Advertisements

England wins the Cricket World Cup 2019 in the greatest ODI ever played

England were declared winners of the Cricket World Cup 2019 after a tied match and Super Over against New Zealand on account of the superior number of boundaries hit by the hosts.

Advertisements

That was, it seems fair to say, the greatest one-day cricket match ever played.

Forget Australia and South Africa in the semi-final of 1999, or their 800 collective runs in Johannesburg in 2006.

On one day in London, at the same time as Federer and Djokovic were locking up a fifth set 12-12 in the Wimbledon final to play a tie-break, England was tying a World Cup final at Lord’s.

This line of work can lend itself to hyberbole, but an hour later, sitting in the Thomas Lord suite at the ground where the ICC staff and media and volunteers are collectively coming to terms with what we’ve just seen, the proposition seems fair. This was the best. We’ve just seen it.

Any tie is notable. A tie in today’s spotlit glare would automatically be in the conversation for most extraordinary results. But a match that is tied twice, with two extra overs played after the regulation 50 a side, is something else.

Nor was it just about the result. It was the innings from Ben Stokes, a gradual crescendo from the depths of 4-86 to the final ball of the innings. It was the bowling from Colin de Grandhomme that asphyxiated England, the blows from Lockie Ferguson that blasted them out, and the outstanding catching.

It was about Jos Buttler’s blazing fifty, and Trent Boult’s death over with the match on the line. Then it was about Jimmy Neesham’s brilliant batting in the Super Over that came within a run of hauling the trophy to his side.

It was about the manic running, the fumbles, the fear, the elation, the pathos, the unfairness. It was about seeing every possible permutation of ways that a team can score a six, in a match where sixes were at a premium.

It was about a score of 241 versus 241, a fight from start to finish, and a finish so extraordinary that it will surely be replayed until the files corrupt and the tapes wear out. We’ll be seeing this match again in 50 years.

England started beautifully after New Zealand won the toss. Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer were outstanding off the top, nearly getting Henry Nicholls only to have the LBW overturned on review, then getting Martin Guptill after a second review that never had a chance.

But it was the less flashy seamer Liam Plunkett who did the most important work. First, he found the edge of New Zealand’s captain Kane Williamson, then trapped Ross Taylor LBW, before drawing a catch from Neesham.

Plunkett is the ultimate role-player, with wickets in the middle overs and clouting in the lower order. England left him out for four matches in the tournament and lost all but their game against Afghanistan. Every match Plunkett played, they won.

In the end 55 from Nicholls and a busy 47 from Tom Latham got New Zealand to 241. It looked absolutely like England’s game. As it did through their first five overs, cruising at a run a ball.

But it started to turn: Jason Roy caught behind from Matt Henry, Jonny Bairstow finally dragging on after edging past his stumps any number of times. The unlikely medium pace of de Grandhomme put the clamps on, bowling 10 overs straight for 25 runs on a slow pitch that helped his deliveries grip and stop.

He picked up Joe Root for a painful 7 from 30 balls, while fellow medium pacer Neesham got England’s captain Eoin Morgan for 9 off 22, to a brilliant catch from Ferguson running in from deep point to take it diving forward.

Now it felt like New Zealand’s match, as Stokes struggled to rotate the strike and only Buttler’s freer scoring kept them in it. Root and Morgan had sucked so many overs out of the game that the required rate went up past seven, on a pitch that gave little hope of matching that.

But the two pushed on to within 46 runs of their modest target, with 31 balls to face. At that point it was England’s game again. Until it crashed drastically the other way.

Buttler holed out, as did Woakes trying to get Stokes back on strike. Plunkett smashed 10 fast runs but fell trying for more.

The ball after it was where things started getting really wild. Needing 22 off nine balls, Stokes knew it was time to hit out. He lofted Neesham to wide long-on where Boult took the catch. But before Boult could think to lob the ball to the nearby Guptill, his back heel landed on the rope. Six runs.

A single followed, with Stokes nearly run out trying for a second before abandoning the plan. Archer had a free swing from the last ball of that over, so tried to use it but lost his stumps.

The last over had to go for 15 for England to win. Boult started it with two yorkers and two dot balls. Then a massive six over midwicket as Stokes got it clean. And now the second freak incident: a drag to deep midwicket, a throw from Guptill looking to run out Stokes returning for the second, and a ricochet from Stokes’s bat for four overthrows.

There was no intent from Stokes, who was just throwing himself across the crease to make his ground, but the laws as they stand allow no interpretation. Two plus four, and a couple of the least orthodox sixes imaginable in the space of seven balls.

The equation was three runs from two balls. But Stokes could only get a single, so Adil Rashid ran himself out without facing a ball to get Stokes back on strike. And the same the next ball, Mark Wood run out trying for the second run to win.

A tie. Stokes 84 not out and flying. So of course he returned for the Super Over, along with Buttler. The way this England team have approached their big hitting, they seemed tailor made for a Super Over. And they were, taking Boult for 15.

As if there hadn’t been drama enough, for England’s reply the ball was thrown to Jofra Archer. The man who started playing international cricket two months ago, in his 14th one-day match for England. No pressure.

Still, surely 15 would be too much for New Zealand, without the same artillery? Neesham took strike, and blasted Archer for the cleanest six of the day, long and strong off his pads and nearly hitting the old analogue scoreboard.

Guptill, the fastest runner in the team, sprinted manically from the other end as they ran a series of twos.

The atmosphere around the ground was beyond fevered. You could feel it, squish it in your hands, mould it into shapes. Supporters buried their faces in hands, turned away, turned back. Hated and loved it. There was celebration and desperation in the same moment.

I couldn’t stand still, pacing up and down the camera gantry beneath the press box. A young chap next to me went from chewing his nails and contorting his body in despair at each shot to dancing joyously when Sweet Caroline came over the public address.

With two balls to go, New Zealand needed three runs. Surely it was theirs.

But Archer went back to the short ball that has served him so well, since he sconed Hashim Amla of South Africa on the opening day. Neesham got a bottom edge and a hasty single.

Guptill was on strike, the New Zealand opener who was the highest World Cup run-scorer in 2015, but has been in miserable form in 2019. For so long New Zealand will wonder what might have been. If Boult had known the rope was there. If Guptill had thrown to the non-striker’s end. If Williamson had taken on the Super Over himself.

There wasn’t enough on the last shot. Deep midwicket sprinted in. The throw went to the right end. Guptill, returning, was short by a yard. The scores were tied for a second time, at 15 runs apiece, and England won on countback by boundaries scored.

It was on reflection a strange and arbitrary method. New Zealand never lost the match. It tied it twice. After all that, surely it would have been fair and right to say the trophy should be shared.

But whoever wrote that clause into the tournament rules would hardly have envisaged that it would ever be invoked. It was the amazing fortune of all involved to be there when it was.

Because despite that off-key note, the overall sense was that this had been one of the most extraordinary sporting contests ever staged.

Every twist, every turn. Every piece of skill, every human error. The nerves and the holding of nerve, the waiting and the elation.

Not everything needs to be ranked, but this was the greatest. It was clear in every moment and will be every time it gets replayed.

One match, one trophy, two teams who should both be remembered as champions.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: