England triumphed in the end, not because New Zealand were less talented — both teams ended up equals, not once, but twice. First, in the regular game, then in the Super Over. But England had more boundaries than New Zealand — 26 to 17 — and they won.
Modern-day cricket runs on fours and sixes. And so, a World Cup was decided by muscle. But it was the nerves, the skills, the human spirit that shone through at the most famed cricketing arena in the world. No one lost — and yet England won. That’s how it rolls sometimes.
What a Tietanic flow of game. Here is the simple match summary: New Zealand made 241, England equalled it. England then made 15 in the Super Over. New Zealand equalled it. England hit 26 boundaries. New Zealand couldn’t equal it. Game over.
But what a fairy tale it was. Stokes, born in New Zealand, stubbed out New Zealand’s hopes. There was an overthrow in the 50th over that deflected off Stokes’ bat to the boundary. Without it, would England have won? The game had everything — from skills to spirit, light to dark, joy to gloom. Pressure and nerves, too.
England almost collapsed in the chase. But then, they had overhauled their ODI cricket in the last four years. Their style, their pitches — they even got an Irishman to run it as he pleased. Eoin Morgan made them take the aggressive route, chose fearless cricket and taught them to seize the moment. It seemed they would choke at the biggest stage but Jos Buttler (59) revived the fight before Stokes (84 not out) seized the moment.
Four years ago, New Zealand went from an adrenalin-charged Brendon McCullum, who played with a gambler’s instinct, to the order and method of Kane Williamson.
England wanted some adrenalin shots to change their outdated ODI game. New Zealand wanted calm and composure to recover from the rollercoaster ride that was McCullum’s way. Williamson was the best way forward for New Zealand. And Morgan was the most suitable for what England wanted to do. And so, the two teams turned around, played in different styles, and reached the final.
Williamson loves to stay in the moment and react to what’s thrown at him. Morgan loves to seize the moment with audacity as he realised England’s problem was their meekness. Two contrasting styles clashed and in the end, there was a tie between two philosophies, too.
But that contrast also produced a cracker-jacker of a final, one for the ages. Williamson and Co had sensed that 250 would be a good total on this slow-seaming track and went about defending it admirably. Williamson attacked with seam and medium-pace. The ball seamed around at the start, it stopped in the middle overs — and the England top order wobbled to cope.
First, Buttler stepped in to calm everyone down with an assured knock. It was infectious as Stokes too settled down to produce the greatest knock of his life. Williamson’s men hung in there, fielded tigerishly, bowled with great control, waited for the batsmen to crack under pressure. Buttler fell when the asking rate got a touch high but Stokes carried on.