At the end of the most incredible Cricket World Cup final ever, hosts England were crowned champions at Lord’s on Sunday. In a classic contest, there was absolutely nothing to separate both England and New Zealand. The match ended in a tie and the Super Over too ended in a tie, with England adjudged winners on the number of boundaries hit both in the innings and the Super Over.
It was the proverbial ecstasy for England and agony for the Kiwis who finished runners-up for the second successive edition. In the end, it was the sheer doggedness of Ben Stokes and dame luck which meant England broke their final jinx in their fourth attempt.
Chasing a target of 242 on a tricky surface, which provided assistance to the bowlers whole day, England appeared to be in all sorts of trouble at 86/4. However, Stokes and Jos Buttler revived their hopes with a 110-run stand for the fifth wicket. Once Buttler (59) was brilliantly caught by substitute Tim Southee off Lockie Ferguson’s bowling it was left to Stokes to take England home.
New Zealand could have shut the door on England in the penultimate over when Trent Boult stepped on the boundary line while trying to catch a mishit by Stokes off Jimmy Neesham. However, with England needing 15 runs off the final four balls of the final, Stokes (84 not out) hit a six off Boult to bring down the equation to nine off three. England enjoyed a moment of great fortune off the next ball as a throw from Martin Guptill in the deep deflected off Stokes’ bat to the boundary, which meant they got six instead of two. Though Boult and the Kiwi fielders did really to effect two run outs off the last two balls and take the final into a Super Over, England pipped them on the number of boundaries to clinch the title.
It was redemption for England and Stokes as well. Four years ago, they failed to make it past the group stage of the World Cup and bowed out of the competition after suffering a shock defeat at the hands of Bangladesh. Since then England have revamped their one-day team and became the No. 1 side coming into the marquee event. They stuck with Eoin Morgan as the captain, adopted a fearless approach to the game and packed their side with powerful batsmen. The introduction of rookie pacer Jofra Archer just before the World Cup gave them a cutting edge to their attack.
Yet, it was a struggle for England in the early part of tournament. They suffered unexpected reversals at the hands of Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Another loss to arch-rivals Australia meant England had to win their final two league game against India and New Zealand to make sure of a place in the semifinals. The return of swashbuckling opener Jason Roy and his association with Jonny Bairstow at the top of the order made all the difference. The two were involved in successive century partnerships against India, New Zealand, and later Australia in the semifinals as England entered the final for the first time since 1992.
Stokes proves a point
Stokes had failed to defend 18 runs in the final over of the 2016 World T20 final against the West Indies in Kolkata as Carlos Brathwaite smashed four sixes on the trot to secure an unlikely triumph. Further, the all-rounder courted controversy after he was suspended by the England and Wales Cricket Board for a brawl outside a night club in 2017. These setbacks have only made Stokes a better player as his exploits in the World Cup prove. He was the man-of-the-match in their win over South Africa in the opening game. Stokes was the one batsman to fight it out in the losses to Lanka and Australia. And on the big day at Lord’s, he was there to save England and end years of disappointment.
Morgan kept his cool even when the going got tough for England. He believed his team could go all the way and his players responded well under pressure to cap a fairly-tale campaign.
As England get the accolades for their triumph, Kane Williamson’s Black Caps captured the heart of every cricket lover with their never-say-die approach and demeanour on the field. The Kiwis suffered a slump in form towards the end of the league phase and made it to the semifinals only on the basis of net run rate ahead of Pakistan as the fourth-placed team. The Black Caps stunned favourites India in the semifinals as they successfully defended 239. They almost did an encore in the final before running into Stokes. New Zealand had the perfect team combination for the conditions, were simply magnificent on the field and were well led by Williamson. In the end they fell agonisingly short, but the Black Caps can be truly proud of their heroics. It was indeed a triumph for the game at the Home of Cricket.