“My producer is saying to me to tell viewers that if there is a tie, this goes to a Super Over” joked Michael Atherton in the 27th over of England’s innings. I am still speechless. Never have I seen such an exhilarating and tense game of sport, and I doubt I will ever see such an occasion again. England, despite looking underwhelming for most of their innings, rallied hard around Ben Stokes to guide the team to victory with the smallest of margins, albeit due to New Zealand’s misfortune.
In what looks like fairly uneventful innings compared to the rest of the match, New Zealand set England a fairly modest total of 242 runs to win. However, the pace of Boult and Henry, the Black Caps’ opening strike bowlers dismantled England’s top order, leaving them at a dismal 86/4 after 23 overs, well below the required run rate and heading towards another World Cup final defeat.
England snatched the win away from New Zealand
This all changed when Buttler and Stokes formed a 110-run partnership against some tricky New Zealand bowling to leave England requiring 22 from 9 after Buttler’s dismissal along with the wickets of Woakes and Plunkett. Still not an easy feat. This is when the craziness began and England snatched the win away from New Zealand, who in any other circumstances may have been victorious. It looked over for England when Stokes appeared caught by Boult, only for replays to show he fell onto the boundary rope whilst taking the catch, resulting in 6 runs, and more importantly, Ben Stokes still in.
England required 15 from the last over. Boult contained Stokes in the first two balls, with the English batsmen refusing to take singles. He knew it was all up to him. A large slog-sweep for six gave the English hope. Nine from three. A miscued shot from Stokes towards the boundary left England looking at a double, but a one-in-a-million throw from Guptill ricocheted perfectly off of a diving Stokes’s bat giving England four overthrows, much to the anger and disbelief of New Zealand fans. As Stokes did not intend to interfere with the ball, the overthrows stood, with England needing 3 runs from the last two. Two singles after failed attempts for second runs left England stranded on 241, resulting in a tie, and a Super Over to decide the match.
Super Overs are rare occurrences in T20 matches, let alone an ODI, let alone a World Cup Final
For viewers who never watched the IPL, there was confusion over what a Super Over was. A Super Over is a second innings where each side has only one over to score as many runs as possible but can only lose two wickets. Super Overs are rare occurrences in T20 matches, let alone an ODI, let alone a World Cup Final.
Because of the high pressure of the situation, I predicted that if England scored 12 or more, they would win. The in-form duo of Buttler and Stokes scored 15, despite Stokes’s clear mental and physical fatigue. However, New Zealand wasn’t ready to give in just yet. A six and a wide contributed dearly to New Zealand being in the same position England were in just minutes earlier. They needed 3 runs from 2 balls. A single from the penultimate ball meant two runs were needed, but the Kiwis only managed the one as Buttler ran Guptill out coming back for the second, leaving New Zealand also with 15 runs. Another tie! According to the rules, in the event of another tie, the winners are the team that hit the most boundaries in total. This was England. Whether this is a fair rule is a matter for journalists and officials to analyse for months to come, but for now, it doesn’t matter for England. They won the World Cup in the closest way possible.
This match-winning performance has undoubtedly confirmed Stokes’ place as one of the best all-rounders in the world
This marked the climax of a fantastic redemption story for England after their humiliation in the 2015 World Cup prompted a shift orchestrated by Andrew Strauss to an aggressive approach to white-ball cricket. This is also a huge comeback for Ben Stokes. After he was hit for four consecutive sixes in the last over of the T20 World Cup, costing England the trophy and his court case involving a fight outside a club in Bristol resulted in him being left out of the Ashes, many questioned if he would ever return to international cricket at the same level. This match-winning performance has undoubtedly confirmed Stokes’ place as one of the best all-rounders in the world, in all formats.
What excites me the most about this result is its legacy. Before the competition began, few people even knew England were hosting the World Cup. Now, with the Ashes starting in less than a month, the ECB can use this success to promote cricket to an audience whose interest in cricket has dwindled in the past two decades. The decision to air the game on Channel 4 and Sky, to grow the game, paid off with 8 million tuning in to watch the match, the highest since the infamous 2005 Ashes win. This may influence the thought-process regarding the new 100-ball domestic league starting in summer 2020, as reports suggest the BBC will air a significant number of games for free.
In the aftermath, Nasser Hussain summed up the final perfectly. “New Zealand may have lost the game, but cricket has been the winner here.”