There are a few moments that are difficult to put in words.
The World Cup final between England and New Zealand is one of them.
Technically, New Zealand did not lose the final, but England win the World Cup on boundary count.
It was the first-ever Super Over in the history of ODI cricket and it had to be memorable. The Mecca of Cricket, The Lord’s Cricket Ground, was the ideal place to witness it. It was a low-scoring contest after the Kiwis put up just 241 for 8 on the board in the first innings but they fought back like champions towards the end. England and New Zealand were literally on par with each other as the second innings ended at 241 all out. Interestingly, even the Super Over ended with the teams on even terms – 15 – but the home side scripted history because they had hit more fours than the BlackCaps.
In the era of T20 cricket where every possible effort is being made to save the older formats of cricket – Test and ODI- was it reasonable to use the same rule as the shortest format? Is there no value at all for wickets, singles or doubles? That’s another issue altogether as Kiwis turned out to be the victims of unjust rules of ICC. Being a Kiwi fan, the final result left my blood boiling but after a while, it was all over. The game had emotionally drained several cricket enthusiasts, including the players, as the bitter result was graciously accepted by Captain Kane Williamson and his boys.
When New Zealand qualified for the semi-final, every second person mocked them by saying they were just “lucky.”
Luck. The charm of luck. No success is possible without it and New Zealand’s result has played the biggest testimony to it. There were so many moments in the final that showed the Kiwis were running out of luck. It was one of those instances that forced one to think, “maybe they have exhausted all the available luck in coming into the knock-out rounds.” There was no doubt that they were not at their best in the league stage but they performed exceptionally well in their last two games of the World Cup campaign.
In the first innings on Sunday, a wrong decision by Martin Guptill saw New Zealand lose a review. That turned out to be a turning point because when Ross Taylor needed a review, he did not have one and was forced to walk back even when he was not out. Things got frustrating in the second innings. England were six-down, needed 39 off 24 balls, and New Zealand were in a comfortable position to cross the line if things went well.
Unfortunately, destiny had a harsher end in store, for the BlackCaps.
There were so many moments that didn’t go New Zealand’s way but could have gone and that would mean, they would have won fair and square. Known of his divergent fielding, Trent Boult could have caught Stokes’ catch at the boundary in the 49th over. Instead, Boult stepped on the rope and gifted a six to the English. The worst of the mishaps was England’s six runs off a single delivery in the final over. After running a double, England bagged four extra runs after the ball hit Stokes’s bat as he dived for the crease attempting to make his ground. In the Super Over, when England came out to bat first, Williamson should have given the ball to Lockie Ferguson.
Giving the ball to Boult, who had just dealt with the nerve-full final over could have been amiss there. No doubt, Boult was more experienced but it is never a good idea to make your bowler bowl two back to back overs, especially in situations like these. On any other day, Williamson would have gone with Lockie, who was their best bowler all throughout the tournament.
The match had so many possible redemptions written all over it. There is no shame in losing a final but the way New Zealand lost in 2015 was unacceptable. After a top-notch campaign, they lost their captain Brendon McCullum in the first over in the final and from there, they never recovered. After the impact of the loss, the Kiwis would not have thought of playing the very next World Cup final. When they defeated one of the strongest sides of the 2019 World Cup, India, they certainly thought it was their shot at redemption.
They had a roller-coaster run and the guy who was immensely crictised for not performing throughout the World Cup suddenly found himself at the crease. With two runs needed off one ball and Martin Guptill had a golden opportunity to give his nation the biggest gift in the history of their cricket. Guptill, who ended India’s campaign in the semi-final by running MS Dhoni out, ironically was also run out, handing England the World Cup on the basis of more boundaries.
The redemption, sure, happened but it knocked the doors of the English dressing room. Stokes was crushed to pieces by Carlos Braithwaite in the World T20 final in 2016. Needing 19 off the final over, bowled by Stokes, Braithwaite smashed the first four deliveries for four massive sixes to hand the Windies their second World T20 title. The nightmare and burden of that loss finally ended when Stokes clinched the Player of the Match in the World Cup 2019 final.
While he lost partners on the other end, he held his nerves to an unbeaten 98-ball 84. He was clearly drained and exhausted but when Eoin Morgan asked him if he wanted to bat in the Super Over, he accepted the offer with open arms.
Stokes scored eight, while England ended with 15 runs in the Super Over. When Guptill was run out, Stokes, now England’s hero, fell flat on the ground and there, you could see a major relief in his eyes. That’s something the Kiwis will not have for a very very long time.
Be it an athlete or any other professional, nobody wants the “luck” factor to decide their fate. They work all their lives, give hours in preparing for their ultimate goal but they don’t realise that one cannot do anything to eliminate luck. The harder you practice, the luckier you get to win? The New Zealanders will rubbish this theory without seconds doubts from now.
Call it unregularity of life or calculated psychology of life, the luck remains the biggest factor. At the end of the day, a person is either lucky or unlucky. It is up to them how courteously they accept the lesson of life that everything happens for a reason. But for New Zealand, they will never comprehend why they were chosen to be on the wrong end of the final. New Zealand might sit and discuss as much as they want: what if we had done this, what if we had not done this? The theories would be numerous but nothing would make sense because it’s all over and there are a few things that are not in one’s hand and fate is one of them.
Before the match, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sent the team a good luck message. She said the country would be proud of them irrespective of the result. The country woke up to one of their biggest sporting heartbreaks. But, their boys did everything possible they could. They showed their character, effort and some irreplicable fighting spirit. When you give it all and there is nothing else you can do, what else can you do there? The small and happy nation of New Zealand must welcome them with pride, warmth and love.
Because, as Williamson said, “maybe, it was not meant to be.”