THE English team were crowned the new world champions of cricket for the first time at Lord’s on Sunday in what was arguably the greatest World Cup final ever played. That said, if ever there was a case for a World Cup trophy to be shared, this was the final that merited it. A real cliffhanger that kept millions of fans on the edge of their seats, the match was tied in the stipulated 50 overs and had to be decided in the Super Over where the luckless New Zealand tied again only to lose out to the hosts over the number of boundaries hit. It was a grossly unfair decision. The number-of-boundaries-hit rule belies logic and needs to be revisited by the ICC. Despite the defeat, the support that has poured in for New Zealand has been unprecedented. They proved themselves to be worthy finalists by stoutly defending a modest 242 against the formidable England who were touted as favourites from day one. The two sides fought tooth and nail for the coveted trophy that had so far eluded them. Every run, every ball and every catch will remain etched in the minds of the huge crowd present at Lord’s on Sunday. Ben Stokes was yet again the architect of his team’s victory as he kept his nerve in a pressure-cooker situation. England had been waiting anxiously for this moment since the 1992 defeat against Pakistan in the final at Melbourne. And though they had failed to make the finals in the past six World Cups, their shock quarter-final ouster at the hands of the lowly ranked Bangladesh in the 2015 World Cup was perhaps much needed to reignite their fire. To their credit, they have regrouped marvellously during the past four years with a band of competent players, and put in hard work to hone their skills; their efforts have now paid off.
This World Cup witnessed many thrilling games and upsets, and threw up many young stars, while bringing the curtain down on the career of others. For Pakistan, the experience was mixed: they lost some easy games initially, but bounced back to win four on the trot. They fell agonisingly short of the semi-finals, but could still take consolation from the fact that they had beaten both the finalists in league matches. However, they need to plan ahead by grooming the best 20 players for the next World Cup edition in 2023.
Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2019