"It still feels like a dream"
Ben Stokes is lost for words, the red swollen eyes tell a story. If you have just switched on the television and watched Stokes give a post-match interview after the World Cup final, you wouldn't know which way the story went. These aren't the tears of heartbreak like three years ago (Remember Eden Gardens World T20 final?), these are tears of triumph, relief, and redemption which could have easily been those of another hurt.
Hope, despair, relief, hope, despair, relief. Just moments ago he was out in the middle traversing through a range of emotions on the loop in those three...
Oh, wait! Let's do justice to those three overs that will go down in annals of cricket.
Stokes is down on his haunches as Jofra Archer makes a walk back to pavilion, cleaned up by Jimmy Neesham off the final ball of the penultimate over.
Queens' "We will, we will, rock you" plays out in the background. After seven weeks, 24,044 balls, 22,395 runs and 670 wickets, the eternal wait has come down to 15 needed off 6. The Kiwi fans are singing along and clapping in unison. Hamish Marshall, in the crowd, is rhythmically shaking his head to the beats. You still don't know who will rock whom.
Stokes is up and on strike. Williamson's best bowler - Trent Boult - runs in... and delivers a yorker outside off, Stokes only manages to dig it to extra cover. He senses two and sets off but it doesn't get past the sliding Williamson and denies the single.
15 needed off 5.
He is going to do it all by himself. He scruffs the pitch with the studs, shadow practices and gets ready for the next ball. Boult charges in and again bowls it very full outside off, Stokes jams it straight to Williamson at extra cover. He straightaway tucks his bat in his armpit and turns behind. Neesham on the boundary vehemently applauds. Williamson claps nervously. Boult is taking that leg side out of play with his lines.
15 needed off 4.
Adil Rashid, from the other end, goes down to have a chat. But Stokes is in his own world. He gets back to his marker, taps the bat on the pitch twice and gets ready again. The next one is full and outside off, Stokes gets down and heaves it over deep-mid-wicket, "It's out of the ground is it? Is it out of the ground? It is..." Ian Smith screams with increasing palpitations as the ball flies over the leaping fielder into the crowd.
He's just dragged it from outside off on one knee. Stunning shot under pressure. The fans go wild. Williamson with folded hands, like a schoolboy who's been given a punishment for not doing the homework, lets out a rise smile.
9 needed off 3.
The next one is a full toss, on middle. This one too should be in the stands. But Stokes doesn't connect that slog sweep off the middle. They scamper through for a single, Matin Guptill charges in. He's been horrific with the bat whole tournament but he can do magic in the field and script turnarounds. Ask Steve Smith and MS Dhoni and the heartbroken Indian fans. The pick up is smooth and the throw towards Stokes' end. They want to get the danger man out. The throw looks set on target. Stokes is charging through for the second, he has to. He flies into the crease with a desperate dive, the throw hits the bat and ricochets towards fine leg boundary.
Colin de Grandhomme chases it. He knows it's futile. But he still chases in despair and hope. It thuds the boundary ropes. Six runs! Oh! What luck and bad luck. The world is cruel, the whole universe is cruel. There is still life in this game. England are still alive. What a turnaround.
"I do not believe what I have just seen," screams Ian Smith behind the mic. Williamson has his hands spread out as if saying "What the F***k" which he never ever would mean. Guptill is in shock. Stokes gets up on his knees and raises both arms in the air like a criminal who's been just put under arrest on the gunpoint by police. It's his version of, 'it wasn't at all intentional.' He apologises. Umpire Kumar Dharmasena signals six runs. Guptill still can't believe it.
3 needed off 2.
Rashid tries to explain something to Stokes.
He is busy getting his gloves back on. Williamson has a word with Boult. The umpires have a chat. Boult gets back to his marker, Stokes picks up his bat and stays head down for few seconds, inhales and exhales before tapping the bat multiple times before taking his guard. The umpires are still in conversation so Stokes walks down to have another tap on the wicket. Rashid again tries to tell something to Stokes. He listens, turns and walks back to the crease. Williamson then heads over to Boult for another chat. Few boos ring around.
The cameras turn to Eoin Morgan on the balcony, sitting with folded hands.
"If he is cool right now, he is not a human...he cant's be," Smith asserts on air.
Remember 3 needed off 2.
Everyone gets back to their positions. Boult runs in...and bowls it full outside off. Stokes thumps it but straight to long off and in the process loses his balance. A second is a no-brainer. It keeps Stokes on strike and doesn't matter what happens at the other end.
Mitchell Santner charges in and throws it... at the wrong end. Boult collects it, wide at the bowler's end and knocks down the stumps. Rashid is way short. Boult quickly realises and turns back to throw it to the keeper but Stokes has made it. He knows Santner chose the wrong end and gives a 'what if' look to Tom Latham.
Rashid jogs out, Mark Wood charges in trying to warm-up for the sprint between 22 yards, and in between, Rashid lets out some intense words to Mark Wood. Stokes heads over to the square leg umpire and has a word.
Stokes gets his gloves on, walks to the crease, goes on his haunches for a couple of seconds and gets up to face the next ball.
2 needed off one.
Are we in for a first-ever Super Over? High chances. The way this game has gone...it's in the script. It has to be.
Boult runs in and bowls a full toss, on the leg stump. Stokes doesn't go for that trademark heave. He wants to be smart. He wants to be safe. He bunts it to long on and sets off like a jet.
"They have got to go quick, they have got to go quick," Smith's blood pressure levels reach thermonuclear levels behind the mic. Neesham charges in from long on and releases a brilliant throw straight into the hands of Boult who collects it in front of the stumps and dislodges the bails as Wood dives in.
"I am sure it's out, we are going to a Super Over," Smith has already made the judgement before the umpire signals for a review.
Stokes is distraught as he looks towards the skies and thumps both his hands against each other. Disbelief has engulfed Lord's. An unflustered Boult calmly walks towards his teammates. Wood is still lying on the floor head down as if there is no tomorrow. "You are kidding me...you are kidding me...Unbelievable. After seven weeks, we are not done yet," Nasser Hussain speaks in disbelief.
They wait for the third umpire's decision, the major point of contention is whether Boult clipped the bails with his hands first. He hasn't, replays confirm. The big screen flashes OUT.
We are into the Super Over.
Smith is still dumbstruck behind the mic. "You cannot write a script like this...You cannot write a script like this."
Two run outs off the last two balls. It had to be New Zealand, the best fielding side in this tournament and arguably in the world.
The two batsmen trudge back slowly. Stokes ever so emotional amidst a standing ovation. He can't believe it. He is somehow controlling his tears as he walks through the Member's Pavilion with half his head covered with the helmet.
Moments later, he strides back out to bat, with Jos Buttler. The protagonists of England's revival. It's going to be Boult again. We are starting all over again. Stokes calls for what seems like magic spray as he comes out near the boundary line and sprays it on the arm.
He takes the strike. The first ball is full outside off, Stokes goes for a wild slog across the line but gets a top edge over short third man. They scamper through for three. Stokes is tired. Stokes is exhausted. He is down on his haunches again trying to catch his breath.
Ish Sodhi on the sidelines is almost feasting down his nails.
Boult runs in from over the wicket to Buttler and bowls it full, on middle. Buttler swats it to deep mid-wicket but straight to the fielder. Just a single.
The tension builds.
The third delivery is very full on middle. At the very least it could fetch you a couple if you flick it in the gap through mid-wicket or drive it through extra cover. But Stokes somehow slog sweeps it through mid-wicket to beat the diving fielder for four. Outrageous. How can he do that? That shot should be patented as the 'Stokes' slog sweep'. 8 runs off the first three balls.
Meanwhile, in the background, Archer is warming up below the player's balcony. We know who is going to bowl England's Super Over.
Boult misses the yorker off the next ball and delivers a full toss. Stokes drives it but Lockie Ferguson dives and makes a good stop at cover-point. Just one.
Boult gets the next one right. In the blockhole. Buttler drives it to deep cover. Henry Nicholls on the fence is late in reacting, he loses the sight in the sun. The right-left movement gives them enough time to scamper through for a second. Oh! Not the best time to lose it in the sun. Not today.
Stokes applauds Buttler with a fist thump on the bat over his head.
Boult charges in for the crucial last one. It is going to be that yorker, no doubt. But he misses his marker, only by a small margin, and Buttler whips the low full toss over mid-wicket to finish with 15.
16 runs needed to win in the Super Over. Sixteen. A tie won't do now. 15 runs won't do.
Archer is down practising while his prophetic tweets are being retweeted rampantly.
Super over 😊😊😊😊😊😊
— Jofra Archer (@JofraArcher) July 4, 2015
16 from 6 — Jofra Archer (@JofraArcher) April 13, 2013
A 24-year-old, playing in his debut World Cup is handed the task of bowling the six most important balls of his life.
Archer looks a bit nervy. Just a bit. Morgan has a chat with umpires and then a long one with Archer.
Stokes then shakes Archer's hand seemingly giving out a motivational message. The English team gets into a huddle.
Archer gets a round of applause as he walks towards his marker.
Wait, but who will come out for the Kiwis? Will it be Jimmy Neesham and De Grandhomme or Neesham and Taylor. Wait, it's Guptill who is striding out with Neesham. Well, well.
The most runs Archer has gone for in an over this World Cup is 15, reminds Ian Bishop on air.
Neesham takes the strike. Archer runs in from round the wicket. He misses his marker and delivers it wide, just outside the wide guideline outside off. WIDE.
Morgan moves from covers to mid off. And walks over to have a chat with Archer.
15 needed off 6.
The next one from Archer is in the blockhole, outside off, Neesham jams it to long off and scampers through for two.
13 needed off 5.
It's time for that big one, to release the pressure.
Archer's plan is to go with the blockhole stuff. He misses it next ball. It's full outside off, Neesham stays in his crease and swings it over deep mid-wicket and into the crowd.
The Kiwi balcony finally gets some energy to applaud.
What a blow! No field changes though.
7 needed off 4.
Archer runs in... and bowls an identical delivery. This time Neesham doesn't connect it off the middle. They scamper through for a single and then the second. Jason Roy, at deep mid-wicket, charges in but fails to collect it cleanly, maybe thinking ahead of time. The second is completed easily.
That's what pressure does to you.
5 needed off 3.
Archer again goes full, this time on middle. Neesham whips it to deep mid-wicket. It's Roy again. They jet through for a couple. Buttler screams 'my end' but Roy throws it to the opposite one. Guptill is running and running and running, since he's arrived. And he is quick too.
Morgan walks over to Archer again for a chat.
3 needed off 2.
The batsmen have a word with umpire Dharmasena, possibly about the equation and what happens if it's a tie.
The mercury levels are rising.
— Jofra Archer (@JofraArcher) September 20, 2014
Archer charges in. He veers away from the normal. It's a short one. Neesham doesn't connect his pull. The bottom edge rolls over to the off side. They run through. Archer rushes on the follow through and collects the ball. He has a chance to run Neesham out but he doesn't want to risk an overthrow. Smart. Guptill is on strike for the first time in the over. What a time to be there.
2 needed off 1.
It's a chance to exorcise all those ghosts of the failures in the tournament. It's a chance to sing the redemption song and be the national hero. A chance to wipe off the past spent in the wilderness trying to understand what went wrong. "If you said to Martin Guptill, he will be batting at quarter to eight at Lord's and you need two to win, he will probably think he is 220 not out, not facing his first delivery in a Super Over," Hussain says on air. Guptill walks down and taps the bat on the wicket while Morgan has a word with the umpires. It's come down to that same equation again, 2 needed off 1. A single won't do. England will win on boundaries in case of a tie. It can't be a tie. Again. Surely. Guptill and Neesham have a quick chat in the middle and a mild fist pump. Every exhale from the 30,000 odd at Lord's is a gust of pure tension. What will Archer bowl? Bishop reckons 'Going yorker', Hussain thinks 'slower ball into the pitch' The boundary riders are well inside.
Got to finish that ! — Jofra Archer (@JofraArcher) May 21, 2016
Archer runs in to bowl what might turn out to be the most important delivery of his career. He delivers it very full and outside the leg stump. Guptill flicks it through mid-wicket. It's that man Roy again, who had given away a couple of twos in the final over of the innings, charging in from the deep. Guptill completes the single and turns back for the second, he knows he is struggling. Roy picks it up cleanly, Buttler hares forward and positions himself in front of the stumps. The throw is at the right end this time. Buttler collects it way in front of the stumps, turns back, stretches and uproots the stumps in a flash almost tumbling onto it. Guptill dives but it's going to be the most futile dive of his career. He is well short.
10 years down the line Roy would be telling his kids that it was his throw that won England the World Cup. "He's got him. England have won the World Cup...by the barest of margins," the iconic Ian Smith voice echoes inside the commentary box. Buttler runs wild, throws the ball in the air and punches the air and throws one of his gloves far away as Plunkett, Woakes Bairstow try to catch him. Archer runs in one direction, gets down on the ground and thumps it with his fist and then gets swamped. Others run in random directions. Bairstow leaps and belts out a fist pump in the air before lifting Root. Stokes slides himself flat on the ground. A few swamp him. Amidst all this Guptill is on his haunches in tears. The Kiwi's look on from the balcony like wax statues, in disbelief.
Oh! And they remember that the third umpire is yet to make the decision. The run-out is played on the big screen, it's a foregone conclusion and a huge roar goes out. Match tied. Super Over tied. England win on boundaries. Archer is on his knees, still in disbelief. Stokes in tears. Guptill inconsolable.
All of this coming like its a dream — Jofra Archer (@JofraArcher) March 30, 2013
Ecstasy. Agony. Drama. Luck. Bad luck. Heartbreak. Tears. Madness.
The greatest ODI is played out on the grandest of stages on the hallowed turf.
Wake up Ben. It's real. you've actually lived the dream!