By A Special Correpondent in Lord’s (London)
Even the best writers of suspense thrillers would probably have hesitated to inject such unbelievable twists in the the space of two overs that enabled England to emerge as the Cricket World Cup champions at the Lord’s cricket ground on Sunday.
England, hosting the premier limited-overs event for the fifth time, finally succeeded in inscribing their name on the trophy, but the victory in the cliff-hanger came by virtue of having struck more boundaries. That too, with twists of fate that seemed terribly harsh on the New Zealanders.
Four overthrows in the final – when the ball deflected off diving batsman Ben Stokes –kept England in the hunt during their 50-over innings that ended with the scores level and the last batsman being run out on the very last delivery.
This set up a Super Over, was to both teams made 15 runs each, but England was adjudged winners on basis of having struck more boundaries in the regulation 50 overs.
Batting first after winning the toss on a green track under heavy weather conditions, New Zealand posted a modest 241 for the loss of eight wickets. The Black Caps would have rued the fact that they could not score much during the last few overs, where a single run, in the end, made the vital difference.
Chasing a victory target of 242, England recovered from a top-order slump through a 110-run partnership for the fifth wicket between Stokes (84 not out) and Jos Buttler (59). Eventually, England needed 14 runs from the last four deliveries.
Top scorer Stokes, who was later adjudged the final’s Man-of-the-Match, swung the third ball of the last over from Trent Boult for a six over mid-wicket. Now, the target was eight runs from three balls.
The on-side shot by Stokes off the next delivery went to mid-wicket, from where a flash throw was sent toward the wicketkeeper. The ball got slightly deflected off the diving Stokes and the change of direction sent it to the fence. It counted for five runs. New Zealand could have been excused for feeling crest-fallen as England now just needed three runs from the last two balls.
This is where New Zealand’s team showed its mettle and fighting spirit. Playing with composure, the New Zealand fielders twice thwarted England’s efforts for a second run, leading to two batsmen being run out and just one run conceded from each delivery. England, all out for 241, now had to go out to bat again in the Super Over.
Stokes and Butler managed to score 15 runs off six deliveries from Boult, including two hits to the fence.
In reply, New Zealand’s James Neesham made 13 runs off five balls. Add one from a wide ball and Martin Guptill was left to score two runs off the last delivery. A couple of runs proved elusive. Going back for the second run, his desperate dive could not beat the accurate throw from the on-side and Guptill was run out for one.
New Zealand had fallen one short of the winning target and merely leveled the score with England – who had the comfort of hitting more boundaries.
The tournament rules gave England the World Cup, New Zealand captain Kane Williamson was surely not satisfied with the reward of the most outstanding player of the tournament – and the Black Caps were surely applauded as the most sporting team, but will go home without the World Cup.
England became the sixth country to win the World Cup on their fourth appearance in the final. The earlier winners were Australia (five-time champions), the West Indies and India (twice each), Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
In the final analysis, it was the four overthrows coming off the deflection from a diving Stokes on the third-last delivery of the match that brought England back into the hunt and denied New Zealand.