World Cup 2019 final: Woakes, Plunkett restrict New Zealand to 241

Chris Woakes and Liam Plunkett took three wickets each as England restricted New Zealand to 241/8 in World Cup final at Lord's.

Chris Woakes finished with impressive figures of 3 for 37.   -  Reuters Photo

It was a World Cup final that progressed languidly at Lord’s. England bowlers largely kept it tight, New Zealand battled hard and at lunch on Sunday, the visitor posted 241 for eight in 50 overs. Opener Henry Nicholls scored a 55, the rest etched dogged runs and during the tail-end, Tom Latham’s 47 lent some flourish.  

Earlier, the day stirred awake to the whispers of a gentle drizzle and once the damp streak paused, all roads led to Lord’s. St. John’s Wood, the nearest tube station from the venue, was jostling with the crowds. And as the fans stepped onto the pavements outside, a strapping lad with a shy smile, held a placard with the words: “Desperate Blackcap fan, need a ticket.”

Inside the ground, there was a frisson of excitement and under overcast skies, Kane Williamson won the toss and opted to bat. After a delayed start of 15 minutes owing to some moist spots on the turf, Martin Guptill, who has had a middling tournament so far, decided to hit his way out of trouble. The summit clash’s first delivery was an anti-climax. Chris Woakes pitched wide and the opener took a mighty swipe but failed to connect.

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There was no mistaking Guptill’s intent as he soon punched a four off Woakes (three for 37). There was much drama in the following overs as Jofra Archer pressed for a caught behind and Woakes rapped the pad, appealed in vain and sought a review. In both instances, Guptill survived and the resultant celebration was a slashed six off Archer, over third-man and then a four was drilled past the speedster’s head. But when Woakes got one to cut in to trap the batsman plumb in front, Guptill stood his ground, lost a review and trudged back.

Williamson strode in and gingerly settled at the crease. The England seamers tied him down and there was swing in the air. Meanwhile Nicholls cut Woakes and that broke the tedium of dot balls. While Williamson seemed set for the long haul, easing his drives and tiding past muffled lbw appeals, Nicholls turned the aggressor. He flicked and pulled Liam Plunkett as a 74-run second-wicket partnership spread over 102 deliveries took shape.

Just as a sense of stability infused the alliance, Plunkett (three for 42) prised out Williamson. The New Zealand skipper attempted a drive and the ball brushed his bat and snuggled into Jos Buttler’s gloves. Though the loud appeal drew a blank, England found vindication in a successful review.

The Kiwis then lost Nicholls as he inner-edged Plunkett onto a single bail! At 118 for three in the 27th over, New Zealand needed a partnership and much hinged on Ross Taylor. The senior player seemed determined to drop anchor except when he nearly chopped leg-spinner Adil Rashid onto his stumps. However when Mark Wood ruffled his pads and secured an lbw, it came to light later that the ball was missing the citadel. Unfortunately, with Guptill having wasted a review, New Zealand had no help-line.

Eoin Morgan’s men choked their rivals and for 15 overs, nothing went past the ropes. It was left to the two southpaws James Neesham and Latham to break the dry spell while Ben Stokes and Plunkett felt the heat. The latter, however, had his vengeance as Neesham perished while trying to clear mid-on.    

After 40 overs, New Zealand, placed at 179 for five, needed to break free. And the runs came in clusters like the three wides that Archer sprayed in one over or the six over mid-wicket that Latham struck off Wood. Three more dismissals happened in  the slog, including Latham’s, but New Zealand seemingly had enough to challenge the home team.