World Cup 2019 Final, England vs New Zealand: England lift maiden World Cup title with a little controversy and lot of drama
Take a deep breath and reboot your memories. The World Cup has finally come home. England have kept their date with destiny, albeit a little controversially and not without a lot of drama. It doesn’t get closer than this, beating a side on the number of boundaries hit in the innings after staying level even after a Super Over custom-made only for the World Cup.
Eoin Morgan lifted the trophy but New Zealand won hearts by staying true to their fighting streak. World Cup finals tend to disappoint. The last time Lord’s had hosted one, the finest ever Pakistan team crumbled for just 132 against Australia. Previous finals in 2015, 2007 and 2003 too were equally one-sided as Australia made short work every time, irrespective of the opponent. That story has been set straight now. There was every kind of drama you could imagine. This was the dream final.
Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be for New Zealand. Just like how India were bound to be found out for not having a proper No 4, New Zealand couldn’t have expected to win every time after posting a par score. So well rounded is this England team that they don’t baulk at any target. On a difficult pitch, against the most disciplined bowling attack of the tournament, England’s batting depth again came to their rescue in the form of a 110-run partnership between Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes.
New Zealand had some extraordinary moments of bad luck.
When England needed 22 off 9 balls, and New Zealand were chocking them, Stokes heaved one to the boundary. Trent Boult stood near the ropes, caught the ball. Then he fell over backwards. It was a six. England needed 16 off 8.
When England needed 9 off 3, and Stokes was desperately trying to make ground for a second run, a Martim Guptill throw from the deep, destined for the stumps perhaps, hit the outstretched bat of a diving Stokes and was deflected to the boundary. Six runs from that ball. Kane Williamson could have been the one lifting the trophy. But it was not to be.
Sunday dawned on Lord’s with an hour of rain and the fear of upsetting the balance of conditions. With the ball nibbling around, batsmen were forced to be late on the shot and shuffle across the stumps to cover movement off the pitch. Scoring was difficult but New Zealand stayed true to their combative streak and scraped to a par total despite just one fifty, from Henry Nicholls.
England’s bowlers, sticking to tidy lines and resorting to a nice blend of cross-seam bowling, slowers and cutters towards the end, would have thought half the job was done. Restricting any side to 33 and 62 runs in their first and third Powerplays is no mean feat. So good were England that barring Stokes, who bowled just three overs for 20, every bowler averaged below five.
Nerves were apparent when Chris Woakes started with two slips, point and a third man but sprayed the ball too wide. Four deliveries later, Martin Guptill’s slice fell just short of Stokes at backward point to run away for a boundary. A steely decision by Marais Erasmus then set the tone of the match as he shook his head at fervent appeals of caught behind. Replays later showed Jofra Archer’s away-moving stinger to be brushing Guptill’s trousers on way to the wicket-keeper. Next over, England and the whole of Lord’s were convinced of their first breakthrough when Woakes caught Henry Nicholls on his back leg. The ball tracker however showed it to be going above the stumps.
Bowling dead straight, Woakes then struck Guptill on the up but the Kiwi opener insisted on going upstairs, ultimately depriving Ross Taylor of a genuine review after being adjudged leg-before off Mark Wood.
Williamson was at his cautious best, stringing just two boundaries in an innings that was building up to one that could have given New Zealand some more runs to defend. Williamson took 12 deliveries to get off the mark, turning the ball towards the right of midwicket. Slow but steady, he started to build a partnership with Nicholls that helped New Zealand reach 100/1 in the 22nd over.
Nicholls looked most fluent, looking for gaps, rolling his wrists to ensure he never gave away leading edges. But England then moved on to their next line of attack. Liam Plunkett’s first spell of 4-0-7-2 put a leash on New Zealand’s ambition to accelerate. From the perspective of the match, Nicholls’s wicket was more significant than Tom Latham’s since New Zealand had finally found some groove through him. An inside edge, trying to drive Plunkett, however brought an end to a fine innings.
But an early Jason Roy dismissal is always ominous. Matt Henry angled the ball into Henry, only to take it away slightly to induce that edge to further boost New Zealand. Slowly but steadily, New Zealand built up the pressure. Joe Root was on seven from 28. Colin De Grandhomme was hammering away at that corridor outside the off-stump, asking Root to be adventurous. That isn’t his suite really. If Root has flourished, it’s because of the tenacity to stick to conventional shots. This was the World Cup final though. And England were under the pump after conceding three consecutive maidens and Jonny Bairstow surviving a fantastic spell from Matt Henry. Next ball, a packed Lord’s let out a collective gasp as Root failed to connect a premeditated slog after sashaying down the pitch. That should have served as a warning but Root tried playing a drive away from his body and got a tickled on the ball. Within three overs, England lost Bairstow when he played on to his stumps.
The slide continued. This time it was Eoin Morgan’s turn. Jimmy Neesham’s first ball was essentially a loosener, asking to be slapped. Morgan did exactly that but Ferguson sprinted in from the deep square boundary and dived forward to take a brilliant low catch. That brought together Buttler and Stokes. England still had one last fight left in them.