Cricket, we never knew

No Hollywood script would match the nerve-wracking drama that unfolded on 14th July at Lords-the Mecca of cricket, in the final of the ICC World Cup 2019.It was an epic encounter as neither the stipulated overs nor the super-overs were enough to split the two teams. The fate of the game was eventually decided by the number of boundaries scored. The epic encounter had it all-drama,sensation,suspense,sportsmanship,thrill,toil and tears.

Before the grand finale, the cricket pundits had put all their money on England-the hot favourites even before the tournament took off. The Kiwis were the underdogs given their inconsistent performance in the league stage. It was the leadership skills of Kane Williamson and his performance with the willow that catapulted New Zealand to the semifinal stage.They were neck and neck with Pakistan on points score but the mercurial men-in-green were elbowed out on the basis of net run rate. A few strokes of bad luck in the form of loss against West indies and a washed out game against Sri Lanka diminished chances of Pakistan of making it to the semis.New Zealand,on the other hand, emerged as dark horses and made it to the semis.

In the first stage of ICC world cup 2019, the freaky English weather took its toll on the quadrennial international tournament as many games were washed out or affected by heavy downpours.The second stage, however, saw some nail-biting contests and the cricket lovers  witnessed quality cricket from the contesting sides.

The first semifinal between India and New Zealand was a foregone conclusion given the formidable Indian batting line-up and a lethal bowling attack spearheaded by the number one bowler in world cricket. But,the cricket experts were proved wrong as the Kiwis rattled the formidable Indian batting line-up and outclassed them in all departments of the game to cross the line and enter into the final for the second time.In the second semifinal,the hosts outplayed the Aussies and made it to the final after a wait of 27 years. The Aussies were dethroned by the inventors of the game.

No one would have expected that the final would go down to the wire and superovers be bowled to decide the fate of the game.After winning the toss,the Kiwis were very circumspect given the early wicket taking ability of the pace battery of England. The pitch was not easy to bat on and still they managed a defendable total on the board.The English batters,on the other hand,took the bull by  horn before the Kiwis struck and put brakes on their scoring rate.Kane Williamson-the Kiwi captain displayed some impeccable captaincy skills on the ground and made it difficult for the English batters to score at will.The game went into the final over where a throw from Martin Guptill ricocheted off the bat of a diving Ben Stokes and the ball crossed over the boundary rope.The on field umpire, Kumara Dharmasena awarded six runs to the English side-a decision being contested by former umpires and veterans of the game alike.Should they have been awarded only five runs as they had not crossed? Should Adil Rashid have taken the strike after the controversial decision? Should the number of boundaries scored not have been taken into account to decide the fate of the game? Should both teams have been declared as joint winners? Should the on-field umpires have referred the decision to the third umpire?Should ICC review its rules and change the rule book? These are the questions that stare ICC in the face.

The adrenaline-pumping 50th over and the two superovers that followed reminded me of the 1992 world cup semifinal between England and South Africa at Sydney. South Africa were cruising along and needed 22 runs off the last 13 balls in a rain affected match.Another spell of rain made it impossible for South Africa to make it to the finals as they had to score 22 runs off one ball through Duckworth Lewis method.

The 2019 world cup final had no winner or loser yet England were declared winners. Surely,no team deserved to lose given their clinical performances in all departments of the game. England might have lifted the cup but it were the Kiwis who won millions of hearts across the globe. One deflection and an ‘error of judgement’ denied them the coveted trophy. They didn’t whine, complain or protest the umpires’ decision. Truly, they have been great ambassadors of the gentleman’s game. Take a bow, Kane Williamson and Co…!

ABDAAL AHMAD BHAT is Assistant Professor, Government Degree College Pulwama