LONDON – Forget Edgbaston 1999. Or the “438” game at the Wanderers in 2006. And even the epic semi-final in Auckland four years ago.
England and New Zealand served up the best ODI in history in the Lord’s finale on Sunday. That’s a fact. No debate.
It was a sensational climax, befitting a riveting tournament that has allowed the gentleman’s game to capture the imagination of all and sundry once more.
For those privileged to be present at St John’s Wood will remember it for the rest of the lives. It doesn’t matter whether if you were English or from New Zealand – or in fact Indian for there were many present after having already bought tickets – it was extremely special to be part of.
It was almost heart-rending that a winner needed to be crowned, with England ultimately lifting the coveted trophy for the first time in their history by the slightest of margins.
The teams could not be separated in the actual game with the thriller ending in a tie as England scampered home for one run when they needed two of the final delivery.
That led to a Super Over for the first time in World Cup history. This time Ben Stokes – England’s hero in their actual innings – set New Zealand 16 runs to win. New Zealand managed 15 with Martin Guptill bunting the ball to deep mid-wicket, but the opener could not come back for the second before England wicket-keeper Jos Buttler clipped off the bails.
Although the Super Over also remarkably finished in a tie, it was enough for England and the majority of the 30 000-strong crowd to break out into delirium as New Zealand had struck less boundaries in their earlier 241/8.
Cricket could finally come home!
Throughout the 102 overs – two were required for the Super Over – the pendulum swung dramatically.
But the fact that England managed to sneak over the line against New Zealand will have added to the romance of it all. For it was the Black Caps that inspired this English revolution. It was four years ago that Morgan’s team were humiliated at Wellington’s Cake Tin by Brendon McCullum’s trailblazers in just 12.2 overs. The shame of it all set in motion a plan, along with Morgan picking his best-man McCullum brains along the way that culminated in this national glory.
Morgan’s men will now forever be revered in these parts, being able to sit at the same elite world champion table as Bobby Moore’s football Men of ’66, Martin Johnson’s rugger buggers of ’03 and Heather Knight’s cricket Women of ’17.
Despite another epic being played out just down the way on the District Line at Wimbledon’s Centre Court between those two long-time rivals Roger Federer and Lewis Hamilton chasing his own piece of history at Silverstone, there was only one place to be in London.
England certainly were pushed every inch of their way. And every time they were backed up into corner, they found someone up for the task of pushing back. With the ball it was Liam Plunkett (3/42) and Chris Woakes (3/37).
But it just had to be that man Ben Stokes. The past few years have been traumatic for the England all-rounder both on and off the field due to his final over blowout in the World T20 final in Mumbai a few years ago and a much-publicised court case, but he now has the ultimate redemption.
His 89 not out, including a 110-run partnership with Jos Buttler (59), was heroic, especially having walked past his captain Eoin Morgan to crease at 81/4, was worthy of winning a World Cup and he and his teammates can now prepare for a ticker-tape parade around Trafalgar Square.