A long-drawn championship with its starting grid harking back to May 30, finally wound to a close through seconds that stretched inexorably at Lord’s here on Sunday. The finest World Cup final since the quadrennial tournament’s inception in 1975, twisted and turned as both eventual champion England and runner-up New Zealand fought the good fight .
Drawn level at 241 after the full duration of the contest and again on par at 15 following the super-over’s conclusion, boundaries scored through the day became the last word. It was a touch unfair on New Zealand, which with 17 hits, paled to England’s 26.
The boundary rule evoked questions and asked for his reaction, England captain Eoin Morgan said: “If you could give me an alternative, I would be able to compare the both. But I can't think of an alternative at the moment. The rules are obviously set out a long time ago and we have no control over them.”
Morgan’s New Zealand counterpart Kane Williamson felt ambivalent: “It is pretty hard to swallow when two teams have worked really, really hard to get to this moment in time and when sort of two attempts to separate them as winner and loser and it still doesn't perhaps sort of shine with one side coming through. It is what it is. The rules are there at the start.”
The climax had its multiple talking-points but there is no denying that England and New Zealand deserved to be in the summit clash. All this summer, England has roused itself to the ‘it's coming home’ slogan and Morgan’s men would hopefully weave in multiple narratives into the cricket story at the game’s birthplace.
Traditionally, the Old Blighty has an enduring fondness for Tests and the Ashes. Even in the post-final press conference, a scribe asked Morgan about the trophy triumph giving a fresh impetus to the imminent Ashes series commencing on August 1! It is a rivalry for the ages but ODIs have a role too and finally England is warming up to it and the Twenty20s.
Morgan and his merry bunch have carved a space for the distilled pleasures of limited overs cricket amidst the languid joys of Tests. Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, the indefatigable Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer have played their stirring parts and Morgan harnessed his resources. Perhaps the latest epochal win would lure some youngsters to prefer a bat over their football boots and that constitutes the bigger picture about where cricket belongs especially in a landscape leaning towards the English Premier League.
At the other end, New Zealand showed that nice guys can almost finish first. The Black Caps never lost the cup except on a technicality that was keen on extracting the singular champion. And Williamson has continued the glorious tradition of Kiwi skippers using the sum of their team’s parts to ambush fancied opposition.
The late Martin Crowe was the lateral-thought exponent in the 1992 edition, employing off-spinner Dipak Patel in the early overs and using Mark Greatbatch as the pinch-hitting opener. They were ideas well ahead of their times and a similar chutzpah courses through Williamson and his men.
It was amply evident during the weekend in which England won the cup while New Zealand wrenched our hearts. The World Cup couldn’t have asked for a better finish.
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