Peter Newlinds writes on a remarkable win in the World Cup of cricket
Waking to the news that England had won the World Cup, but not actually won the final itself, leads to the sort of back analysis and feats of logic that only this funniest of games can generate.
Social media was alive with pithy observations, which, with all the material available, became a competition within itself. A favourite of mine was ‘there will never be a game of cricket again in which both teams needed two runs from one ball to win’; another ‘Black Caps lose by zero runs’.
In the latter case it was a newspaper headline that would have made no sense whatsoever to anyone not lucky enough to understand the nuances and absurdities of this game, whose devotees (in the main) love like no other.
The calm before the storm
You couldn’t help but think before the World Cup Final that something out of the ordinary was going to happen on Sunday at Lords. Or maybe we just think that before every game of cricket when there is a major prize on the line.
New Zealand’s calm and calculated overthrow of India in the semi-finals in a one-day game that lasted for two days (another impossible piece of cricket logic) gave you the sense that no matter what, the big game at Lords was going to be very interesting. You have to admire the collective mentality of a sporting nation that gave us the All Blacks. The last word in sporting efficiency. The perfection of an Anglo game.the
England handle the pressure
For England, the last step to the finals was a straightforward annihilation of Australia. The pressure on them to win the World Cup for the first time was immense. There was the weight of history and the expectations of a success-hungry population. England has no equivalent of the All Blacks. A lot was riding on this final in the land of St George, as big expectations aren’t often met in the land that gave us these precious games. Pundits talked of the need for an England victory to give cricket a much needed shot in the arm in the schools and villages.
And so the events unfolded on a high summer Sunday in London. By mid-afternoon Federer and Djokovic were slugging it out on centre court on the other side of the Thames but tennis is a far more global affair. The cricket World Cup was reserved for those who understand its nuances but can never fathom its distribution of random luck, good and bad.
I’ve watched a replay of the final hour of play twice and honestly can’t remember anything as unlikely as the six (or was it five?) off the bat of Ben Stokes in the final over. I thought sixes were meant to clear the boundary, not just go over it? The deflection off the Martin Guptill throw had nothing to do with pressure, tension or the enormity of the situation: it was just cricket having the final say once again.
Cricket is doing alright
The game isn’t perfect though. It often isn’t. There was, in my opinion, an absurd, poorly thought out rule (the boundary countback) that had to be invoked after two attempts to decide the winner. Only cricket could do that, let alone get away with it. Backyard cricket committees would never have come up with such a lame rule.
An ex-colleague of mine, Keith Stackpole, had a saying about cricket that I’ve always loved: ‘Every time I come to a game I see something I’ve never seen before.’ Test out the theory for yourself, it works even on the most routine and unremarkable days play, if there is such a thing.
Cricket is doing all right. England deserve the title of One Day World Champions and best of all, we have a five-match Ashes series to look forward to before this northern summer is through.
That’s something tennis fans can’t really understand…