Verily the Lord’s finale

England's Eoin Morgan and teammates celebrate winning the ICC Cricket World Cup Finals with the trophy at Lord's, London, Britain. Action Images via Reuters

Cricket’s quadrennial showpiece finally got the match it deserved: a nail-biting World Cup final that challenged even history’s two tied Tests for sheer drama. Here, all the tension was packed into 102 overs played in front of a packed Lord’s, and featured the rarest of rare endings, a tie within a tie. Even a Super Over, a relatively new invention in the game, could not separate England and their colonial cousins from across the globe, New Zealand. Sadly, there could be only one winner: the inventors of the game took the honours by virtue of having scored more boundaries than New Zealand. The merit or otherwise of this rule to determine the champion of a long and arduous tournament is beside the point, as are arguments about whether five or six runs should have been declared when a fielder’s throw, deflected off the bat of England’s saviour Ben Stokes, raced away to the boundary. Cricket is known both for its rules and the spirit in which they are interpreted, and both sides knew the rules in advance and played by them. In the end, the very marginally better team – better, perhaps, by a Stokeslength, won. And it was perhaps in the fitness of things that it was the host nation, who have a long and embarrassing history of World Cup debacles to try and forget. Spare a thought for New Zealand, led by the preternaturally gifted and calm Kane Williamson, who lost their second final in a row after finishing runners-up to cricket’s bad boys Australia in 2015. These Kiwis are nothing like the flightless birds they are named after: iron resolve, supremely drilled skills, and cool intellect carry them further, more often, than more naturally talented cricket teams. Ask India, whom they bested in the semi-finals.

The heart-stopping finale brought down the curtain on a riveting six-week tournament that showcased many of the best features of the modern game, and still had space for the classicality of players like Williamson, Virat Kohli and Joe Root. It brought back the joy of watching a toe-crushing yorker and the well-directed short ball, and still accommodated relatively modern innovations like the slow bouncer. Some of the catches and run-outs looked impossible even on replays.

All in all, the Cup restored the average cricket fan’s love of the 50-over game, which had seemed at risk of irrelevance, sandwiched as it is between the purist’s joy, Test cricket, and the shiny 20-over version of the sport that is liked or loathed, but never ignored. There is clearly space for a longer short game, where the joy of a Kohli cover drive matches any straight six used to finish a T20; and where a finish like that on Sunday can be spoken of in the same breath as anything Test cricket has to offer.

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