Countdown to glory: Alison Mitchell chronicles a World Cup winning day at Lord’s

(Photo: Getty Images)

The Cricket Paper’s columnist recounts her breathless duties on the day of the  World Cup final at Lord’s – a timeline that started with trepidation but ended in glory and celebration for the women’s game worldwide

0630 I climb out of bed and nervously pull back the hotel room curtains to check the weather. Rain is forecast, but it is overcast and dry. The most encouraging sight though is that of a man in an egg and bacon striped blazer hurrying down St John’s Wood Road towards the Grace Gates. We’ve known for a few days that Lord’s was a sell-out, but how many MCC members would show their support and fill up the famous pavilion?

0700 I open my emails and download the rota and running order for the television host broadcast coverage. I’m presenting the opening 20 minutes from the outfield, giving me the chance to set the scene, and I can’t wait to experience just what that scene will be. During the game, I’ll be commentating alternately on Test Match Special and television, then I’ll be hosting the trophy presentation followed by the post-match analysis show for TV. It’s going to be full-on, so I scan the online news pages then head to breakfast to fuel up.

0800 On entering Lord’s through the East Gate, fellow commentator Sanjay Manjrekar smiles broadly and muses: “I love this place.” I vow to try to savour as much of the day as possible. I’m fortunate to spend a lot of time at Lord’s throughout the year, but this could be different to any other game I’ve been at. I’m brimful of quiet excitement about how the day may pan out.

0810 India’s free-to-air state broadcaster Doordarshan is now televising the final, which is massive in terms of viewership. As Sanjay says: “It will reach every single, tiny, most remote village in India.”

0815 Call time in the TV commentary box and even though we’ve been commentating throughout the tournament, you can tell there’s a bit more to it today. There’s an anxious energy about getting on air smoothly and doing everything without a hitch.

0845 Nip next door to the TMS commentary box to greet producer Adam Mountford and confirm my radio rota. I’ll be starting the match commentary, alternating with my TV duties, and then at the end I note that I’m rota’d on for the last six overs, meaning if the match goes that far, I’ll be on air for the winning moment, which will be a great thrill. It also means that I could be commentating on a World Cup win on TMS just minutes before I need to be on the outfield for the trophy presentation ceremony. It’s do-able. Just. Charlotte Edwards has a furrowed brow, figuring out the logistics of commentating on both TMS, the host TV broadcast, AND being an analyst for Sky.

0940 Head out to the middle and take a moment to absorb the scene as people are taking their seats in the stands. It’s real. People have come. It will be full. There are noticeably more children than normal for an international at this ground. John, the soundman, wires me up with my earpiece and hands me a microphone.

1000 “Cue Ali” The host TV coverage goes live and I’m standing on the outfield, looking into Spidercam and turning with it as it swoops 180 degrees around me. I welcome viewers around the world to the Home of Cricket, where it will be a full house for the Women’s World Cup final. Mel Jones is with the captains for the toss and Heather Knight elects to bat first. The World Cup trophy makes a dramatic entrance, flown to its plinth by a flying trapeze artist dangling beneath a giant white balloon.

1020 Arrive in the TMS box to an excited text from a friend who is on his way to the ground. He’s just seen a little girl skip down the street in front of her parents and do an ‘air bowl’. This tournament has already gone a long way towards inspiring new cricketers.

1023 A moment of applause for Rachael Heyhoe-Flint. The enormity of this occasion – after she organised the first World Cup in 1973 and later fought for female membership of the MCC – gives me goosebumps. There’s a portrait, but there ought to be a statue of her at Lord’s.

1030 Start TMS commentary next to Ebony Rainford-Brent. Jhulan Goswami, 34, in her last World Cup, bowls the first ball to Lauren Winfield. It keeps low.

1145 The MCC has allowed in flags and banners. The posters add humour to the occasion. A young man jumps up and down manically for the camera, waving a yellow placard, handwritten with “Harman will you marry me? My wife is ok with it.” Beside him is a young woman, madly waving an Indian flag. Presumably his wife.

1330 The first innings flies by with the drama of a Goswami hat-trick ball. What a legend she is. England stutter to a below par 228-7. The lack of members is disappointing, but at least it’s meant more tickets for everyone else. The media centre, though, is as busy as any men’s international. I compare it to the 2005 and 2009 World Cups when I covered England solo for the BBC and was the only UK journalist there.

1345 During the interval a crowd gathers around the Bharat Army on the Nursery Ground. They dance and chant Goswami’s name. Unreal.

1708 India seem to be cruising. I’m on TV commentary as Punam Raut is out lbw for 86! A game-changing moment?

1720 The run chase it getting tight. It’s raining. No one is coming off. On TMS, Charles Dagnall is describing a sudden burst of wickets from Alex Hartley and Anya Shrubsole. India are falling apart!

1725 I pick up commentary. India need 28 from 30 balls, three wickets in hand.

1735 Pandey is run out, Deepti is caught by Sciver, Shrubsole has a five-for! Lord’s needs an Honours Board for women’s ODIs.

1738 India are nine down, needing 11 off 11. The crowd’s fervour is intense. Behind the mic, adrenaline is pumping but it’s got to be harnessed in the right way. I take a sheet of paper and steady my hand to jot Nos. 11 to one down the right-hand side. On the left I scribble the runs needed off each delivery. You can’t leave it to the scoreboard, the TV screen or even your own memory at times like this. Got to be certain of the situation.

1739 India need 11 off 10. Jenny Gunn….. drops the easiest of catches at mid off! India run one. The tension!

1741 It’s 10 off 9. Shrubsole bowls Gayakwad, England win the World Cup! Noise erupts with a passion I’ve never felt before from a crowd for women’s cricket. “Unbelievable,” utters Ebony next to me. Her eyes fill with tears.

Sheer joy: Anya Shrubsole celebrates taking the final wicket (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

1747 I’m racing down the stairwell of the media centre, clipboard in hand with post-match presentation notes. I pass a father and his small daughter. The dad calls out to me “how about that!” I’m caught by a huge swell of emotion in my chest. I have to swallow it down. There’s a presentation to get through.

1845 Some calm after the trophy lift. I’m still on the outfield presenting the post-match show for TV in front of the pavilion with Lottie, Anjum Chopra, Mel Jones and Lisa Sthalekar. While Lottie is answering a final question about the future of the game, I hear the director’s assistant in my earpiece state: “One minute to stop talking.” I thank the girls, turn to camera and give myself 40 seconds to wrap. I talk about this being the 11th edition of the Women’s World Cup but a tournament of firsts; a record number of 100s, of sixes, the sell-out final at Lord’s. My closing words are delivered with 10 seconds being counted down to zero in my ear: “44 years after Rachael Heyhoe-Flint first lifted a World Cup trophy, England have done it again. And for the fourth time in their history, they are, world champions.” It feels like the end of term after four immensely enjoyable weeks of broadcasting, which has been made so successful by the entertainment, skill and drama from the players and the efforts of so many in marketing and promoting the event to the masses.

1850 The families of the players have been allowed to wander around the outfield behind the boundary rope to the foot of the pavilion. They’re soaking up the atmosphere, hugging each other and taking photos. I spot Anya Shrubsole’s father, Ian. He gives me a hug, thrilled by his daughter’s performance. I’ve never met Anya’s mum Sam before, but it feels utterly normal that she throws her arms around me as well. Having met several of the players’ parents at matches at home and abroad going back to 2005 when they were often the only spectators, I feel every ounce of their joy in this moment.

2030 Drinks are laid on in the Thomas Lord suite for family, friends, ICC/ECB and media. Members of the England team appear and there is a spontaneous cheer. Nat Sciver is carrying the World Cup trophy and is looking for somewhere to put it. There is a tall round table near the door, but it is full of empty green beer bottles. She clears a space in the middle and plonks the trophy right there. People immediately gather to take photos. The music cranks up. The party begins.

Far from being the end, this is just the beginning…

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