It was a match befitting of a final as both England and New Zealand refused to get rolled over in a gut-wrenching World Cup finale. In what will most likely be the best ever One-Day International played and certainly was the best ever World Cup final played till date, England laid all questions about their fickle temperament to rest with a nervy win after a tied Super Over to lift their maiden World Cup title at Lord’s in a blockbuster Sunday (July 14).
Ben Stokes, the villain of 2016 T20 World Cup, redeemed himself as a hero and his presence helped England to end the game in tie. Set 16, Martin Guptill and James Neesham got the equation down to 2 off 1. Guptill was run out on the final ball of the game with scores tied as England won on the boundary count – stroking nine more than their opponents.
New Zealand were forced to live through the scars of the 2015 loss once again but fought a much mightier fight and got a lot closer this time only to be denied by little moments. They refused to present the match on a platter and fought every single moment after posting a challenging score on a tricky surface. England wobbled but still believed. The depth of the batting unit held them in good stead as Stokes and Buttler scored 110 for the fifth wicket to keep the hosts in the hunt.
Stokes and Buttler struck half-centuries – bringing the equation down to 46 off 31 at one stage – but it seemed it had all gone pear-shaped because of one moment of madness from the latter. But Stokes believed. He wanted this. As the equation slipped to 22 off 9, Stokes slammed one Neesham delivery wide long-on. Trent Boult settled under it and took a clean catch. There was more drama though as the pacer then took a step back and stepped on the rope to give England crucial six more. In hindsight, the game was lost there by the visitors.
That wasn’t the end of the drama, though. Stokes found a way to score six off one ball without hitting the ball over the fence. In the final over, Boult started with two dots and then saw Stokes slam a full ball to deep midwicket. The throw came in from Guptill and it deflected off Stokes’s bat to go to the third man fence as Kumar Dharmasena signalled six runs. Two runs outs followed after that as Adil Rashid and Mark Wood failed to make it to the bowler’s end going for the second on both occasions. England needed two off the final ball as Stokes pushed the ball to long-on but Wood’s sprint wasn’t enough as the game got pushed to the Super Over.
Earlier in the day, the emotions were all different. With England 86 for 4 in the 24th over, New Zealand were clearly on top. And yet, even with the asking rate over six, Stokes and Buttler chose to deal in singles for most parts of their chase. As the equation came down to 72 off the last ten, with the Stokes-Buttler association standing at 84, there were just six boundaries. They had done incredibly well to keep the chase within reach even when the boundaries didn’t flow. Such was the quality of the stand that the inevitability of the defeat had started dawning on the visiting side by the 35th over. But as they say, it’s never over till it’s over and a World Cup final is a totally different beast.
Buttler almost killed it for his side. In the 45th over, Buttler slashed a back of length delivery to sweeper cover as Lockie Ferguson got his side back in the game. Chris Woakes slogged against the pacer and came short as Stokes watched his mates throw it away in disbelief.
For most parts of the chase, New Zealand had it in their grasp but once Buttler and Stokes got together, there were rarely any opportunities for them. The bowlers had put the side within touching distance as England got off to a slow start. Though Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow scored 28 for the first wicket inside six overs, the pressure was always on them. Roy survived an lbw review on the first ball of the chase as umpire’s call saved the opener. While Boult was on the money, it was Matt Henry who tested England’s top-order.
England were 39 for 1 in the first ten, and then managed just 34 in the next ten. It was the loss of Joe Root – caught behind – and Bairstow – chopped on – that really hurt England. Morgan slashed one straight to sweeper cover to ensure New Zealand had one hand on the trophy. Root was brilliantly set up by Colin de Grandhomme, who bowled his ten taking 1 for 25. On the first ball of the 17th over, he got the ball to nip in beat the inside half of the bat. Root was desperate and was itchy as de Grandhomme and Ferguson had built the pressure in the previous overs.
On the second ball, Root danced down the track and played an ugly hoick as the ball buzzed past the inside edge. On the third, de Grandhomme dangled the carrot in front of the England Test captain. He floated one outside off and got it to move away. Root chased it and all he managed was an outside edge. It all seemed going downhill for England from there on but Buttler and Stokes were just too good on the day to snatch it all away from the visitors and inflict more scars.
Earlier in the day, an early morning downpour delayed the start by 15 mins as gloomy conditions welcomed both sides. Once the coin fell in Williamson’s favour, both captains acknowledged they weren’t too sure what they should do. New Zealand made the brave call of batting first and then saw both Woakes and Jofra Archer enjoy the conditions. Henry Nicholls survived an lbw appeal after a review – which showed the ball going on top of the stumps from Woakes – but Guptill’s horror-tournament came to an end in the seventh over with just 19 to his name.
Nicholls made 55 and added 74 for the second wicket with Williamson but England stayed in contention as the conditions refused to ease up. Liam Plunkett’s introduction did the trick for England as he had the New Zealand captain caught behind in the 23rd over and then bowled Nicholls four overs later. Wood pinged Ross Taylor in front and had the decision go in his favour. Taylor, though, was quite unlucky as Guptill had already lost the team the review early on and the ball was missing the stumps.
Tom Latham carried the side forward but Neesham and de Grandhomme struggled for any sort of momentum. If Plunkett did the damage in the middle overs, Woakes buried them at the death. Latham chipped a low full toss off Woakes to mid-off as New Zealand’s chances of going past 250 vanished quickly. Archer bowled five at the death – taking 1 for 22 – as New Zealand scored just 62 in the last ten.
And while it may seem criminal, they’ll look back at the period between 20th over to the 34th – where they went without a single boundary – as the period that lost them the game.