Champika Fernando at Lord's
What a match. No World Cup final has created as much excitement as the one played at Lord's on Sunday between England and New Zealand. After a gripping performance by both teams, England prevailed, clinching the Cricket World Cup for the first time ever, with the winner being decided on the number of boundaries after a tied match and a tied Super-Over.
New Zealand needed to score two runs off the final ball of the Super-Over bowled by Jofra Archer but managed just one, as Martin Guptill was run-out at the wicket-keepers end. Wild celebrations erupted in the English camp but New Zealand were in tears, with some players seemingly inconsolable.
It may not be the best way to decide a winner in such a high profile tournament, particularly after such electrifying performances by both teams. That's how the regulations go. Truth be told, no team deserved to lose in this final. They battled tooth-and-nail, right through the match, then in the Super-Over.
It was a cruel end to New Zealand’s campaign. The team played exceptional cricket across the seven-week tournament, displaying consistent commitment and dedication on the field but it boiled down to luck. England and New Zealand both waited for this moment ever since the World Cup was introduced in 1975. Neither would have expected such a nail-biter.
For England, the win was proof of four years of solid commitment and near uninterrupted dominance in one-day cricket. This paid a rich dividend, bringing them a title none off their predecessors conquered.
It may not be the finish England had hoped for after showing sheer brilliance in their last three games, including with a convincing eight-wicket win over Australia in the semi-finals. But New Zealand fought and fought before going down. They might have made it, when England still needed 15 runs off the last over. But Ben Stokes, rightly adjudged Man of the Match for his unbeaten 84, played a gem of an innings to take it to the wire.
The 241 runs England required to tie weren't achieved comfortably. New Zealand threatened to gatecrash their party with some exceptional bowling upfront, reducing the hosts to 86 for 4. But England held their nerve.
New Zealand had a win in the bag for the most part of England’s chase. But destiny seemed to work against them. For ]instance, with 22 runs required off the last nine balls, Trent Boult nearly pulled off a brilliant catch at the edge of the boundary off Ben Stokes but touched the boundary ropes before throwing it to Martin Guptill.
Had he taken it, it would be New Zealand celebrating their first cup. England needed 15 runs off the last over to win, and with two dot balls in the first two deliveries, New Zealand were in complete command. But a six in the next ball, and another six runs off the fourth ball--which included four over throws--brought the equation down to three off two balls, eventually ending in a tie when Mark Wood was run out attempting a the second run off the final ball.
The same fate befell New Zealand in the Super Over. Chasing sixteen to win, they were well in command, needing five runs off the last ball. An attempt to get a second run to steal victory off the last ball saw Martin Guptill being run-out. The scores were tied yet again and the victory was awarded to England.
It was a fairy-tale end to England’s roller-coaster campaign in the tournament played across Britain and Wales over seven weeks. Both teams have had a tricky passage to the finals. Each lost three games in the first round and both teams proved that they were the most complete ODI sides in World cricket, even though England lifted the trophy.
The defeat was a heart-breaker for the New Zealanders who were at the receiving end for the second time in a row. Australia convincingly beat them in the 2015 finla.
England's bowling especially that of Liam Plunkett and Chris Woakes, was accurate with a hint of swing, offering little width for the batsmen to free their arms. Plunkett, in particular, was impressive with his line and length, often moving the ball around. After Woakes removed misfiring New Zealand opener Martin Guptill for 19, Plunkett ripped through the middle, eliminating Kane Williamson (30), Henry Nicholls (55) and James Neesham (19). He was well supported by Woakes adding two more to his tally—Tom Latham (47) and Colin de Grandhomme(16), to finish with figures of 3 for 37.
New Zealand, who has defended low scores successfully, also bowled brilliantly with Lockie Ferguson and Jimmy Neesham claiming three wickets each.
Scores in brief:
New Zealand tied with England, at Lord’s, London. England won the Super Over via boundary countback
New Zealand 241-8, 50 overs (Henry Nicholls 55, Tom Latham 47; Chris Woakes 3-37, Liam Plunkett 3-42)
England 241 all out, 50 overs (Ben Stokes 84 not out, Jos Buttler 59; Jimmy Neesham 3-43, Lockie Ferguson 3-50)
Player of the match: Ben Stokes (England)
Player of the tournament: Kane Williamson (New Zealand)