strike for the next over, which is to be bowled by Mackay. She was so carefully trying to see off Mackay that she nearly lobbed a leading edge to cover. But off the next ball, she tapped one into the off side for a quick single.
In the next over, she drives a Brooke Halliday delivery through covers to level the scores. The winning runs are soon brought up as she flicks one over midwicket to seal England's second win which keeps their title defence alive.
"Reflecting more on the fact, we shouldn't have got ourselves to the position that Anya was walking out to bat," Cross said. "She did brilliantly to get us over the line. It's never nice to be the No. 11 because if your wicket goes down it's never nice. She and (Charlie) Dean were brilliant under a lot of pressure."

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Dean had earlier played a crucial role with the ball, picking up Amelia Kerr and Amy Satterthwaite's wickets to dent New Zealand. Her setup of Amelia Kerr stood out. The New Zealand allrounder had just nailed the sweep shot through midwicket for four off a flatter delivery. The following two balls also saw Amelia Kerr try to use the shot to get the ball to the on side, unsuccessfully.
Dean then slowed it up and shortened her length, deceiving Amelia Kerr, who yet again went for the sweep, in flight. It resulted in a top edge that was gobbled up by short fine leg.
"The KSL (Kia Super League) and the Hundred is what is preparing these girls to come in and play international cricket," said Cross. "That step up now is not as drastic as it used to be. So Charlie in the Hundred is not too dissimilar to the kind of crowd we got today and the pressure that was on her. She keeps it nice and simple."
The chase wouldn't have ended as well as it did eventually for England if not for the 61 that Sciver scored. She walked in in the tenth over and saw off a disciplined spell from Jess Kerr and Lea Tahuhu, before she walked out clutching her hamstring. She was almost done in by Halliday with the ball landing just short of midwicket.
But first in company of Heather Knight and then with Dunkley, Sciver steadied the innings and pushed England towards the target, in the process completing her slowest ODI half-century, before the final turbulence.
"It's about partnerships with one of us seeing it through," said Sciver, the Player of the Match. "Unfortunately neither of us did that and left it to the cool ice that is Anya Shrubsole.
"It's crazy and we got over the line in the end, which we shouldn't have I guess. Usually, I would be more nervous and get on with it a bit more, but knew I had to do most of the scoring and be there for a long time. I did not really mind facing too many balls. Definitely, was pretty tough bowling with the windy conditions, difficult wicket to find consistency, but happy with that."
Thanks to these key efforts, England have managed to slowly get their World Cup campaign back on track after losing their first three matches on the go, a first for them. Having eked out two narrow wins, they would hope that their quota of thrillers for the competition is over.

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo