A yard and a half!
Arguably already influenced by a fine, World Cup 2019’s finest hour was finally settled by that fine a margin at Lord’s yesterday; in fact, the official margin of victory was calculated on the countback of England’s 26 boundaries to Kane Williamson’s New Zealand’s 17.
On the right side of the 50-odd inches were the hosts, Eoin Morgan’s England, whose Jason Roy, fined rather than banned for his misbehaviour in the semi-final, produced a fine, accurate throw from deep midwicket. As New Zealand’s Martin Guptill dashed towards the batsman’s end to complete the 16th Super Over run his side needed to snatch the trophy for the first time, England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler dived to break the stumps.
The opener was a yard and a half short.
So, after 11 unsuccessful attempts, England, bridesmaids in three previous finals in 1979, 1987 and 1992, were finally crowned World Cup champions for the very first time. Despite the setbacks in mid-round robin stage, Morgan and his men had deservedly reaped their rewards for the four years of patient, careful, thoughtful planning, experimentation and execution that had followed the disappointment of the 2015 World Cup.
Man-of-the-Match Ben Stokes (84 off 98, 5 x 4, 2x 6) and Buttler (59 off 60, 6 x 4) twice earned the victory for their team, taking the 50-over innings patiently from an insecure 86 for 4 to within 46 of their 242 target before Buttler fell to Lockie Ferguson.
After the 50-over tie, the pair returned to blast 15 runs off Trent Boult in the Super Over, which the Kiwi pair of Guptill and Jimmy Neesham could only equal off Jofra Archer’s six balls.
But it could easily have turned out differently.
With his team still needing 22 runs off nine balls to overhaul New Zealand’s 241, Stokes, England’s major hero on the day, was caught at wide long-on by Trent Boult. The pacer was a yard inside the rope when he completed the catch. His momentum, however, took him into the boundary cushion before he could release the ball to a waiting Guptill.
And Stokes lived to fight another day… and to do it (again in the Super) over.
The margin was even smaller off the very first ball of the England innings. Roy, struck in front of leg stump by Boult, was adjudged to be not out by Umpire Marais Erasmus. The ball would have, the replay showed, hit leg stump, meaning that Roy would have had to go had Erasmus’ original decision been out.
Off the fourth ball of the last of the 50 overs, Stokes might well have been run out by Guptill’s accurate throw from deep mid-wicket had his bat not been in the precise position it was in as he hurtled stumps-wards to complete a risky second run. In the event, the ubiquitous English allrounder’s bat deflected the ball at an angle just acute enough to see it run past the fieldsman backing up.
And beat him to the third-man boundary.
Six runs—some say it should have been five—are added to the score! Just three needed off two balls.
England had managed to get to 227 for 8 by the start of that last over. And after Boult’s first two dot balls, Stokes had smashed the third ball over midwicket for six before the bonus six.
But Adil Rashid tried to hustle a second run off the next ball and was run out by yards at the striker’s end.
When Stokes again attempted to snatch a winning second run off the 300th legitimate ball of the game, Mark Wood failed to make his ground—by a yard! That left the scores tied and led to the historic first-ever Super Over in the World Cup.
The day had begun with Williamson calling right and deciding, despite the fact that moisture from overnight rain had delayed the scheduled start by 15 minutes, to take first strike.
Guptill (19 off 18) looked good during his brief stay but, not for the first time, Player-of-the-Series Williamson found him at the crease within the first powerplay. The man who, before the start of this game, had contributed almost 30% of his team’s total runs, was not the major contributor this time. That honour went to opener Henry Nicholls (55 off 77, 4 x 6), supported by wicketkeeper Tom Latham (47 off 56, 2 x 4, 1 x 6), the latter coming in at 118 for 3 and being seventh man out at 232.
Chris Woakes (9-0-37-3) and Liam Plunkett (10-0-42-2) were England’s best bowlers.
Roy (17), Bairstow (36), Root (7) and Morgan (9) were back in the pavilion at 86 for 4, the latter falling to a splendid diving catch by Lockie Ferguson running in from the cover boundary. Then came the patient Stokes/Buttler rebuilding effort, which Williamson did everything imaginable to break.
He kept the pressure up with his field placing and made creative use of his strike bowlers. From the Nursery End between overs 30 and 50, he bowled Boult (2), Matt Henry (2), Jimmy Neesham (1), Henry, (1), Neesham (1), Boult (1) Neesham (1) and Boult (2).
From the Pavilion End, it was the left-arm spin of Mitchell Santner for the first three, his only spell in the innings, then Ferguson (6) and Neesham (1). Ferguson finished with figures of 10-0-50-3 and Neesham 7-0-43-3.
In the end, Williamson’s unusual tactics paid rich dividends, getting his side to a Super Over and a chance to emerge on the right side of World Cup history.
It did not, however, pay the dividends for which the skipper had hoped, a World Cup win in the team’s second successive final.
It might have if Boult had been half-a-yard further away from the boundary cushion in that crucial penultimate over.
The final result means that, all over England tonight, led by the Barmy Army, thousands of the country’s patient, passionate cricket fans will presumably have been celebrating to the adapted strains of Mendelssohn’s March.
Here (at last!) comes the bride…