<
>

If cricket were to end tomorrow, at least we'll have this game

play
A fair way to end the World Cup? (1:59)

Daniel Vettori and Ajit Agarkar discuss whether it is fair for a team to win a World Cup on number of boundaries scored in the match (1:59)

To hell with big hits. Banish the nonsense about 400s. Junk the flatbeds. This was the match of our lives. Heart-stopping, heartbreaking, a blockbuster of a ripper. No one had seen one like this. And no one ever will again.

It was insane. It was pulsating. It was chaotic. It was breathtaking. It was cruel. It was unbelievable. It was extraordinary. It was epochal. It will be unforgettable. After we have dealt with it all, we will be forever grateful we saw it.

Once they got to bed, New Zealand likely slept with no faith in justice or god, and they will bear the staggering misfortune of it for the rest of their lives. But England will take it as their destiny. History rewards the winners. It was meant to be: After 44 years of desperate longing and four years of relentless preparation, the trophy is theirs. It doesn't matter just now what this win might or might not engender. For Eoin Morgan and his delirious troop, the revolution has reaped its reward. The World Cup has come home.

ALSO READ: What the luck! New Zealand and the randomness of life (or a World Cup final)

There had been only 37 ties in the 4045 ODIs that had been played before then, only four in 445 World Cup matches and none since 2011. England had been involved in eight ties and New Zealand seven, and in matches involving both, there had been three ties. The law of probability would have given it a 0.91% chance. Two in two overs -- who could have been wild enough to even contemplate it, let alone prepare for it?

Think of Jofra Archer. Born to play cricket but only newly an English national. Drafted into the World Cup squad just in time for the tournament, after months of speculation. Entrusted with the over that would decide the World Cup. And that after he assumed his job had been done in the first half of the day. Forget the skills. Think of the nerve it took. First ball a wide. Third ball smoked for a six. Another six, and the trophy is gone; a four, almost gone.

WATCH on Hotstar: The final three overs of the exhilarating final (India only)

Each ball decisive, a life event by itself. No margin for error. Bouncer, and you risk a wide. Yorker, you risk a full toss. The margins are down to fractions now. Seven off four. Five off three. Three off two. Two off one.

Archer kept his cool. Throughout the tournament, he was England's X factor. But at the moment of reckoning, he was their deliverer. The word "heroic" doesn't do justice.

Think of Ben Stokes. Less than a year ago, he spent a day in jail. He then went through a public trial for affray that could have kept him there longer. All through this time, he waited for this day. He battled a tough pitch, determined opponents, departing teammates and mounting pressure, and he almost won his team the World Cup. Then he had to come back and do it all over again. He made eight off three balls.

Think of Trent Boult. He led New Zealand's charge with the ball all through the tournament. He could have had a wicket first ball. On the last ball of the game against West Indies, he caught Carlos Brathwaite's six-bound, and thus match-winning, hit at the edge of the boundary to win the game. That, in retrospect, kept New Zealand in the tournament. Then, in the 49th over, he had Stokes' lofted hit firmly in his range and soon the ball in his cupped palms. But unlike the last time, the backward momentum took him a step behind and onto the ropes. A potentially match-winning dismissal was a six. Then he had to defend 15 in the last over. Then he was asked to deliver the Super Over, which went for another 15. Thirty runs in two unforgiving overs after going through the whole tournament with an economy rate of 4.74.

Think of Martin Guptill. Hardly a run came off his bat in the last nine games. But New Zealand kept faith in him and possibly gave him licence to let loose in the final. He upper-cut Archer for six and hit him back over his head for a four, but the innings remained only a promise. Then his team was again banking on him in the Super Over because he could run hard and maybe land a heavy blow or two. Four of the first five, he ran as hard as he possibly could, but with two needed of final ball, he could only dig out the ball, full, angling in, to midwicket. He was defeated by not more than a few inches as he dived back for the second. The World Cup was gone.

ALSO READ: Should England have gotten five, and not six, for overthrows?

Think of the sixes. England hadn't managed one until the 49th over. The first one could have cost them the match. The second one kept them alive. But the third, the one that tilted the match for them, wasn't even a six. It was the freakiest of freak incidents in cricket: a ricochet off Stokes' bat as he flung himself into the crease to complete a second run. Stokes was nearly embarrassed. New Zealand gaped, first in disbelief and then in despair.

It was a day of slow burn. Nothing came easily, not wickets or runs. The teams were pushed and tested and taken to the edge. It was riveting like no other World Cup match. Australia v South Africa in Edgbaston in 1999 comes close. That was a tie too. But this was beyond compare. At the end of all this, there is no loser. But England win because -- wait -- they have hit more boundaries. You can call it karmic. Four years of muscling the ball haven't been in vain.

Walking onto the field later in the evening, you could still feel your senses tingle. You could hear the players celebrating indoors. ICC staff gathered around to take photographs. What a day it was. If this did not reconnect a nation to a game that sprang from its own greens, nothing ever will.

Even if cricket were to die tomorrow, we would still have this game.