You couldn’t have written a better script.
ABC Grandstand commentator Jim Maxwell described it as, “one of the most amazing finales to a game of international cricket that we have ever seen, probably the greatest finish in international cricket history”.
England has claimed its maiden World Cup title in an extraordinary finale against New Zealand at Lord’s, a final that has already been described as the greatest of all time and thrilled the sporting world with a finish for the ages.
As is befitting of a game that had everything, the real drama came in those final moments as England and New Zealand battled through 102 overs of cricket, only to end up level on scores not once, but twice, before England was awarded the title.
We’ll unpack the main talking points from a frantic 15 minutes that decided the destination of this year’s World Cup.
With wickets tumbling around him and England still needing 22 runs off nine balls, New Zealand-born Ben Stokes is, ironically, England’s last hope and appears hell-bent on hitting out in an attempt at glory.
Stokes, England’s last recognised batsman and the man upon whose shoulders rested the hopes of a nation, gives himself room to swing at James Neesham’s delivery with a shot that flies to the midwicket boundary, straight down the throat of Trent Boult.
If Stokes had departed that would have been near enough it but, as Boult effects the catch, he steps backwards onto the padding surrounding the boundary.
Had Boult been half a metre further away from the boundary, he would have taken a giant step towards celebrating a famous win for the Black Caps, but instead, that step was backwards and New Zealand still had it all to do.
Instead of England being nine down with just Jofra Archer and Adil Rashid at the crease, it now needs 16 to win from eight.
The other ‘six’
Three balls left in the final over. England has just two wickets remaining after Archer is comprehensively bowled for a duck by Neesham’s last ball.
Stokes turns down two singles to avoid exposing Rashid’s somewhat-questionable tail-end batsmanship to Boult’s exquisite death bowling.
After slamming the third ball of the over into the stands for six, Stokes needs nine to write himself into history.
Boult thunders down a full toss that Stokes tickles away off his pads to deep mid-wicket to where Guptill — run-out hero of MS Dhoni in the semi-final — is ready to pounce.
The throw arrows in towards the stumps … and deflects off the outstretched bat of Stokes and away to the boundary for four.
So why is that six runs?
England has already run two, so is credited the four additional runs as overthrows.
Contests can be decided on fine margins and this is as fine as they get. Had the ball hit the bat at any other angle, it would have been unlikely that it would have then flown down the hill for four runs.
Equally, there is little Stokes could do to avoid this. He was fully committed and had no idea that the ball was on its way to hit his bat, so could not even come close to being accused of obstructing the field, as he was in a 2015 ODI between England and Australia, also at Lord’s.
Stokes, born and raised in Christchurch, told reporters after the game: “Playing against New Zealand is always a great event, they are a seriously good team and really good lads.
“I said to [New Zealand captain] Kane Williamson, I’ll be apologising for that for the rest of my life.”
The first tie
England is running for everything.
Rashid is run out off the penultimate ball after chasing an unlikely second in an attempt to level the scores with a ball to go.
With two required to win, Boult delivers a yorker that Stokes prods away to long on.
Stokes and Mark Wood hare between the wickets to chase the elusive winning run, but Wood is easily run out and the scores are tied.
So what happens now?
England lost more wickets (all ten of them) compared to New Zealand’s eight, but the number of wickets lost does not come into consideration, as stipulated in Law 16.3.1.
The two teams instead faced a winner-takes-all “super over” — an innovation incidentally introduced by Allen Stanford of West Indies-based Stanford 20:20 fame.
The second tie
So, to the super over.
Teams can pick any three batsmen and one bowler to take part, with the team batting second in the match batting first in the super over.
England has first crack as per tournament rules, with Stokes joined at the crease by Jos Buttler.
The pair make a hugely credible 15 from their six deliveries off the bowling of Boult.
New Zealand’s reply starts well as Archer opens with a marginal wide, before Jimmy Neesham plunders 13 off the next five, legal deliveries.
Guptill on strike. Two required for victory.
He clips Archer’s last ball to the leg side and frantically sets off for an unlikely two.
The throw is a good one to the strikers end and Guptill is run out! Scores level again!
So, all square again but it is the English celebrating wildly.
According to the rules set out in paragraph 13 in Appendix F of the ICC Laws concerning super overs, the winner of the game in the event of a tie is the team that scored more boundaries over the course of the match.
ICC LAWS: APPENDIX F
PROCEDURE FOR THE SUPER OVER
5 – In both innings of the Super Over, the fielding side shall choose from which end to bowl.
6 – Only nominated players in the match may participate in the Super Over.
9 – The team batting second in the match shall bat first in the Super Over
11 – The loss of two wickets in the over ends the team’s one over innings.
13 – In the event of the teams having the same score after the Super Over has been completed, if the original match was a tie under the Duckworth/Lewis/ Stern method, paragraph 15 below shall apply. Otherwise, the team whose batsmen hit the most number of boundaries combined from its two innings in both the match and the Super Over shall be the winner.
14 – If the number of boundaries hit by both teams is equal, the team whose batsmen scored more boundaries during its innings in the main match (ignoring the Super Over) shall be the winner.
15 – If still equal, a count-back from the final ball of the Super Over shall be conducted. The team with the higher scoring delivery shall be the winner.
New Zealand managed 14 fours and three sixes.
England plundered 24 fours and two sixes, the high-octane approach favoured by Eoin Morgan’s men over the past four years since being humiliated by New Zealand in Wellington at the last World Cup.
Is that fair? Perhaps not.
On ABC’s Grandstand at Stumps, Ed Cowan said: “To me, it feels like there is no integrity in the result almost.”
“It’s like the World Cup soccer final, 5-all in the penalty shoot-out, ‘oh actually, whoever had the most shots in the game actually wins this so we’re all going home now’.
“Imagine playing another super over? Surely there has to be a winner on the day.
“I can’t get my head around that.”
Should another super over have taken place? That probably would have been fairer.
But both teams knew the rules before a bowl was bowled, or least should have done, and England should not be denied its moment based on a technicality.
Incidentally, if the number of boundaries was equal, the result would have come down to how many runs were scored on the final ball of each super over.
England scored four. New Zealand scored one.
Interestingly, in the semi-finals, had rain made play totally impossible, the team that finished higher in the final table would have progressed to the final.
Apply the same logic here, then England — who thrashed New Zealand to the tune of 119 runs in the group stages — would have been crowned winners anyway.
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