As the curtain fell on the extraordinary international career of Jhulan Goswami, this cannot have been how she envisioned leaving the field for the final time.
Carried aloft on the shoulders of her teammates, having played a key part in the victory that secured India a famous 3-0 ODI series win over England, the legendary seamer was offered a standing ovation by various corners of Lord’s, but cannot have heard much of the applause, it being largely drowned out by boos after the most controversial of endings to this series.
Chasing a modest 170 after Kate Cross’ fine four-for-26, England, in pursuit of what would have been a consolation victory, looked to have doomed themselves with a top and middle-order collapse. They had been 65-for-seven and in desperate strife when Charlie Dean walked to the crease, but the No9 batted beautifully to drag the home side back into contention. She was unbeaten on 47, shepherding the rest of the tail to within 17 runs of an unlikely triumph, when she was run-out backing up at the non-striker’s end by Deepti Sharma.
India’s players immediately convened, and closed ranks, seemingly in discussion. The debate beyond their circle had already begun and will rage for some time, despite the MCC’s move to normalise the dismissal within its laws earlier this year.
Sharma shrugged. Dean was in tears. But after the big screen - as reluctantly as a piece of inanimate visual technology can - confirmed her dismissal, the Indian huddle turned to hugs and the England batter strode across the wicket and shook hands. And with that did end the international summer.
Until then, with India’s series victory already assured, Goswami’s send-off had been the story. The leading wicket-taker in the history of women’s international cricket confirmed her expected retirement ahead of this finale, calling time on a 20-year career two months shy of her 40th birthday, and marked it with two farewell wickets; that of Alice Capsey, in the midst of England’s batting implosion, then, in her final over, that of Cross, one ball after passing the outrageous milestone 10,000 deliveries in ODI cricket, as India seemingly closed on a comfortable victory.
Earlier, Cross had been magnificent with the new ball, taking three powerplay wickets including the prized scalp of Harmanpreet Kaur, who was dismissed for the first time in the series, following unbeaten scores of 74 and 143 in the first two matches with a paltry four here.
Cross would eventually complete the set of India’s top four batters with the wicket of Smriti Mandhana soon after she had reached fifty, but Sharma’s 68* off 106 gave India something to bowl at, though the 25-year-old had little chance to accelerate as India’s tail-end trio all fell without scoring.
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
They included Goswami, presented with a signed shirt from England’s players ahead of the match and afforded a guard of honour as she emerged to bat in her 204th and final ODI, though the respect did not last long as she was bowled first ball by Freya Kemp, the teenager not born until three years after her debut.
The biggest plus of the summer for England has been the integration of a core group of youngsters who could become fixtures in this team for a decade or more. Kemp (17), Alice Capsey (18), Issy Wong (20) and Lauren Bell (21) have all made debuts across multiple formats, while Sophia Dunkley has taken a more prominent role, batting up the order.
Coinciding with Anya Shrubsole’s retirement, Heather Knight’s hip injury (the skipper has not played since June) and Katherine Brunt’s white-ball resting after signing off on her Test career, there has been an accelerated, but necessary changing of the guard, amplified by the absence of experienced all-rounder Nat Sciver from this series, on a mental-health break since the end of the Hundred.
Though there are T20 World Cups in 2023 and 2024, the next 50-over edition - the blue-riband - is still three years away and, looking ahead to that cycle, this feels like a sensible time for renewal. Nonetheless, results here and now have been middling, for all this one was confirmed in highly contentious fashion.
After a (customarily) drawn Test, there were six wins in six across both white-ball formats against South Africa at the start of the summer, but England’s failure to trouble the novelty of a Commonwealth Games podium in Birmingham has now been backed up by a first home series defeat to anyone other than Australia since 2007 and only a second home ODI series whitewash since 2001. With a T20 World Cup in South Africa less than six months away, there is work to do for whoever replaces outgoing head coach Lisa Keightley in the autumn.
The rise of India, meanwhile, is women’s cricket’s great inevitability, but this summer appears to have showcased an acceleration in that, too. As well as beating England on home soil, India really ought to have won Commonwealth gold, blowing a glorious opportunity against Australia in the final, and probably should’ve beaten the world champions in the group stage as well.
The advent of a women’s IPL, confirmed as still on track for launch early next year by BCCI president Sourav Ganguly this week, will only quicken the progress of the sport’s coming force.
By the time England and Australia meet in their landmark Ashes series next summer - announced this week to include an historic five-day Test and a first Ashes T20 here at Lord’s - they will do so with any illusions about their perceived (and relatively one-sided) duopoly on the women’s game shattered.
Goswami said this week that the one regret of her two-decade long career lay in India’s failure to win a World Cup. In one format or another, it will surely not be long.