Women's World Cup final: England's band of sisters ready for final

By Stephan ShemiltBBC Sport
England women
England will meet India in the final of the Women's World Cup at Lord's on Sunday

Tammy Beaumont has lots of spare keys for her house because Alex Hartley managed to lose three sets on three separate nights out.

When Katherine Brunt was in Australia, unable to sleep and in tears because of a back injury, it was Nat Sciver who walked her around a Melbourne park at 5am.

Fran Wilson has a reputation for leaving things in hotel rooms, while Laura Marsh is called upon to fix anything that breaks, or assemble flat-pack furniture.

Taken in isolation, these things aren't particularly remarkable. Collectively they help paint a picture of an England women's side that is less of a cricket team and more a group of friends that just happen to be playing in a World Cup final on Sunday.

Some of them would take it further than that. Fast bowler Brunt says the squad is a family. Loughborough, where most of them live, is like a cricketing community.

Brunt is well placed to comment. At 32, she is not only the oldest member of the England squad, but also the owner of a house that is home to four other England internationals (and Bailey the dog, who has his own Twitter account).external-link


Inside 'Alan' (the name given to the house because of the street it is on), Wilson is the chef, with Beth Langston as her assistant. Sciver is the last one to be ready, while Amy Jones spends the longest in the bathroom. Brunt, the mother of the house, admits she has been known as "matron".

"I don't want to be seen as the bossy mum, but I like to live in a clean space," said Brunt. "They feel like they are still at university.

"We have lots of fun, we live and train together, all of us get on so well. I sometimes think: 'Katherine, when are you going to grow up?'.

"It's quite harmonious, we never argue."

All of that harmony, companionship and sisterhood was needed when Jones, a 24-year-old wicketkeeper, was the only member of 'Alan' left out of the World Cup squad.

"There were tears," said Brunt. "At first, you're chuffed because you have made it into the squad, but five seconds later you are feeling awful for your best mate.

"We've tried to give her perspective, to make her realise that her time will come. She also loves food, so we fed her with her favourite meals to keep her mind off it for as long as we could."

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Anyone who saw the heart-stopping semi-final victory over South Africa on Tuesday will know England are an emotional team.

Soon after taking the job as coach, Mark Robinson was required to give each player an appraisal. Tears became so regular he got tissues for his desk.

Brunt cried when she presented fellow pace bowler Langston with her first one-day international cap in Sri Lanka last year. She wept once more when her father was on hand to make a presentation to mark her 100th appearance earlier in the World Cup.

"It's a strength and a weakness," said Robinson, who made the move from coaching Sussex in the men's game at the end of 2015.

"The girls are very together in a genuine, supportive way. They will share the pain of a team-mate and that can be a burden, but you wouldn't swap it. We have a motto of 'never leaving a sister behind'."


Robinson has not only had to adjust his own methods, but also guide England into the world of professionalism.

Full-time contracts arrived in 2014, but so too did greater demands on time, fitness, attitude and results.

"This group of players are the first group of professionals we have had and they are learning on their feet about the good and the bad of it," he said.

"They are all going through highs and lows - more training, more expectation, more press. It's bonded them together to share those experiences."

There is a balance to be struck, though. Professionalism can be all-consuming, especially when on tour, so Robinson has attempted to make sure the players see more than the nets and their hotel rooms.

Film nights (themed on the country they happen to be in), table tennis tournaments and quizzes (hosted by spinner Danni Hazell) are arranged, while time spent with family is encouraged both abroad and at home.

"One of my first games, in South Africa, the parents of two of the players were there," said Robinson.

"I asked them if they had gone to speak to them yet and they said 'no, are we allowed?' I had to explain that of course they were, their parents had travelled all that way to see them.

"We want all the team to have a connection to the things that keep you grounded and give you a sense of perspective."

Archive: Danni Wyatt's West Indies Tour Diary

Family time is harder for batter Beaumont, whose parents live in the United States.

They travelled to the World Cup in India in 2013, but didn't see her play a game. Now, after 18 months during which Beaumont has established herself in the England side, the opener's excitement is obvious when she explains her mum has been at every match in this tournament.

When her parents aren't in the country, Beaumont can rely on that close-knit England squad of players and staff.

"Within Loughborough it is like a second family for me," she said. "The coaches are like uncles. I had to ring Ali Maiden, the assistant coach, when I had a problem with my car. I had a puncture and I didn't know what to do."

Beaumont forms an impressive opening partnership with Lauren Winfield, a friend since their days at university. On tour they can be found on adjacent sunloungers; at home they can be found on the golf course.

Even that, though, cannot prevent the rivalry among elite sportswomen. Both have separately complained to Robinson about the other hogging the strike when they bat together.

And that, perhaps, is the England women in microcosm. Team-mates, housemates, professional athletes, competitors and family. Come Sunday, they could be World Cup winners, too.

"They have great values and morals," said Robinson. "They aren't spoiled by money or ego and they are very genuine.

"I find them very humbling, because they are lovely."

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