England have won the Cricket World Cup for the first time, following an enthralling victory over New Zealand at Lords. After fifty overs each couldn’t separate the sides the game was remarkably settled by a super-over each, with England edging the eliminator.
Drama at the Home of Cricket
Lords may be English Cricket’s headquarters but it hasn’t been a happy hunting ground in recent years, with England’s key wins enroute to the final coming at Chester-Le-Street and Edgbaston. Despite tricky conditions New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson elected to bat after winning the coin toss. But England’s bowlers made early inroads, dismissing Martin Guptill for 19 in the opening power play. New Zealand struggled to get runs in the middle of the match and Liam Plunkett took the key wickets of Willaimson, Jimmy Neesham and top scorer Henry Nicholls who hit 55. Tom Latham kept New Zealand’s score ticking along but they were limited by an excellent spell of death bowling from Jofra Archer restricted New Zealand to a score of 241.
England’s high power batting lineup were favoured to reach that modest total, but New Zealand successfully defended a similar score to defeat favourites India in their semi-final. New Zealand’s opening bowling attack of Trent Boult and Matt Henry found the conditions to their liking. Henry took the key early wicket of Jason Roy for 17.
But England escaped the first power play with just one wicket down and got their noses in front. Colin de Grandhomme came up with an inspired spell of bowling through the middle overs, conceding just 25 runs from his 10 overs. England’s batsmen became frustrated and when captain Eoin Morgan was caught via a spectaclar catch from Neesham, England were at 86-4 and staring down the barrel. Then came an inspired display of mature batting from big hitters Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler who made a 100 run stand to rebuild the England innings to set up a dramatic finish.
As the overs started to run out England tried to accelerate the run rate but Buttler lost his wicket and England were 8 wickets down and needing 15 to win from the final over. The key man was always going to be Stokes who hit a six, which New Zealand almost caught and then got an extraordinary second six when he ran for two but the fielder through the ball from deep and the ball accidentally bounced off Stokes’ bat for six. England needed 2 to win from the last ball but Stokes only got 1 before his partner Adil Rashid was run out and the game ended in a draw, meaning a super over each would decide the World Title.
History Repeats Itself
England’s wins at the football World Cup back in 1966 and Rugby World Cup triumph of 2003 both went to extra time so it was almost inevitable a maiden triumph in this competiton would go to the wire. England batted first in the super over and turned again to Stokes and Buttler who scored 15 from their 6 deliveries, edging England ahead.
Requiring 16 and knowing a draw would hand England the title on superior number of boundaries scored, New Zealand made the unexpected choice of Neesham and Martin Guptill to bat whilst England gambled on 24-year-old Jofra Archer to bowl. Neesham hit a huge six to hand New Zealand the initiative and with 1 ball to play they required 2 runs to win. Archer bowled a perfect yorker to Guptill who connected but the ball was fielded by Roy whose perfect throw to Buttler saw Guptill run out whilst trying to get the winning run, with that England were World Champions.
The game couldn’t have been more dramatic and as the legendary Shane Warne eluded to in commentary New Zealand were marginally the better side on the day, but England who had the rub of the green were definitely the best team of the tournament.
A Fitting End to a Rollercoaster Tournament
As host nation and the World’s top ranked side, England were the initial favourites with most predicting a big scoring tournament with teams needing to post scores in excess of 350 to win matches. However the tournament proved a much more even contest between bat and ball with few sides succeeding in chasing down scores over 300. England started well winning four of their first five games, but a hamstring injury to Roy slowed their progress in the group stage and a surprise loss to Sri Lanka followed by a hefty defeat to Australia, left England needing to win their last two group games to progress to the last four.
However Roy’s return to the side proved key as England blasted their way to 337 to defeat the previously unbeaten India by 31 runs. They then thrashed New Zealand by 119 runs in a match that bore little resemblance to the final those two teams produced. England then hammered long time adversaries Australia in the semi final with an exemplary pace bowling performance from Archer, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood.
New Zealand also suffered mixed fortunes through the group phase. They started well against an out of sorts Sri Lanka and the lesser lights of Bangladesh & Afghanistan. But after thrilling wins over South Africa and the West Indies things started to go wrong. A narrow defeat to Pakistan was followed by hidings from first Australia and then England. In the semi final they posted a mere 239 against India and seemed set for defeat. But an inspired start to the bowling reduced India to 5 for 3 and set up a shock victory to book their place in the final.
The debate now will be was this thrilling final the greatest World Cup match ever or even the best cricket match ever? The arguments will run and run, but it probably just edges Australia’s dramatic victory over South Africa in the 2003 semi final that many previously thought was the most dramatic in tournament history. That will be of little consolation to New Zealand who suffered the agony of a second straight loss in the World Cup Final, having been beaten by Australia in 2015. For England it finally brings the prize that had always eluded them after excelling in white ball cricket over the last four years. It also justifies the tactical rethink that followed their ignominious early exit from the tournament in 2015. Over the last eight weeks this tournament has won Cricket a lot of new fans, roll on India 2023!
Featured Image ABC.au