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Anya looks back on a remarkable year

2017 was a year to remember for Anya Shrubsole.

As well as playing a vital role in England’s ICC World Cup success she was also part of the Western Storm side that lifted the KIA Super League trophy.

We caught up with her recently to look back on what was a very special summer.

Did you ever think that the ICC Women’s World Cup would capture the imagination of the public in the way that it did?

“I remember speaking to someone just before the World Cup started and they hoped that the final would be a sell-out. At the time I thought that would be amazing, but I wasn’t 100% sure that it was realistic. For that to come to fruition and to play in front of a full house at Lord’s was an amazing day for all of us and the reaction afterwards just shows where the women’s game is at the moment and how good the tournament was.”

Did losing to India in the opening match in some way help the team to win the tournament in the end?

“Without a doubt. I’ve always said that losing isn’t always necessarily a bad thing. It keeps your feet on the ground and in a tournament situation it makes you focus that little bit more. We definitely didn’t take India lightly, they just outplayed us on the day. That defeat gave us a real kick in the right direction and we never really looked back from there.”

Winning the World Cup was a real team effort wasn’t it?

“Absolutely. One of the amazing things about the tournament was that so many different people put their hands up when we needed them to. I think we had four different centurions, Laura Marsh took a load of wickets at Taunton, Jenny Gunn and Katherine Brunt got some really crucial runs down the order to get us over the line a couple of times, Fran Wilson got a big score, the list goes on. Every single player in the squad contributed in a big way at some point which shows that we genuinely have got strength in depth and quality all the way through.”

The game against Australia at Bristol was one of the most dramatic of the tournament. What are your memories of that game?

“That was an amazing match and it was a really crucial point in the tournament. To win that tight game against Australia gave us genuine belief that we could win the tournament. We knew that if we played well we’d be a match for any team and I think that the Australia game, along with the semi-final, really helped us in the final. We knew that we could be up against it and eventually come out on the right side in a close game.”

The semi-final against South Africa was a nail-biter too and you managed to get the winning runs.

“I think I took a little bit of the glory away from everyone who had done so much hard work before me. That certainly wasn’t our prettiest game, but tournament cricket is about getting over the line and sometimes how you get there doesn’t matter too much. You’ve just got to win the game and find a way to get over the line. That’s the great thing about this team. We find ways to win games when we’re not playing as well as we can. At the end I felt relief as much as anything. I was more happy being out in the middle than I was watching from the balcony. It’s much harder to be watching because there’s nothing that you can do. I was just lucky that the ball went in an area where I was able to hit it and thankfully it came off the middle of my bat.”

You became the first female cricketer to win the Christopher Martin-Jenkins Spirit of Cricket Award following that match. Rather than celebrating, you comforted South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk before joining your teammates. What was going through your mind at the time?

“I’ve been involved in the game long enough to know how it feels to be in their position and they came so close. Dane is someone that I know and speak to away from the pitch and it was just a natural reaction that came from an empathy for how they must have been feeling. It was a huge honour and it’s an important award. Life isn’t just about being a cricketer. You need to be a good person as well. It was a huge surprise and a massive honour to be recognised for something like that.”

So, what’s it like to play in a World Cup final in front of a packed house at Lord’s?

“You dream about playing in a World Cup final and going on to win it. You always want to contribute but to be honest I would have been happy to take no wickets as long as we had won. Winning was the ultimate goal but to know that you’ve contributed to a win like that was something special. To wake up the next morning and to see it all over the front and back pages was amazing.”

After the World Cup your attention shifted to the KIA Super League with Western Storm. Just like the World Cup, the campaign didn’t get off to the best of starts did it?

“We obviously didn’t get off to the start that we wanted to against the Vipers. With Heather and I in the team it seemed that losing the first game but going on to win in the end was the story of the summer. Just as it was in the World Cup it was about picking ourselves up and going again. It was a big game. It was the tournament opener and it was on tv and it didn’t go the way we wanted it to. We’ve got a lot of fighters and scrappers in the squad and I think that really showed throughout the tournament.”

As England did during the World Cup, Western Storm seemed to have a number of players who really performed when they needed to.

“We’ve got a very well balanced squad and I think we were able to use our non-international players better than anyone else. They really stood up this year. Claire Nicholas was amazing throughout the whole tournament. We asked her to open the bowling with the new ball against international batters and she wasn’t phased at all. Sophie Luff played some brilliant innings to get us over the line as well. That was one of the most pleasing things for me this year, seeing those players performing so well. We also had Rachel Priest who is a quality player and was outstanding this year. To get the number of runs that she did at crucial times was superb.”

Did the fact that you played the Vipers in the final make the victory all the more sweet?

“You always want to beat the champions and after losing to them in the first game there was quite a nice synergy with the World Cup. It was the perfect end to the summer.”

 

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