England pride themselves on being a tight-knit group and they have had to be at the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022.
Even when they sat on zero points after three games, the team did not doubt each other or themselves and, after wrestling back some positive momentum, they are on the verge of a fifth World Cup title.
England will take on old rivals Australia in the final and it will require all their team spirit to defeat a side that they have not beaten in ODIs since 2017.
Their turnaround from a stuttering start, which featured a defeat to Australia in their opening game, has been led by England’s bowlers, which has the perfect balance of youth and experience.
Seamers Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole are the only double World Cup winners in the tournament, having won in 2009 and 2017.
The duo have taken 10 wickets between them in this tournament, with Shrubsole passing 100 ODI wickets in the win over India, while Brunt will move to 35 World Cup games on Sunday, the fourth-most.
But it is spin that has dominated the wicket-taking for England and 22-year-old Sophie Ecclestone has earned a tournament-high 20 wickets, with Charlie Dean, who is a year younger, sitting joint-fifth with 11.
And Ecclestone credits her teammates with helping keep her mood up, particularly as she recovered from her worst ODI bowling figures of zero for 77 in the opener.
She said: “I’ve got to play with a smile on my face. That’s when I bowl my best, when I don’t take things too seriously.
“When I’m down or not had a good over, someone needs to come up to me and make me laugh and I will be much better then.
“I think Katherine’s the same, once you get a smile and she’s not angry or she’s not frustrated she’s back to her best.”
While England fell just 12 runs short in their chase of Australia’s 310 in the opening game, partnerships have often been hard to come by for the 2017 champions.
Danni Wyatt’s 116-run stand with Sophia Dunkley for the fifth wicket in their semi-final clash with South Africa was England’s highest of the tournament and came as they rebuilt from 126 for four.
Nat Sciver is England’s most successful batter with 288 runs to sit eighth in the run-scoring charts, with Dunkley two places and 19 runs behind her.
Wyatt has undergone a resurgence since being promoted up the order from seven to opener in place of Lauren Winfield-Hill.
The right-hander fell cheaply against South Africa and India in the group stages but came good against Pakistan, before scoring a maiden World Cup century to send England to the final.
It is a recurring theme for England to show faith in players who have delivered before, Brunt’s wealth of experience came to the fore against Pakistan as she took three for 17.
When England lost to South Africa, their third defeat in a row, other teams’ results then became important to their progression.
But as Captain Heather Knight led the rebuild, the focus was always internal.
She said: “It was just about remaining as calm as we could, not panicking, realizing that a lot of things that were going wrong were in our control.
“Little things like fielding, bowling extras, poor shot selection and they were things that we could change pretty quickly.
“I remember we had a recovery session in Mount Maunganui the morning after we’d lost against South Africa and had obviously lost a third one, and just trying to keep everyone happy and everyone positive.
“I think the girls did that brilliantly. Sometimes, you have to force it a little bit when we’re in a bad situation.
“But the fact that we’re very close as a group, I’m really proud actually of the fact that we’ve really stuck together.
“We’ve had some tough times on this trip so the fact that we’ve stayed together speaks volumes about this group and the character that we’ve got to turn it around and be in a position where we’ve got a chance to go and win it tomorrow.”
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