15 July 2019

What a final and what a way to finish 7 weeks of cricket

Heart racing action and the ebb and flow of the game made it possibly the best game in cricket history.

I don’t think I have ever seen a game that had so many talking points, so many events that could have gone one way or another, Roy’s LBW call, the 6 for stepping on the boundary (and the pretty relaxed attitude towards it), the 4 extras from Stokes’s bat, the wide in the super over,... the list goes on but what an advert for cricket.

Considering the weekend of sport, the tie-break in the tennis between two of the world’s most incredible players, the formula one won by Lewis Hamilton, the Scottish Open going down to a playoff, you’d have to think the sports writers would have a tough time choosing the story. Too much to choose from but for me, the England cricket team were simply outstanding and deserve every bit of praise. It takes so much guts, determination and an attitude that is never say die, to continue to believe.

Heading into the game England were favourites but as the New Zealand order put up a total of 241/8 on a track that was evidently hard to score on and in a World Cup Final, you have to think that it was a pretty good total. Something that would require England to come out and play incredibly well to win.

Roy has had a sensational World Cup but in the final innings, the front order couldn’t put a big total together increasing the pressure on the middle order. Luckily and to the relief and delight of the crowd, Stokes and Butler managed to pull together a cracking partnership, there were a few chips, slices and tense shots along the way that could have changed the game entirely but England hung on. A couple of balls that looked like they were millimeters away from being dragged on to the wicket gave every ball a sense of nervousness but the total slowly climbed.

As the game closed in on the final ten overs, the run rate needed started to climb, as the New Zealand bowling attack shifted from bouncers, to yorkers and the batsmen needing more from each ball, the wickets started to fall and the drama began to increase.

In the final two overs, my heart was in my mouth, it looked increasingly unlikely and in the final over when the first two balls didn’t go for boundaries the runs needed looked impossible. When the first six cleared the boundary, the sound was electric, then lady luck had her part to play. As Stokes ran in the second run on the fourth ball, the ball ricocheted off his bat and went for four extras leaving England needing 3 from 2. An exhausted Stokes ran in the final run to tie the game, going for the win, but just caught short.

I think a tied game was probably a fair result but to go to a Super Over was something no one could have expected and most people across the country were learning about for the first time. If the game was tied again it would go to a count back of boundaries, of which England were leading. So another tied game would give England the win.

The game seemed to shift between England and New Zealand on every ball. When England posted 15 it felt like a pretty good total, all things considered. It was down to Archer and to increase the tension, he bowled millimeters wide of the tramline to gift the kiwis a run off a wide. Nightmare start! The a six… its all over surely. Then Archer bowled a bit more like he had done for the past seven weeks, shorter and a bit more tactical, slowing the kiwi run rate down to the point they needed two from the last ball to win.

When the kiwis ran for that final run, 9 or so hours of cricket boiled down to being about 1m too slow. Simply incredible!

Heartbreaking stuff for the kiwis. To go back to back World Cups as runners up and to take this so close. In pivotal games like this, the margins are so small between winning and losing but the tenacity of the England team gave them the littlest advantage that brought it home.

Congratulations to all involved, what a fantastic advert for cricket globally.

Written by JM Finn ambassador, England batter and one of Wisden's five cricketers of the year, Tammy Beaumont. 

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