Fascinating nail-biters. One-sided victories. Depressing washouts. The 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup had a lot for the viewer during seven action-packed weeks before the final between England and New Zealand at Lord’s. England were being mostly spoken of as favourites, but cricket fans of the neutral kind were hoping to see a keenly contested match.
And, what a thriller it turned out to be. The 50-over contest ended in a tie. The match progressed to the Super Over stage. England scored 15 runs, which New Zealand matched, ending in another tie. England were declared winners on boundary count - 26-17 in their favour - and they lifted the coveted trophy. What made the experience more special is that they won the World Cup at home.
Visitors at Lord’s were gifted with more excitement than they would have imagined. Aggression with the bat on a tough surface was rarely seen. Top-quality bowling from both sides posed tricky challenges for the batsmen.
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson won the toss and elected to bat. After restricting their rivals to 241/8, England began their innings with Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow. New Zealand had their first breakthrough when the dangerous Roy (20-ball 17) was caught behind off a moving Matt Henry delivery. Joe Root (30-ball 7) was the next to go with the score at 59.
Bairstow (55-ball 36) inside-edged a Lockie Ferguson delivery onto his stumps when the score was 71. Eoin Morgan (22-ball 9) followed, out to a spectacular Ferguson catch on the point boundary off James Neesham. The scoreboard now read 86/4.
Was the grand English dream of being crowned champs at home dying a slow death?
Ben Stokes and Jos Butler negotiated the Kiwi attack sensibly, with Butler (60-ball 59), the aggressor, looking in great touch until he holed out to Tim Southee fielding at sweeper cover. The fifth-wicket partnership yielded 110 runs. With the score reading 196 /5 in the 45th over when Butler was dismissed, England seemed vulnerable once again.
With wickets falling at the other end, it was left to Stokes (98-ball 84 not out) to win it for England. That didn’t happen. Mark Wood, his partner, was the last person to get out off the last Trent Boult delivery of the 50th over with England’s score at 241. Wood’s dismissal, resulting in a tie, took the match to Super Over.
Boult (0/67) had a rather ordinary day, which hurt New Zealand. Henry (1/40), the best bowler on show, had the English batsmen in all kinds of trouble. Ferguson was terrific (3/50), picking up crucial wickets when his team needed it. Neesham (3/43 in his 7 overs) went for runs, but he compensated by picking up three wickets. Colin de Grandhomme's (1/25) economical supporting act was an important spell that helped New Zealand restrict England.
England nominated Butler and Stokes as openers for the Super Over. Boult was nominated for bowling, which was a surprise. The batsmen scored 15 runs, setting a substantial target for New Zealand.
Jofra Archer was tasked with bowling the Super Over for England. New Zealand, who had sent Martin Guptill and Neesham to bat, ended up scoring 15. They could not get the winning run, and thus lost the match – and the trophy – on boundary count.
Earlier in the day, New Zealand won the toss and elected to bat. Several batsmen got starts, but nobody played a knock that was substantial enough to help them post an above-par score. Henry Nicholls, the highest scorer, made 55 off 77 deliveries. He and Kane Williamson, New Zealand’s Captain Magnificent, shared a 74-run second-wicket partnership. Williamson looked good during his 53-ball 30, but that was too little from the batsman who needed to get a big one on the big day.
One crucial dismissal was that of Ross Taylor (31-ball 15), who was struck on the pads by a Mark Wood delivery angling in from the wide of the crease. Ball tracking showed that the ball would have missed the top of the leg stump. Unfortunately for New Zealand, they could not review the decision since Guptill had consumed that option already.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Tom Latham’s knock (56-ball 47) was a mix of good and tentative strokes, but it played a big role in taking New Zealand to their final score of 241/8.
Except for Ben Stokes, who bowled three overs and gave away 20 runs, all the other English bowlers were right on the money. Chris Woakes (3/37) and Liam Plunkett (3/42) had the best to show in the wickets column. Jofra Archer (1/42) and Mark Wood (1/49) troubled the batsmen, too, while Adil Rashid (0/39 off 8 overs) was mostly accurate without making much of an impact on the batsmen.
The final was as keenly contested as one might have hoped to see. While New Zealand didn’t win the trophy, cricket was the real winner.
Another World Cup has come to an end. The quadrennial tournament’s next edition will be played in 2023. As of now, the world has a new winner in England who will celebrate their success for a while.