“England have won the World Cup! By the barest of margins. By the barest of all margins!”
These were the words of Ian Smith during the Super Over in the final of the 2019 Cricket World Cup. It was indeed by the barest of margins. Never any tournament has ever witnessed such a moment. And it was the second tournament for the final to have a Super Over in case the match is tied, the first being the previous tournament in 2015.
England made it to the final after 27 years. They last played the final in 1992. Before that, in 1987 and 1979. For New Zealand, it was their second successive final. None of them have ever won a 50 over World Cup. And it was since 1996 the world witnessed two non-tournament winners playing the final.
After a roller coaster group stage two-times World Cup winners India and five-times World Cup winners Australia easily made it into the top four while England and New Zealand had a run of their money, with the latter qualifying due to much better run-rate than Pakistan. New Zealand had held their nerves in the semi-final against India while England won a comprehensive game against Australia, who for the first time, lost the semi-final in the World Cup, to set up the final.
But let’s forget about that. So what exactly do we remember in that final? The dream finally coming true, or the tragedy of overthrow error? Even after the main innings was done, we all found out that it wasn’t over yet as we needed another innings to get the results. Again, that was not enough. We needed another method to separate the teams and it was that boundary count rule. Something no one ever thought about it happening.
It started in London morning on a gloomy day. New Zealand won the toss and elected to bat first. They lost Guptill but the skipper Kane Williamson, who was in sublime form, and Henry Nicholls steady the ship. The way they played, it felt that they would be posting a total around about 270s, given how the last half of the tournament went, chasing generally became a little difficult.
The English bowlers broke through and kept them under check. They managed to keep them at 241. But the England bowlers were not that disciplined as they conceded 30 extras, despite bowling well.
240 would be a good total to chase. But the New Zealand bowlers were all over them in the first half of the innings. They were 86-4, until “he” entered. With Ben Stokes, and pairing with Jos Buttler, they pushed England back in the game. Together, they put on 110 runs. And, given the way those two were playing, it felt that they took England to victory themselves.
But again, another twist. Buttler’s dismissal pushed England. They needed 45 runs in the final five overs. Ben Stokes managed to squeeze the remaining runs by taking the strike. At the 49th over, he was nearly caught by Trent Boult, but only it was spilled at the boundary for six. Then at the 50th over, that particular incident happened. There was an overthrow which gave England six additional runs. However, there shouldn’t be six. It should have been five.
But two final run-outs ended the innings in a tie. Never had this happened before? Not even in T20 World Cup finals. After so long, there had to be another innings in the form of Super Over.
England batted again. Stokes and Buttler scored a couple of boundaries, a couple of singles, a two and a three that brought their final total to 15. Trent Boult didn’t show any threat to them. New Zealand had a job on their hands.
Guptill and James Neesham New Zealand were given a freebie first up. A wide from Archer. Then the pair took a couple before Neesham smashed one for a maximum. A couple of twos gave New Zealand needed only 3 off 2. Neesham took a single to leave it in the hands of Guptill.
Martin Guptill began the tournament with a bang, scoring 73* against Sri Lanka in their opener. But he managed only 113 in the next nine innings, including a couple of ducks. It was on his hands to give New Zealand a victory. Guptill clipped the ball to the leg side and ran very hard. He was struggling to take the second run. It was too much to cover. Way too much.
For the first time in their history, and after playing four finals in 44 years of the ODI World Cup, England has finally won the cup. As Ian Smith said; “Absolute ecstasy for England. Agony. Agony for New Zealand.”
It was no doubt happiness was overwhelming for the home side, the rightful no.1 ODI team. It was a brilliant turn around for them. From the disaster in the 2015 World Cup in Adelaide to heartbreak in Kolkata in 2016 to being crushed at Cardiff in 2017, they finally did it.
What about New Zealand? Two finals, two losses. But this one would hurt them more. The rule was ridiculous. Just what would have happened had they announced that the tournament was shared. Just what was wrong at it? Was it necessary that there had to be only one winner? These are the questions we will never know the answers to.
Ben Stokes was the hero with the bat. The man of the final. Kane Williamson was adjusted as the player of the tournament. It would have been a fitting end had the tournament been shared. Because no side deserved to lose that day.
Whatever happened in London that day, it was full of drama. If we look back at previous finals, the closet we can remember was 1987 final, where England lost the final by seven runs to Australia. If we look back at close ODI contests, matches like the 1999 World Cup semi-final, the 434 v 438, the pool game between Australia and New Zealand in 2015, or that Miandad six, this game will go down as not only the greatest World Cup game of all time but also as the greatest ODI match of all time.