Trinidadian historian and writer CLR James once penned: “What do they of cricket know, who only cricket know?”
Well, James would have nodded amusingly at 7.37 pm Sunday night in Central London, as England won their first-ever ICC World Cup with a Super Over victory against New Zealand, who lost another final but the 28,500 spectators at the venue and cricket were the real winners.
Ben Stokes scripted himself to immortality as he starred in the greatest ever ODI cricket match to lead England to their first title by virtue of scoring more boundaries during the match.
England, chasing 242 runs to win the title, were bowled out on the final delivery for 241. It was then to the Super Over and England, batting first, scored 15 and New Zealand in their turn made 15 as well. The match was then decided on who struck more boundaries in the match and it went to England, who hit a total of 26 boundaries to the Kiwis’ 17.
With England needing 15 runs off the 50th and final over, Stokes refused singles off the first two deliveries bowled by veteran pacer Trent Boult, as he knew it was all up to him. The next ball sailed into the mid-wicket stand for six and the equation changed to nine needed from three balls. He then played the next ball to deep mid-wicket and on going back for two the return from Martin Guptill ricocheted off his bat and went for four runs, giving England six runs. With three needed off two balls, however, his partner Adil Rashid got run out at the non-striker’s end but they got one run in the process. Needing to get two off the final ball, Stokes ran one and last man Mark Wood was run out going for the second run with the scores tied.
In the Super Over, England got to 15 and Guptill was run out going for two off the final ball that would have won New Zealand the match. As it ended, the Kiwis got to 15 as well and England ran home winners by virtue of scoring more boundaries in their innings.
Earlier, Stokes was the saviour for England after they slumped to 86 for four. He got a fifth-wicket partnership of 110 with Jos Buttler before New Zealand struck back to remove the last five wickets for just 45 runs. Stokes ended unbeaten on 84 off 98 deliveries with five fours and two sixes while Buttler made 59 off 60 balls with six hits to the boundary.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson had won the toss at the start and opted to bat. The first eight to 10 overs were always going to be crucial and the Kiwis had just one man down after 10 but scored only 33 runs on a sluggish pitch. What they did was to limit damage to the new ball bowlers in order to protect what had been a fragile middle order, barring Williamson and Ross Taylor. England’s bowlers used the cross-seam well after the first powerplay and got the ball to skid on nicely through Liam Plunkett, who kept the Kiwis honest.
But Henry Nicholls, averaging just 12 with the bat going into the final, showed he was a man for the big occasion with a well-played 55. Nicholls and Williamson got New Zealand to their century in the 22nd over only for England to strike back. Plunkett sent back Williamson for 30 but Nicholls stood firm. However, Plunkett kept working at him and with the score at 118 for two, he bowled Nicholls, who faced 77 balls and hit four fours.
Tom Latham took care of the back end of the innings for the Kiwis, as he was able to clout 47 runs off 56 balls with two fours and a six to take them to a score they felt they had a chance with. Plunkett finished with three wickets for 42 runs off 10 overs and Chris Woakes added three for 37 off nine.
England vs N Zealand
N Zealand inns
M.Guptill lbw b Woakes 19
H.Nicholls b Plunkett 55
K.Williamson (c) c
†Buttler b Plunkett 30
L.Taylor lbw b Wood 15
T.Latham †c sub (JM Vince)
b Woakes 47
J.Neesham c Root b Plunkett 19
c sub (JM Vince) b Woakes 16
M.Santner not out 5
M.Henry b Archer 4
T.Boult not out 1
TOTAL for 8 wkts (50) 241
WKts at: 1-29 (M.Guptill), 2-103 (K.Williamson), 3-118 (H.Nicholls), 4-141 (R.Taylor), 5-173 (J.Neesham), 6-219 (C. deGrandhomme), 7-232 (T. Latham), 8-240 (M.Henry)
BOWLING: C.Woakes 9-0-37-3, J.Archer 10-0-42-1, L.Plunkett 10-0-42-3, M.Wood 10-1-49-1, A.Rashid 8-0-39-0, B.Stokes 3-0-20-0
J.Roy c †Latham b Henry 17
J.Bairstow b Ferguson 36
J.Root c †Latham
b de Grandhomme 7
c Ferguson b Neesham 9
B.Stokes not out 84
sub (TG Southee) b Ferguson 59
C.Woakes c †Latham b Ferguson 2
L.Plunkett c Boult b Neesham 10
J.Archer b Neesham 0
A.Rashid run out (Santner/Boult) 0
M.Wood run out (Neesham/Boult) 0
TOTAL all out (50) 241
Wkts at: 1-28 (J.Roy), 2-59 (J.Root), 3-71 (J.Bairstow), 4-86 (E.Morgan), 5-196 (J.Buttler), 6-203 (C.Woake), 7-220 (L.Plunkett), 8-227 (J.Archer), 9-240 (A.Rashid), 10-241 (M.Wood)
BOWLING: T.Boult 10-0-67-0, M.Henry 10-2-40-1, C.de Grandhomme 10-2-25-1, L.Ferguson 10-0-50-3, J.Neesham 7-0-43-3, M.Santner 3-0-11-0
Result: match tied; England won in Super Over by virtue of hitting more boundaries in 50 overs.
Player of Match: Ben Stokes (Eng)
Player of Tournament: Kane Williamson (NZ)