A Dubliner gave the ball to a Bajan to win the Super Over of a World Cup final after a New Zealand-born kept it alive for England till the last ball. Lord’s, bursting at its seams, was singing ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’. Sunday masses at churches prayed for them. Allah was on their side too. All’s well with the world when a sport unites a country like this.
Riding the wave of a genuine need for inclusiveness, cricket has finally achieved what football has been striving for years in England. That it came to the fore at such an extraordinary game, probably the greatest ODI of all time, speaks for its merits. “I spoke to Adil (Rashid), he said ‘Allah was definitely with us,’” said England captain Eoin Morgan after Sunday’s heart-stopping win gave the country its first men’s cricket World Cup title.
“I said we had the rub of the green. It actually epitomises our team. Quite diverse backgrounds and cultures and guys grow up in different countries and to actually find humour in the situation we were in at times was pretty cool,” he said.
Many agree there has not been a greater day for English cricket than July 14, 2019. Not even when they had won the Ashes in 2005, defeating a rampaging Australia then led by Ricky Ponting. Participation has plummeted to an all-time low. Infrequent reportage, the sport being on pay-per-view television and emphasis on Test cricket were some of the reasons proffered for pushing away the youth from the game. Not on Sunday.
Good sense prevailed when the final was made free-to-air. So when a kid at Sandsend, a picturesque but small village on Yorkshire coast, switched to cricket after Roger Federer’s loss in the Wimbledon final, he experienced the ebb and flow of thrills and skills and the good fortune of witnessing a World Cup win within an hour.
“To play at Lord’s is one thing; to play at Lord’s in a World Cup final is a completely different matter. To have friends, family and rest of the amazing fans—it’s difficult to put to words,” said Jonny Bairstow.
Newspaper front pages Monday morning had cricket on them, not Wimbledon winner Novak Djokovic. The England football team, the rugby team and Wimbledon congratulated England cricket on Twitter. Every television channel was repeating the highlights package. These are unprecedented scenes.
Morgan summed it best when asked whether this win will help people reconnect with the game. “I hope so. Particularly given the time it finished. Obviously, today is a big day of sport with Wimbledon and Silverstone GP going on but with Sunday evening, people normally settle in for a bit of David Attenborough or some random film that’s on, so I hope they were tuned into the cricket,” he said.
It’s an even greater achievement by the team to come back from the humiliation of being knocked out in the group stages last World Cup. “To me and to the team, and everybody who has been involved over the last four years, it means absolutely everything and the planning, the hard work, the dedication, the commitment and the little bit of luck today really did get us over the line.”
Morgan usually presents a poker face to every question but this time, he admitted to feeling emotional, even surreal. “I still can’t quite believe; that is why I’m carrying it (the trophy) around as much as I can. Sport sometimes is (about) very, very fine margins. I think it was the finest of margins today and it could have gone either way, but I’m thankful it went ours.”
That this was possible only because of Ben Stokes’s extraordinary ability to turn around yet another match wasn’t lost on anyone. “He’s almost superhuman. He really carried the team and our batting line-up. I know Jos (Buttler) and his partnership was extraordinary, but to bat with the lower order the way he did, I thought, was incredible,” said Morgan.
Then came the best compliment. “Obviously everybody watching at home will hopefully try and be the next Ben Stokes.” To come up with this for a man who had to spend a night in jail a year back, enforces the strength of character shown by Stokes. Consider that and you won’t want to compare it with the dejection of losing a World Twenty20 final in a matter of four balls. Still Morgan thought it could have ended his career.
Jofra Archer could have been thinking the same when he was handed the ball. So Stokes told him: “Whatever happens from here, this isn’t going to define your career because I’ve been through a tough time before.” No wonder Archer called this team ‘the best family’.
India, where the next 50-over World Cup will be held, is still four years away so Morgan isn’t thinking too far ahead. “We will let the dust settle, we’ll celebrate as hard as we can. I think it’s deserved. Four years is a long time away. I think the big question I will have to answer is will I be in the team in four years, will I be good enough?”