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July 16, 2019

Two victors


July 16, 2019

In most sporting contests, a single victor emerges at the end of the game. In the 2019 Cricket World Cup final, played at Lords, there were two. The unprecedented game, historic in terms of both the World Cup and ODI cricket, saw only the 38th tie in over 4,000 ODI matches played over the last half century. But this was not the only factor which reflected how narrowly the two finalists, hosts England, and New Zealand, were divided. Even in the super over, or single, final over bowled by each side in a cricketing version of penalties to determine the victor, the two teams ended up with a precisely even 15 runs each. Rulebooks were consulted in homes everywhere and even by officials; thousands must have Googled the scenario. The decision in favour of England was made on the basis of the larger number of boundaries they hit.

This was England’s first world cup win in a sport it has created and taken around the world. New Zealand’s hopes that they would lift their first cup were defeated by only fractions of a millimetre. Such margins are virtually unknown in cricket. England of course deserves the congratulations and the accolades coming its way. But controversies too have followed the victory. There is an argument which suggests that the number of boundaries hit is no way to determine a World Cup final and that the cup should have been shared. An even bigger controversy involves that decisive overthrow from New Zealand’s fielders which then deflected off the bat of Ben Stokes and then crossed the boundary for a four. The argument also made by leading former umpire Simon Taufel along with others suggests that England should have been awarded five and not six runs for that freak overthrow and boundary, as the two batsmen had not fully crossed over to complete two runs before the ball crossed the rope. Replay images show this, although it is impossible to blame the umpires on the field whose decisions must be made within seconds.

These controversies will continue. Perhaps the rules will be changed. After all, such a situation has rarely arisen before. Nor has the cricketing world witnessed an encounter so close that even a super over was insufficient to divide the teams. This is cricket at its most exciting, at its most entertaining, and at its most crowd-pleasing. As underdogs, the kiwis played magnificently. Their 241 in 50 overs after batting first had not seemed enough to stop England from victory. But wicket after wicket toppled and the kiwis at many stages during the second innings appeared to be on the verge of victory. Only Ben Stokes’s 84 over 98 balls, backed by Jos Buttler’s 59 off 60 balls, literally pulled, cut and drove England back into the game. Such a finale is rare. The disappointment of the kiwis, who had in the last world cup lost to Australia in the final, is understandable. But if there was ever a game with two victors, this was the one.

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