India beat England in the final ODI at Lord’s on Saturday by 16 runs but the match ended in controversial fashion after Deepti Sharma ran out Charlie Dean at the non-strikers end, leading to a chorus of boos from the crowd.
England had looked out for the count after collapsing to 53 for five before the first drinks break was even taken, chasing just 170, but a remarkable rearguard effort from Dean (47) – who calmly added 35 runs with Freya Davies for the final wicket – looked like it might see them over the line until Sharma’s intervention in the 44th over.
A controversial ending but...India win by 16 runs and complete a series sweep against England. 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/gsBpqDcXNp
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) September 24, 2022
Dean was in tears but determinedly shook hands with the opposition players before walking off, as India celebrated.
“I don’t think it was any crime, it’s part of the game,” India’s captain, Harmanpreet Kaur, said. “It shows your awareness of what batters are doing. I will back my players – she hasn’t done something outside the rules.”
England’s Kate Cross said: “Ultimately it is Deepti’s choice how she goes about that. If you’re talking about the spirit of cricket, I thought that [shaking hands] was brilliant from Deano.”
The incident threatened to overshadow an occasion which was meant to be all about the final match for the 39-year-old Jhulan Goswami, who has been terrorising batters with her 5ft11 frame since 2002. Her swan song initially looked as if it might end in anticlimax: she was bowled for a golden duck by Freya Kemp, before sending down five wicketless overs as the whole of Lord’s – England and India fans alike – willed her on.
Finally, at the sixth attempt, she had Alice Capsey caught at cover point – proving you are never too old to teach a young dog new tricks. Twenty-five overs later she wrapped up her last over in international cricket by bowling Cross. She was mobbed by her teammates and given a standing ovation by the crowd.
England’s loss came despite an unplayable five-over opening spell from Cross which reduced India to 17 for three, the seamer using late movement to bowl Shafali Verma and Yastika Bhatia for ducks and trapping Harmanpreet lbw for just four, following her onslaught at Canterbury on Wednesday.
Cross returned in the 22nd over to remove a fluent-looking Smriti Mandhana (50), who edged a bouncer on to her own stumps. But Sharma then swept her way to 68 not out, marshalling enough of a recovery for her side in conjunction with an aggressive Pooja Vastrakar (22) to see them to a series clean sweep.
England will be back at Lord’s next summer as part of their jazzed-up multiformat Women’s Ashes series which, for the first time, includes matches at some of England’s marquee grounds (a Test at Trent Bridge, and evening T20s at Edgbaston, the Kia Oval and Lord’s). On the one hand, a move back to the “home of cricket” is long overdue – before , England had not played an international at Lord’s since the 2017 World Cup final. The ECB’s ambition in making a seismic step-up from grounds like Worcester (capacity 5,000) and Hove (6,000) to Edgbaston (25,000) and the Oval (27,500) should be applauded – and the crowd of 15,000 at Lord’s would suggest the appetite to watch live women’s international cricket in London is alive and well.
On the other hand, if the aim is to attract a generation of new fans, the pressure will be on to ensure that next summer’s Women’s Ashes is, at the very least, competitive. On the last two occasions (at home in 2019 and away in 2021-22), the final scoreline read 4-12 – and not in England’s favour. England’s entire strategy this summer has centred around making sure that those results are not replicated in 2023. Four players (Lauren Bell, Alice Capsey, Freya Kemp and Issy Wong) have made debuts, while two (Alice Davison-Richards and Bryony Smith) have made returns.
And yet consistency for this new-look England has so far been elusive. Their success earlier in the summer against a crumbling South Africa did them little good in the Commonwealth Games (medal count: zero), while the loss against India is their first defeat in a bilateral series at home against an opposition other than Australia in 15 years. “It’s a frustrating time because as an England team you want to be winning games of cricket,” Cross said.
England’s big problem against India has been the leadership vacuum which has dogged the team ever since Heather Knight sustained a hip injury in July. Nat Sciver reluctantly accepted the gig for the Commonwealth Games, before dropping out just three days before the first T20 against India, citing “emotional fatigue”.
Amy Jones, who has never previously captained in 50-over cricket, was cast into the role apparently in the absence of any other plausible candidates. She has looked increasingly out of her depth.
This, one would hope, is where a new coach can step in and make their mark: applications close for the position today.
Meanwhile, England will be desperate to see a successful return for Knight ahead of their next international assignment in the Caribbean this winter. The captaincy has been a hot potato long enough.