After 44-year wait, England win most sensational final in cricket World Cup history

England's Eoin Morgan and teammates celebrate winning the world cup with the trophy at Lord's, London, Britain on July 14, 2019 (Reuters)
Updated 15 July 2019

After 44-year wait, England win most sensational final in cricket World Cup history

  • Arguably the greatest one day international game ever was tied after the regular 50 overs, and also after two Super Overs
  • A thrashing from Kiwis four years ago inspired England to radically change their approach to ODI cricket with aim of winning this series

KARACHI: 241 vs 241; 15 vs 15; 27 vs 16. The greatest World Cup final of all time and perhaps the greatest ODI game ever was tied after the regular 50 overs, and after two Super Overs. The deciding tie-breaker, the number of boundaries hit, was the only area where England and New Zealand, the two finalists were separated, and in the face of all the incredible drama leading up to it, this difference felt almost arbitrary and abstract. Nevertheless, England finally managed to lift the trophy for the first time, as New Zealand ended empty-handed for the second consecutive final, despite not really having lost this one.
Four years ago, an almighty thrashing at the hands of New Zealand had inspired England to radically change their approach to ODI cricket, with the aim being to lift this trophy. Since then, England were seen as the presumptive champions, with their ulta-aggressive batting seeming to be redefining the sport and handing them huge wins. But in a tournament defined by adaptability and resilience, New Zealand have shown how they’ve evolved from the model England tried to replicate. Embracing the bat-first, bat-safe tactics that have defined this World Cup, Kane Williamson chose to bat here after winning the toss.
England’s bowlers didn’t quite grab the initiative at first, but then Liam Plunkett underlined his value to the hosts by doing what he does best — plucking wickets in the middle. England couldn’t quite run through though, and the entire Kiwi top seven got into double figures. This in itself was a minor miracle, given their repeated failures so far, and the rare failure for captain Kane Williamson here, who had otherwise rescued the side repeatedly. A target of 242 was always going to be challenging in a World Cup final, particularly on a pitch that analytics website Cricviz rated as the eighth-toughest of the tournament to bat on.
The consistent complaint against England’s new-look side is that they tend to be flat-track bullies, and shock losses to Pakistan and Sri Lanka on slightly challenging tracks had underlined this point. They looked back at it here, as the Kiwis struck consistently to remove the top order cheaply, reducing them to 86-4. Player of the match Ben Stokes and Joss Buttler then put on a match-defining partnership to bring England to the brink, but Stokes was eventually left alone with 15 to get in the final over. Like the Kiwis would in the Super Over to follow, Stokes fell one run short of the winning target, but some would argue that he should have never gotten there at all. With 9 still to get, a throw from the outfield was deflected off Stokes’ bat to the boundary and England got six runs where they were struggling to get two. As journalist Osman Samiuddin later tweeted, “I have never seen a single slice of luck change a game like that.” Williamson, who resolutely avoided making excuses after the match, did pause to reflect how “that [Stokes deflection] was a bit of a shame, wasn’t it? You just hope it doesn’t happen in moments like that.”
It feels incredible that a four year project by one of the sport’s richest cricket boards that involved so many radical changes was ultimately beholden to a lucky ricochet. In many ways, England’s cricket board had long bankrupted the future for cashing in the present. It’s been fourteen years since cricket was available on public television in the country, causing such an alarming fall in popularity for the sport that many in the country had no clue about this match. England had also ruthlessly developed a small elite of top performers, and not cared about developing a lot of backup, looking to create a winning team immediately. While they had copied a lot of New Zealand’s ideas, they beefed it up with money and clout, being able to offer citizenships to players eligible for other countries as well.
This power has often bred a sense of petulance within this side, as was evidenced by outbursts by English players over the pitches not being batting-friendly enough this tournament. It reflected a mindset that unless things were done to their advantage, they weren’t going to be happy.
With the gripping, tense final being broadcast on free-to-air TV, one English journalist lamented over the pitch for the final as well, saying “I’m sure there are good reasons and I accept this is absorbing cricket but... bearing in mind this is on free to air and we’re trying to reach a new audience — who you’d think would be gripped more by boundaries than cagey accumulation — I think it’s a pretty disappointing pitch.”
Indeed for all its refreshing commitment to eradicating the traditional negativity and passivity of English ODI cricket, this side would feel like bullies at times, wanting things in their favor before they could be good. Their stubborn commitment to attacking cricket even as this tournament demanded adaptability spoke to a pig-headedness but in the final reckoning, it was also what made the difference.
Handing the Super Over to Jofra Archer, a 24-year-old playing his 14th ODI, was a move old English sides would have considered blasphemous. Leaving aside his race and English cricket’s attendant problems with those, he was surely too young and inexperienced. But as Stokes said, “We backed the new kid, Jofra Archer, backed the talent that he’s got, and he showed the world today.”
Languid, lithe and composed, Archer has already been an online sensation for his cricket-mad Twitter account, which seemed to predict events before they happened. But this was not about memes and retweets — this was arguably the most important over in English limited overs cricket history; the most important over for the country that invented this sport, that had lost three World Cup finals, and that had staked everything for this one trophy.
Jofra started terribly and almost gave the game away, as New Zealand looked to chase 16 runs, knowing a tie would lose them the cup. But he wrested back some control, found his composure, and cramped Martin Guptill on the last ball enough that the man who had easily bested the fielders twice in a row was now found inches short as he got run out. It wasn’t how England would have imagined it, but they trusted the approach that had gotten them here so far. They weren’t let down.
For player of the tournament Kane Williamson, who had at times dragged his side to the knockouts before they really came to life, it just wasn’t meant to be. “Look, it certainly wasn’t just one extra run. So many small parts in that match that could have gone either way as we saw. So many parts to it.”
An incredible final for a memorable World Cup, which above all was a reminder of cricket’s delightfully capricious nature. A few weeks of rain had threatened to derail years of preparations and upend the recent evolution of batting. There are few sports that can turn on their heads over such small margins. And the final of this tournament was build on the finest, smallest margins of all. May we all see such cricket again.


Dakar Rally stars gear up for ‘thrilling’ Saudi race challenge

The first stage of Rally Qassim began in Umm Sidra covering a distance of 170km. Several drivers are keen to test before the Dakar Rally crosses the country for the first time in January 2020. (SPA)
Updated 19 October 2019

Dakar Rally stars gear up for ‘thrilling’ Saudi race challenge

  • French driver Stéphane Peterhansel, a 13-time winner of the Dakar Rally, revealed that he was initially surprised to hear that the competition had been moved from Africa to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Dakar Rally drivers are gearing up for a “thrilling and exciting” challenge when the world-famous desert race is staged in Saudi Arabia for the first time next year.
The Kingdom will host the event from Jan. 5 to 17, 2020 with top racers from around the globe traveling thousands of kilometers through inhospitable terrain in cars, trucks and on quad bikes and motorcycles.
The rally will begin in Jeddah and follow a tough route through desert, sand dunes and mountainous areas taking in NEOM, the Red Sea Project, Riyadh and Qiddiya.
French driver Stéphane Peterhansel, a 13-time winner of the Dakar Rally, revealed that he was initially surprised to hear that the competition had been moved from Africa to Saudi Arabia.
“However, after doing some research, I realized that Saudi Arabia was a very wonderful and suitable country for the rally. It has different terrain types, and I expect us to have a perfect track. The vast desert gives me hope that the 2020 Saudi Dakar Rally will be more thrilling and exciting than Africa,” he said.
Five-time Dakar Rally winner and fellow French driver, Cyril Despres, said that racing in Saudi Arabia would be a new adventure that could only be experienced by those who lived up to its challenges.
“When I heard that the Dakar Rally was moving for the first time to the Middle East, I remembered the words of its founder, Thierry Sabine, who said that if you liked exploring the African continent, you would also love exploring other parts of the world,” he added.

Positive move
British rally raid motorcycle rider, Sam Sunderland, who won his category in the 2017 Dakar Rally, said he was delighted to be participating in the Saudi race. “I believe that this change is good, as I have lived in Dubai for 10 years, having adapted well to the Middle East’s atmosphere.

When I heard that the Dakar Rally was moving for the first time to the Middle East, I remembered the words of its founder, Thierry Sabine, who said that if you liked exploring the African Continent, you would also love exploring other parts of the world.

Cyril Despres, French driver

“Exploring a new area is a positive move for the Dakar Rally, and I am certain that everyone who practices this sport is excited to explore a new ground for racing,” Sunderland added.
ED Racing Team driver, Issa Al-Dossari, said the main reason he had taken part in Rally Qassim was to prepare for the Dakar challenge.
“We will be using two cars in the rally. We look forward to raising the level of preparedness for many coming global events. But this does not mean that we will not compete for the top places.”
Al-Dossari invited sports fans to visit the team’s headquarters at Date City to see equipment and meet its members.
The team must participate in two different cars, the first driven by Al-Dossari with his French navigator Sébastien Delaunay, and the second with Emirati Abdallah Al-Huraiz behind the wheel and Ali Hassan navigating.
The first stage of Rally Qassim began on Friday in Umm Sidra covering a distance of 170 km, with stage two raced over 200 km.
Meanwhile, entry registrations for the Dakar Rally are still open in all categories at https://www.dakar.com/en/the-competitors/register.