Hope, excitement, despair, exhilaration...there are few words to describe the emotions that the 2019 World Cup final gifted to cricket fans all over the globe. The two sporting nations, England and New Zealand, were just inseparable on Sunday at the Home of Cricket that it took a rule hidden in the last pages of the law book to decide a winner. From Liam Plunkett's old ball spell to Matt Henry's new ball spell to the Ben Stokes-Jos Buttler partnership, the riveting game of cricket exhibited by the two teams had some capturing moments.
But the final few minutes – at best a blurry video for the teary eyed Black Caps supporters and a shook slideshow for the dazed England supporters – presented some unprecedented, unimaginable moments. In the end, the one word that Kane Williamson staunchly refused to utter at the post match press conference and one which Eoin Morgan gladly accepted as the difference between the sides, decided the winner – Luck.
The chasm, ever so marginal in this game, were the rules and laws penned down at some time in the past, seemingly just to deny the Kiwis a deserved World Cup win. A hotchpotch of that and some superficially irrelevant moments in those final hour tilted the balance England's way. Here's reliving some of them.
Boult stepping over the boundary ropes
It could be argued that one exceptional bit of fielding got New Zealand into the finals of the World Cup. Martin Guptill swept in from the deep to run MS Dhoni out with a ridiculous direct hit, helping New Zealand beat India in the semi-finals of the World Cup. But perhaps the one moment that got them there in the first place was Trent Boult's outstanding catch near the ropes under pressure against the Windies in a league game at Manchester.
With West Indies a hit away from a win, Carlos Brathwaite, batting on 101, looked to pound James Neesham over the long-on fence only to be interrupted near the ropes by an ice cool Boult. A loss in that game, in hindsight, would have sealed New Zealand's semi-final hopes given that they went on to lose their next three league games.
On Sunday, a similar situation manifested itself. James Neesham the bowler yet again. Trent Boult the fielder once again. Wide long-on once again the position in discussion.
Ben Stokes thumped Neesham to the wide long-on boundary in the penultimate over of the run-chase and Boult, under pressure to pull off a catch that could potentially win them the World Cup final, stepped on the boundary ropes while attempting to take the catch. He could have relayed the catch to a waiting Martin Guptill but the thought came too late as his feet landed on the ropes, resulting in a six. In a game with margins finer than the finest sand crystal, this could well have swayed the World Cup final England's way.
The deflection that resulted in four extra runs
With Boult bowling two dots on the trot in the first two balls of the final over, New Zealand were downright favourites to win the finals. But this was one contest that was constantly oscillating and Stokes went with this ebb and flow to hoist Boult over mid-wicket for a massive six. It was still New Zealand's game, though, with England needing nine runs in three balls.
Right then and there, in the fourth ball of the final over of the World Cup final, an unforgettable moment unfolded that every single person watching the game would agree that it played a major role in the eventual direction the game went.
Stokes clubbed a full toss to deep mid-wicket and looked to return for a second run. The throw from the deep came quick and Stokes, without taking a glance at the incoming throw, dived into the crease. As fate would have it, the ball deflected off Stokes' bat and raced to the boundary for four additional runs.
The ambiguity of the rule, the exceptional circumstances at which it unveiled, made this an anti-climactic. England were awarded six runs and it turned out to be a deciding factor in the eventual tie.
The sacrifice of Adil Rashid
England probably benefitted from one of the ridiculous moments in sporting history, but they still had to find three runs off two balls from a very determined Boult.
Stokes would smash the penultimate ball to long off and set off for another couple of runs. This time, though, the second run was completely non-existent. Rashid, the sacrificial lamb, knew that at no cost could he face the last ball of the innings while Stokes was watching from the non-striker's end.
He scampered across knowing fully well that he would never make it. In that utter choatic moment one could argue that the Black Caps fielding, their saviour right through the World Cup, probably let them down a dollop.
Mitchell Santner, who had sent down throw after throw from that position, mechanically aimed at the end he was throwing to all day long. However, what he, and probably even Boult, didn't realise was that Stokes was also far away from the striker's end. Boult ran Rashid out but Stokes was on strike for the last ball of the innings and the presence of mind of the two batsmen in the middle had earned England a massive boost for the last ball.
Henry Nicholls loses the ball in the sun
England had already accumulated nine runs in four balls in the Super Over batting first. On most days, with Jofra Archer set to bowl for you, that would have been more than sufficient to win the match. But this was no ordinary day and if England didn't know it by then, they didn't deserve to win.
As Boult found the yorker length to perfection against Buttler in the fifth ball of the over, the England batsman dug out the delivery to the cover boundary. There was no way England could have run two for that.
But Henry Nicholls, manning the fence in that area, had the sun hitting him square on the eyes. It took him an extra second to spot the ball coming his way and it was enough for England to scamper across for an all-important second run. In hindsight, any extra run, could have made a difference to the game and this would probably go down as one unspotted moment.
Buttler's presence of mind
Two from one ball in the Super Over.
That's what the World Cup final had come down to. There couldn't have been a better script written for the finals of a tournament that happens only once in four years. The hours of practice, four years of hard work, decades of mental fine-tuning sublimated into this one all-encompassing moment.
Martin Guptill had gone from zero to hero in this World Cup with that MS Dhoni run-out. This was one moment that could define his entire career. This one ball, the final ball of the World Cup, could hold more importance than the 163 balls he faced enroute an unbeaten 237 four years earlier in the quarter-finals of this very tournament at Wellington.
Archer, true to his practice, nailed the perfect yorker and Guptill could only work it towards deep mid-wicket. He hurried across for a second run, slowed down by his own effort to dig out the yorker. Jason Roy's throw was far from perfect but Buttler the genius he is, had anticipated this and instead of waiting behind the stumps, moved in front to earn that extra fraction of a second. He collected the ball perfectly and whipped off the bails to give England a World Cup victory.
At the end of it all, there is unmistakable anguish in one dressing room and barely believable euphoria in the other. England didn't deserve to lose. New Zealand didn't deserve to lose. Yet, this was a World Cup final and only one team could prevail in the end. That the World Cup final came down to five incredible moments makes this the greatest ODI game of all time.
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