In what culminated into the greatest World Cup final of them all, Eoin Morgan’s England inched past Kane Williamson’s New Zealand by ‘the barest of margins’ at Lord’s to take the honours. Lawrence Booth revisits a tense and a gripping day at the Home of Cricket in the 2020 Wisden Almanack.

First published in the 2020 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack

England v New Zealand
The Final, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Lord’s, London
July 14, 2019

Words were not enough, but the captains tried anyway. “Extraordinary,” said Morgan. “Gutted,” said Williamson. More or less everyone else was speechless. England had won their first men’s World Cup on an obscure technicality, after tying not once with New Zealand, but twice: 241 apiece after 50 overs, then 15-all after the super over. But because they had hit more boundaries overall (27 to 17), England were declared the winners. It was slightly random, and possibly unjust. Yet the drama was unsurpassable, outdoing even the 1999 semi-final between Australia and South Africa at Edgbaston. Neither side deserved to lose, but someone had to win.

Morgan, born in Dublin, was asked if England had enjoyed the “luck of the Irish”. Drawing on his team’s multiculturalism, he quoted Rashid, his leg-spinner, who had suggested “Allah was definitely with us”. Whatever the source of their fortune, England enjoyed plenty.

Taylor had been given lbw to one that was going over (Guptill had wasted the review). Then, from the first ball of the chase, Roy survived a huge shout by Boult: not out, said Marais Erasmus; umpire’s call on leg stump, said DRS, though another millimetre or two would have overturned the decision. A few hours later, with England needing 22 off nine, Stokes was caught at long-on by Boult, who didn’t realise how close he was to the boundary, and stepped on it. Standing nearby, waiting for the relay catch, Guptill forlornly but sportingly signalled six.

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The drama was far from over. England, now eight down, required 15 from four when Stokes smeared Boult for six: nine off three. He pulled the next ball to deep mid-wicket, and hared back for the second, his dive coinciding with the arrival of Guptill’s powerful throw. Astonishingly, the ball ricocheted off Stokes’s outstretched bat, and scooted off up the hill to the third-man boundary, with de Grandhomme in vain pursuit; everyone looked aghast, even Stokes. After a conflab with Erasmus, umpire Dharmasena used his fingers to signal six: two runs, four overthrows. The equation was three off two… but should it have been four off two?

Hours later, someone discovered Law 19.8, the one about boundaries from overthrows. The batsmen, it transpired, had to have crossed “at the instant of the throw or act” for the “run in progress” to count. Stokes and Rashid had not crossed at the moment Guptill released the ball, so England should have scored five, not six, and Rashid, not Stokes, should have been on strike. Four elite-panel umpires were on duty, yet none noticed the error. Conceivably, it cost New Zealand the World Cup.

Still, Stokes played the next two deliveries in the knowledge that two runs would mean a super over, regardless of wickets lost. He pushed the fifth ball to long-off for an easy single, but a tricky two: Santner’s return beat Rashid, though he should probably have aimed for the striker’s end and run out Stokes. One ball to go: one run for a super over, two for instant glory. Boult produced a leg-stump full toss, which Stokes might have hit for six had he needed to. But, as he said later, this was a moment for pragmatism, not heroics.

A bunt to long-on brought the scores level, before Neesham’s throw did for Wood – like Rashid, run out without facing. Stokes kicked his bat, then dragged himself back to the dressing-room, and found a quiet spot in the shower. He emerged to learn he would soon be returning to the middle with Buttler, because Morgan wanted a left–right combination. Lord’s was chaos.

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The super overs were impossibly tense. England took 15 off Boult, including a last-ball four to mid-wicket by Buttler. Archer began with the narrowest of off-side wides and, when Neesham pulled his second legitimate delivery into the Tavern for six, New Zealand needed seven off four. But Archer held his nerve, obliging Guptill – on strike for the first time – to score two off the last. Despite his lack of runs, he had been chosen for the task, said Williamson, because of his speed, but Roy’s throw from deep mid-wicket was too quick even for him. Buttler, cool as you like, broke the stumps moments before Guptill slid in. England went berserk, though Woakes found the time to comfort Guptill, who had barely picked himself off the turf. The 4,192nd one-day international was the most improbable of the lot.

The final had begun more sedately (and 15 minutes late because of overnight rain). As in the group game at Chester-le-Street 11 days earlier, Nicholls was wrongly given lbw to Woakes on nought, but this time asked for a review. Woakes did then trap Guptill, who had tried to hit his way back into form. But, as Nicholls and Williamson settled in on a pitch that was green and slow, New Zealand’s decision to bat threatened to assume a critical air.

Yet this was a game that kept confounding expectations. Plunkett had Williamson caught behind on review for 30, and bowled Nicholls off an inside edge for 55. Latham managed 47 but, in all, the last 28 overs produced 139-7, with Archer’s five overs at the death costing just 24. When Santner ducked under the final ball of the innings, an Archer bouncer, it seemed insignificant at the time. Woakes and Plunkett finished with three wickets each.

England’s target of 242 sounded straightforward, but only three higher totals had successfully been chased all tournament. Erasmus turned down Boult’s first-ball appeal against Roy, and England’s openers got to 28 before Roy fiddled at Henry. Root’s torturous 30-ball seven ended with a swipe at de Grandhomme’s economical medium-pacers. When Bairstow played on against Ferguson, and Morgan scythed Neesham to deep point, where Ferguson dived forward to hold a superb catch, England were 86-4 in the 24th, and in danger of suffocating.

With Woakes at No. 7, the onus was on Stokes and Buttler. They responded magnificently, adding 110 in 21 overs. Buttler batted as fluently as anyone all match, cutting Ferguson, straight-driving Neesham, then ramping Henry, all for four. But when he fell to a world-class tumbling catch at deep point by substitute fielder Southee, England required 46 from 31. Stokes was exhausted and struggling for timing, while the lower order could not get going. It looked like New Zealand’s trophy. The equation ticked down, the rate crept up, as if in slow motion: 39 off four overs, 34 off three, 24 off two. Up in the dressing-room, Bairstow remarked that England needed three sixes. With a generous helping of luck, Stokes obliged. Soon, Morgan was lifting the trophy, too delighted to wonder how on earth England had won and, in all likelihood, too delighted to care.

Player of the Match: BA Stokes.
Attendance: 26,970.