Cricket World Cup final: A matter of boundaries, freak luck, legends cemented and the greatest ODI finish ever
Jos Buttler runs out Martin Guptill and the Super Over ends in a tie. © AFP

The law, as that famous saying goes, really is an ass. New Zealand pushed England to the brink, the scores were levelled in the Super Over and yet Eoin Morgan‘s team was crowned winners “on the basis of scoring more boundaries”.

A Super Over, in a 50-over World Cup final. Who’d a thunk it?

Well, someone clearly had, because in the chance that a World Cup final were to end with the scores level after a Super Over – again, really chew on those words to understand the bizarreness of what transpired at Lord’s on Sunday – the winning team would be decided on boundary count. Not another Super Over, or on wickets lost, but on boundary count. It was dazzling, exhilarating, gut-wrenching, and farcical.

241-241. 15-15. A final of a World Cup ended in the mother of all ties – sorry, Edgbaston 1999, you’ve been displaced – and the winner was determined on a boundary count. It is hard to digest. The greatest ODI finish of all will take some figuring out in the days to come, and maybe even years. The rule needs to be changed, because you cannot have something as flimsy as boundary count determining a World Cup winner.

Luck helped both New Zealand and England into the World Cup semi-finals. Both outplayed their respective opponents in the final four, and on the biggest day of their careers, New Zealand ended up on the wrong side of a tie. Not once, but twice.

(READ: To hell and back – Stokes’ redemption rewards England its crowning jewel)

Sport is cruel, too cruel. Just ask Martin Guptill, or Kane Williamson, or Jimmy Neesham. Or any member of the current New Zealand World Cup squad. Or any sports lover back in New Zealand.

A boundary catch that Trent Boult would on any other day have taken with acrobatic brilliance, was a six. A return from the deep hit Ben Stokes‘ bat and went for four overthrows to convert a sprinted two into six runs. And then, that Super Over which ended with the scores levelled, but ruled England winners of the World Cup because they’d hit more boundaries.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson was left to rue what could have been. AFP

Sometime on Monday, sitting somewhere in London, Neesham found the strength to tweet. “Kids, don t take up sport. Take up baking or something. Die at 60 really fat and happy” tweeted the Black Caps allrounder.

He’s a legend in the Twitter domain with his witty, at times downright hilarious tweets. At Lord’s on Sunday, Neesham came agonisingly close to becoming a cricketing legend.

(ALSO READ: Williamson and New Zealand didn’t lose, they only missed the trophy)

As tough as it may sound, the World Cup needed a winner. You can’t have two teams sharing the title, as happened with Sri Lanka and India in the 2002 Champions Trophy. Did the better team win? That is debatable.

It was, in many ways, England’s World Cup. They have been the most dominating team, with no flaws visible. The manner in which they’ve changed their white-ball game since exiting the 2015 World Cup truly is the greatest story in English cricket. And they invented the sport, remember.

For English fans who’ve suffered the agony of watching Mike Gatting reverse-sweep Allan Border in the 1987 World Cup final, Wasim Akram swing out Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis off successive deliveries in the 1992 final, Sanath Jayasuriya shred the 1996 attack apart in Faisalabad, Alec Stewart’s 1999 team crumble like a paper bag, the 2003 upstarts bundled out by Ashish Nehra, the hopeless 2007 bunch wobble like a drunken Andrew Flintoff on a pedalo, the 2011 team lose to Ireland and the batch of 2015 made to look like the fat kid at the prom, suffering is the norm.

At Lord’s on Sunday, the faith of English cricket fans must surely have been tested. In those maddening last few minutes of an unforgettable World Cup moment, they must have felt like they’d aged a decade. Either at Lord’s on their feet or screaming at television sets across the UK, from pubs to living rooms, England fans must have wondered how it was going downhill.

(READ: Such a shame that the ball hit Ben Stokes bat – Kane Williamson)

To say that Stokes getting four runs when the ball hit his bat as he dived to make his crease was a huge slice of luck is an understatement. It was divine intervention. The cricketing equivalent of the Red Sea parting for Moses as he led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.

That one bizarre moment encapsulated the rarity of the 2019 World Cup final, and the fact that it was England’s day. So cruel for New Zealand, so defining for England.

ben stokes world cup 2019
Ben Stokes dives to make his ground at Lord’s. (Image: Twitter/Cricket World Cup)

New Zealand punched above their weight all tournament. They narrowly beat Bangladesh, West Indies and South Africa. They lost three in a row and yet made the semi-finals. They outclassed India in the semi-final and then pushed England to the edge in the final. An England team with the best batting depth in the game, boasting Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Morgan, Stokes and Jos Buttler was wrenched out of their comfort zone and had their aggressive style choked by Williamson’s team. It won’t be any consolation, but New Zealand have the bowling team of the tournament.

Let it never be forgotten that New Zealand were the spark that ignited the most memorable World Cup yet.

(READ: To get over the line means the world to us – Eoin Morgan)

It was fitting that Stokes be there at the end of England’s innings and then go out to bat in the Super Over. Three years ago at Eden Gardens, he was the bowler hit for four consecutive sixes by Carlos Brathwaite in the final of the ICC World Twenty20. A year ago, he was standing trial for charges of affray. On Sunday at Lord’s, he was Man of the Match in a World Cup final as England won their first title.

Like the man he was tipped to become, Ian Botham, Stokes could well be asked one day: “Who writes your scripts?”

Stokes is one vital piece in the jigsaw puzzle that is this England cricket team. There’s also Morgan, who was skipper in 2015 and now the first England captain to win the World Cup. He has been at the forefront of England’s revamp as a white-ball team, and his determination and decision-making was vindicated at Lord’s. There’s Roy, arguably England’s man of the tournament. There’s Root, Bairstow, Buttler. There’s Jofra Archer, who a couple months ago had to shut out criticism of his elevation to England’s World Cup squad. At 24, Archer is a World Cup-winner with 20 wickets.

There’s the somehow under-rated Chris Woakes, who has plugged away all tournament. There’s Mark Wood, jostling with Archer for the title of fastest bowler of the World Cup. There’s Adil Rashid, perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Morgan’s faith. There’s Liam Plunkett, who has willed his ageing body to last the World Cup and who, despite being deemed surplus on a few occasions, has featured in only England wins this tournament.

Reminded by Simon Doull after the final that England can’t lose when he plays, Plunkett paused and replied: “I’ll take that.”

It is on the shoulders of such men that England are world champions for the first time. They were viewed as the favourites and justified that tag by playing some brave cricket. They were crowned winners in somewhat farcical scenes on account of a rule that needs to be revisited, but it takes nothing away from what Morgan’s team has achieved.

All told, the final of the 2019 World Cup was a humdinger. Unforgettable. The best World Cup final ever, for sheer amazement and tension.

Truly, there has never been a World Cup final like this. You’d be tempted to say that there will never be another finish to a World Cup final like that, but then …