After 44-year wait, England win most sensational final in cricket World Cup history

England's Eoin Morgan and teammates celebrate winning the world cup with the trophy at Lord's, London, Britain on July 14, 2019 (Reuters)
Updated 15 July 2019

After 44-year wait, England win most sensational final in cricket World Cup history

  • Arguably the greatest one day international game ever was tied after the regular 50 overs, and also after two Super Overs
  • A thrashing from Kiwis four years ago inspired England to radically change their approach to ODI cricket with aim of winning this series

KARACHI: 241 vs 241; 15 vs 15; 27 vs 16. The greatest World Cup final of all time and perhaps the greatest ODI game ever was tied after the regular 50 overs, and after two Super Overs. The deciding tie-breaker, the number of boundaries hit, was the only area where England and New Zealand, the two finalists were separated, and in the face of all the incredible drama leading up to it, this difference felt almost arbitrary and abstract. Nevertheless, England finally managed to lift the trophy for the first time, as New Zealand ended empty-handed for the second consecutive final, despite not really having lost this one.
Four years ago, an almighty thrashing at the hands of New Zealand had inspired England to radically change their approach to ODI cricket, with the aim being to lift this trophy. Since then, England were seen as the presumptive champions, with their ulta-aggressive batting seeming to be redefining the sport and handing them huge wins. But in a tournament defined by adaptability and resilience, New Zealand have shown how they’ve evolved from the model England tried to replicate. Embracing the bat-first, bat-safe tactics that have defined this World Cup, Kane Williamson chose to bat here after winning the toss.
England’s bowlers didn’t quite grab the initiative at first, but then Liam Plunkett underlined his value to the hosts by doing what he does best — plucking wickets in the middle. England couldn’t quite run through though, and the entire Kiwi top seven got into double figures. This in itself was a minor miracle, given their repeated failures so far, and the rare failure for captain Kane Williamson here, who had otherwise rescued the side repeatedly. A target of 242 was always going to be challenging in a World Cup final, particularly on a pitch that analytics website Cricviz rated as the eighth-toughest of the tournament to bat on.
The consistent complaint against England’s new-look side is that they tend to be flat-track bullies, and shock losses to Pakistan and Sri Lanka on slightly challenging tracks had underlined this point. They looked back at it here, as the Kiwis struck consistently to remove the top order cheaply, reducing them to 86-4. Player of the match Ben Stokes and Joss Buttler then put on a match-defining partnership to bring England to the brink, but Stokes was eventually left alone with 15 to get in the final over. Like the Kiwis would in the Super Over to follow, Stokes fell one run short of the winning target, but some would argue that he should have never gotten there at all. With 9 still to get, a throw from the outfield was deflected off Stokes’ bat to the boundary and England got six runs where they were struggling to get two. As journalist Osman Samiuddin later tweeted, “I have never seen a single slice of luck change a game like that.” Williamson, who resolutely avoided making excuses after the match, did pause to reflect how “that [Stokes deflection] was a bit of a shame, wasn’t it? You just hope it doesn’t happen in moments like that.”
It feels incredible that a four year project by one of the sport’s richest cricket boards that involved so many radical changes was ultimately beholden to a lucky ricochet. In many ways, England’s cricket board had long bankrupted the future for cashing in the present. It’s been fourteen years since cricket was available on public television in the country, causing such an alarming fall in popularity for the sport that many in the country had no clue about this match. England had also ruthlessly developed a small elite of top performers, and not cared about developing a lot of backup, looking to create a winning team immediately. While they had copied a lot of New Zealand’s ideas, they beefed it up with money and clout, being able to offer citizenships to players eligible for other countries as well.
This power has often bred a sense of petulance within this side, as was evidenced by outbursts by English players over the pitches not being batting-friendly enough this tournament. It reflected a mindset that unless things were done to their advantage, they weren’t going to be happy.
With the gripping, tense final being broadcast on free-to-air TV, one English journalist lamented over the pitch for the final as well, saying “I’m sure there are good reasons and I accept this is absorbing cricket but... bearing in mind this is on free to air and we’re trying to reach a new audience — who you’d think would be gripped more by boundaries than cagey accumulation — I think it’s a pretty disappointing pitch.”
Indeed for all its refreshing commitment to eradicating the traditional negativity and passivity of English ODI cricket, this side would feel like bullies at times, wanting things in their favor before they could be good. Their stubborn commitment to attacking cricket even as this tournament demanded adaptability spoke to a pig-headedness but in the final reckoning, it was also what made the difference.
Handing the Super Over to Jofra Archer, a 24-year-old playing his 14th ODI, was a move old English sides would have considered blasphemous. Leaving aside his race and English cricket’s attendant problems with those, he was surely too young and inexperienced. But as Stokes said, “We backed the new kid, Jofra Archer, backed the talent that he’s got, and he showed the world today.”
Languid, lithe and composed, Archer has already been an online sensation for his cricket-mad Twitter account, which seemed to predict events before they happened. But this was not about memes and retweets — this was arguably the most important over in English limited overs cricket history; the most important over for the country that invented this sport, that had lost three World Cup finals, and that had staked everything for this one trophy.
Jofra started terribly and almost gave the game away, as New Zealand looked to chase 16 runs, knowing a tie would lose them the cup. But he wrested back some control, found his composure, and cramped Martin Guptill on the last ball enough that the man who had easily bested the fielders twice in a row was now found inches short as he got run out. It wasn’t how England would have imagined it, but they trusted the approach that had gotten them here so far. They weren’t let down.
For player of the tournament Kane Williamson, who had at times dragged his side to the knockouts before they really came to life, it just wasn’t meant to be. “Look, it certainly wasn’t just one extra run. So many small parts in that match that could have gone either way as we saw. So many parts to it.”
An incredible final for a memorable World Cup, which above all was a reminder of cricket’s delightfully capricious nature. A few weeks of rain had threatened to derail years of preparations and upend the recent evolution of batting. There are few sports that can turn on their heads over such small margins. And the final of this tournament was build on the finest, smallest margins of all. May we all see such cricket again.


Nadal, Kyrgios advance as freak weather hits Australian Open

Updated 23 January 2020

Nadal, Kyrgios advance as freak weather hits Australian Open

  • The weather-disrupted tournament on Thursday was hit by dirty rain which left courts muddy and unplayable.

MELBOURNE: Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios reached the Australian Open third round on Thursday after the weather-disrupted tournament faced a new challenge: Dirty rain which left courts muddy and unplayable.

After a day of cleanup operations and delays, Australia’s Kyrgios fought his way past Frenchman Gilles Simon in four sets and Wimbledon champion Simona Halep stamped her class with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Britain’s Harriet Dar, while Belinda Bencic knocked out former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko — she was playing despite the sudden death of her father this month.

Nadal, a 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 winner over Argentina’s Federico Delbonis, miscued a shot that hit a ballgirl in the head, but he melted hearts when he apologized and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“I was so scared for her, honestly,” the 19-time Grand Slam winner said. “The ball was quick and straight on the head. She’s a very brave girl.”

Kyrgios, increasingly popular with home fans after his fundraising efforts for Australia’s bushfire crisis, was cruising at two sets up when he dropped the third set and with it, his composure.

But just when it looked like he would suffer one of his trademark implosions, he rallied for a 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 victory.

“I definitely lost my way a little bit ... but I decided to refocus,” Kyrgios said of his mini-meltdown in the third set. “I could have gone to a very dark place in the fourth set but I put it away.”

Kyrgios and Nadal stay on course for a fourth-round clash and the next instalment in their grudge match after the Aussie hit back at criticism from the “super salty” Spaniard last year.

Their victories followed a day of upheaval caused by the dirty rain, the latest weather problem at a tournament which has contended with bushfire smoke, heavy downpours and strong wind.

Rain mixed with a dust storm coated the Melbourne Park facilities in a fine layer of mud which took hours to clean and made many outside courts temporarily unusable.

As action resumed Alexander Zverev, another man who has a running feud with Kyrgios, showed signs of a return to form as he downed Egor Gerasimov 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 7-5.

The German seventh seed has been practicing up to seven hours a day after a winless ATP Cup and the hard work paid off as he safely reached the third round.

However, fifth seed Dominic Thiem had a scare as he was taken to five sets by Australia’s 140th-ranked Alex Bolt before recovering his composure to win 6-2, 5-7, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-2.