Stephen Fry savours England's World Cup of joy, with hat tip to New Zealand's grace

The renowned British actor and comedian feels the nerve-wrecking World Cup final and England's ultimate victory serves as much-needed relief from the anxieties of Brexit facing the island nation.

Fry and Morgan

As happy as the Englishman in Stephen Fry is over the country's World Cup victory, the actor cannot help but tip his hat to New Zealand's spirit.   -  Getty Images

Where were you last Sunday, July 14, when England embraced the favourites' tag to lift its maiden men's cricket World Cup title following an incredible finish?  Were you screaming at the television at home, at work, or watching it from the stands of Lord's?  

British actor, writer, comedian, and cricket fan Stephen Fry was in the US, with his alarm set for 2:15 am as the match began at 2.30 am Pacific time (10:30 am BST).

"I can tell you that I walked over 3½ miles. I can’t watch cricket sitting down when it’s a crucial match. I’m just too nervous," Fry tells Sportstar from Los Angeles. 

"I sometimes have to get a long way away from the TV because I can almost not bear to watch. So I paced around and out of the room, tortured with nerves for most of the match. But it was epic." 

Amid the ecstasy of victory, New Zealand's agony did not go unnoticed. As England's captain Eoin Morgan and his jubilant men held up the winner's trophy, the Kiwis — beaten only on boundary countback — watched on with grace.

"My heart truly goes out to the Black Caps. Their sportsmanship and rueful good grace was as much a feature of the match as the incredible twists and turns of the final over and the two subsequent Super Overs," Fry says. 

He admits he would have been gutted if he were a New Zealand fan.

"I have to be realistic... I’d feel sick, cheated, swindled, unfairly denied a well-earned victory." 

Coming amid a chaotic phase of United Kingdom politics around Brexit, Fry terms the World Cup win transcendental.

"At a time of extremely low national morale (I hesitate to mention it, but the horrible B word can’t be avoided), when the world is looking at Britain and shaking its head in bemused bewilderment as our long national act of self-harm continues, a victory like this transcends politics and lifts us all up. 

"Almost nothing can provide such acute spasms of joy and despair as sport: and another word too which can’t be applied often to any other arena of human endeavour, and that word is 'Glory'.

 

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A renowned actor and comedian, Stephen Fry's love for cricket is no secret. True to norm, he found himself pacing around nervously during the ICC World Cup final between England and New Zealand.   -  Getty Images



"Also, I happen to think cricket is the most perfect pastime ever devised and it is just wonderful to think that the game has earned new fans and reminded old ones of just how awe-inspiring, tense, thrilling, spectacular and beautiful it can be," he says. 

Fry also absorbed the action through social media. Of course, he was on the phone with friends and watching the match "with a seven-way text exchange."

Did he think England would win, after what proved to be the first of the two nerve-wracking ties? "No! Like most fans I have a deeply pessimistic streak," he says. 

"England fans especially are always prepared for disappointment, for victory to be close but snatched away at the last minute. We have a history of some very talented players indeed but a strange and maddening reluctance to go for the kill.

 
"Indian cricketers, and Australian especially, always seem to have had the ability to be nice guys off the field but killers on (it) – always able to put the foot on the throat and stamp, but the England sides I’ve known have traditionally been less good at that. As if more afraid of victory than of defeat. The current generation of players, in both white- and red-ball cricket, seem to have got that monkey off their back!" 

For Fry, the memories of the 1992 World Cup (Pakistan beat England to lift the title) are of acute disappointment.

Ian Botham was out for a duck, one of three wickets taken by the great Wasim Akram, he recollects. "A great Pakistan side led by the charismatic Imran Khan." 

For the joy 27 years on, Fry heaps praise on the team and the people who planned this campaign after England were knocked out of the 2015 World Cup in the group stage.

"Ever since, the changes instituted by Eoin Morgan, Andrew Strauss, Ashley Giles and Trevor Bayliss… well, it’s been a heck of a ride for the last four years."