England are the world champions. But trust them to risk giving their nation a collective coronary in the process. In perhaps the most English way to win a major tournament ever they won the first tied World Cup final in history on the number of boundaries scored after a tied Super Over. You really couldn’t make it up.
The boundary count – 26 to 17 in England’s favour. The hero? Jofra Archer, pictured, the Barbados-born bowler who only qualified for his adopted country in March but who denied the Black Caps the 16 runs they needed to stop England claiming their place in history.
A word, too, for Ben Stokes, who banished his demons from the lost 2016 World T20 final against West Indies in Kolkata by constructing a gem of an innings of 84 to ensure his side at least matched New Zealand’s total of 241 in 50 overs.
Jason Roy and Jos Buttler can take a bow too, the former providing the throw for the latter to run out Martin Guptill off the final ball of the Super Over to spark wild celebrations at the home of cricket.
The bottom line, though, is this – after losing in three previous finals, England are the sixth nation to win this tournament after West Indies, India, Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
This group of players, after four years of hard graft and stunning progress in one-day cricket, can join the footballers of 1966 and the rugby heroes of 2003 as England’s only winners of a World Cup in a major men’s sport. Their place among their country’s pantheon of sporting greats will only be enhanced by the fact this thriller was shown live on free-to-air TV. A new generation of fans may well be hooked. How couldn’t they be? Drama doesn’t even cover it.
The clutch moment of this contest came when Stokes, hit for four successive sixes by Carlos Brathwaite as England lost that World T20 final three years ago after failing to defend 19 in the final over, was caught on the boundary by Trent Boult in the penultimate over of this match. Crucially Boult’s second step took his left foot onto the rope. Six runs. England had a shot. By the time the final over came, England, with Archer bowled by Jimmy Neesham and Stokes on strike, needed 15. Lord’s could not conceal the tension. Everything had come down to this.
Stokes, unable to pierce the infield, failed to score from the first two balls. But the third sailed into the stands. Six more came off the next, Stokes running hard for two and Guptill, attempting to run him out, conceded four overthrows as the ball deflected off Stokes’ bat and raced to the boundary.
Three from two. For the World Cup. Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. One came from the next ball, Adil Rashid run out and two now needed for the win – a single for a Super Over. One wicket left. Wow.
Stokes drove it down the ground and urged Mark Wood, his new partner, to run through for the second for victory. The throw to Boult over the stumps was precise. Wood was nowhere. Super Over. Who was scripting this?
There were now six balls for each team, with two wickets available. England were in first, Boult the bowler again, Stokes and Buttler at the crease. Three came from the first, Stokes the man facing. A single next, leaving Buttler on strike. Four through midwicket. Single. A hard-run two. Then four for Buttler. New Zealand needed 16.
Archer was England’s bowler. Jimmy Neesham and Guptill the batsmen. A wide first up didn’t help the hosts. Two. Six – Neesham thrashing the ball into the Tavern Stand. Seven from four would do it. Two more came from Neesham. Five from three. Three from two. Two from one. Exactly where England were in their chase.
Guptill got bat on ball, Roy picked it up at deep midwicket and threw to Buttler. Run out or bust. Buttler delivered. England had won by a matter of inches. Cricket. Bloody hell.
England had been 86 for four and needing 156 more for victory when Buttler joined Stokes at the crease during the nerve-shredding chase.
The pair knew the whole World Cup probably rested on their partnership and they batted like it too. At the 40-over mark England needed 72 from 60 balls.
Both reached their half-centuries in the 44th over. However, the 110-run stand spanning 21.3 overs was broken in the very next over, Buttler holing out to Lockie Ferguson.
England, with Chris Woakes joining Stokes at the crease, now needed 46 off the final 31 deliveries. It was a big ask.
Stokes hit Neesham’s last ball of the 46th over through midwicket for four to leave England requiring 39 from 24. Woakes, though, went the very next delivery, top-edging Ferguson and wicketkeeper Tom Latham taking a skier. With just four wickets left, it was now Stokes or bust for England. But Plunkett muscled a boundary off Ferguson’s penultimate ball to offer home fans hope – 34 now required from the final three overs.
The first of those saw Boult ship ten runs. Now 24 were needed from the final 12 balls to create history. Plunkett, trying to hit Neesham out of St John’s Wood, fell in the next over, Archer now joining Stokes at the crease.
The all-rounder, though, smashed Neesham for six the next ball – but only because Boult, the man on the boundary, stepped back onto the rope in taking the catch.
It was a huge moment and one that ultimately cost a crestfallen New Zealand the World Cup.