England's glory, sensational Stokes and Super Over chaos...WORLD CUP TALKING POINTS

NICK FRIEND: A tale of two dives: one that garnered four fortuitous, immortal runs; the other that left Martin Guptill two feet short of World Cup glory


Champagne Super Over

Cricket, bloody hell.

I mean, if you can't get yourself into cricket after that then, I'm sorry, we've lost you.

Ben Stokes: The redemption

So much has happened. There was the infamous night in Bristol, there was the infamous final over in the World T20 of 2016. And then there was July 14, 2019. The day that Ben Stokes, a thrillingly passionate, swashbuckling allrounder, redeemed it all. What a stunning individual performance.

Early on in the field, it looked as though his calf had given up on him; he dived on the boundary, he grimmaced as he got up. With the bat, he was running out of partners.

Every time the game was gone, he found a way of dragging England - just about - back into contention. There was luck, of course. The dive that led to the deflection to the boundary that left England with three needed from two deliveries was a once-in-a-generation moment of fortune.

But Stokes' tears at the end were those of a man who cares desperately, who has experienced and bottled up so much in the past couple of years. A moment, the like of which cricket has never seen before. A tale of two dives: one that garnered four fortuitous, immortal runs, the other that left Martin Guptill two feet short of World Cup glory.

Pressure, tension, drama – the story of those opening overs…

The second it left Trent Boult’s palm, it was destined for Jason Roy’s front pad. It was love at first sight, a match made in heaven. Roy’s front knee planted, the ball curved late; it made a beeline for his knee-roll. It was out. It had to be out. Everything about it was out.

Except, Marais Erasmus stood, bashfully smirking as only he can, finger down. The review came. Of course it did – the first ball of the run-chase, England’s much-vaunted talisman, the nature of the delivery itself.

It was the kind of peach that sends shivers down the spine of those on a balcony. There can be little more disconcerting than knowing exactly the plan of the bowler, but remaining powerless against it nonetheless.

The review, somehow, saw the on-field decision remain. It was supreme theatre. Never before has the umpire’s call appeared so unfailingly out. But it wasn’t.

Then Boult came hurtling back in; an absolute lion tearing in with the verve of a man not prepared to lose consecutive World Cup finals. He cut Roy in half, nutmegging him as it hooped past his leg-stump, still – miraculously – undisturbed during this exhibition of seam and swing bowling.

And from the other end, it was all about Matt Henry – the less feted of these two magicians. All the talk was of left-armers – of comparisons to Mitchell Starc, Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Afridi, Mustafizur Rahman. Where there have been left-arm seamers, there have been wickets.

But just ask Rohit Sharma – the tournament’s premier batsman – what he thinks of that particular debate. Where there has been Matt Henry, there too have been wickets. Nobody took more scalps in the first 10 overs than the seamer during this World Cup.

Successive maidens against this England batting line-up are certainly a rarity. But here, England could not lay a bat on him. Often, these were deliveries wasted on some of the world’s best players.

If Edgbaston on Thursday had been a cauldron of cacophonous carnival as England thwacked their belligerent way past Australia, this was the opposite.

That noise you could hear around Lord’s was a petrified silence, pierced only by howling gasps from an exuberant slip cordon and a shell-shocked audience. New Zealand could scarcely have been any better. That England were only a single wicket down may have, ultimately, been the difference. It was fate.


Matt Henry dismissed Jason Roy in a fascinating opening duel

Lord’s like you’ve never seen it

There’s life in the old dog yet. A major redevelopment of this iconic place is not far off beginning, but my word it is some establishment. Days like today do it its greatest justice; even when packed to the rafters, hosting the sport’s biggest game, it is not a stadium, but a beacon of history and tradition.

Even through countless expansions, it has retained its class – it is not a multipurpose bowl, but a peerless arena built for days like today. To discuss the pitch itself is a different matter, but as a home of cricket, it is quite some abode.

Lord’s looked a picture; World Cup branding wherever you looked, but always in polite coordination with the famous old ground’s famous old surroundings.

The members remained, unmissable in their blazers and MCC attire. Yet, all nations were represented; Sri Lankans, Indians, South Africans, Australians – flags, emblems, costumes from all over the globe. A World Cup doing what it sets out to do, all surrounding 22 men doing their all for their own two respective nations.

Liam Plunkett: A world-class trier

The world’s least mysterious mystery bowler, but that is, in itself, one hell of a compliment. He just gets the job done. That is Liam Plunkett: right-arm find-a-way. In the same way that the carom ball remains subject of boundless fascination – a ball that requires years of perfection, Liam Plunkett has perfected the cross-seam delivery. He has taken one of the game’s most primitive concepts and made it an artform.

It has done for Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Mushfiqur Rahim, Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls and Jimmy Neesham. It is quite a hymn-sheet. He doesn’t care for the tailenders, he doesn’t do rabbits.

Plunkett, England’s unheralded 34-year-old workhorse, is the man for the big scalp. Twelve years on from his first World Cup, two counties on from his early days at Durham, what a player he has become for this England team.

Quite how England look to replace his middle-over steel will be a source of intrigue as matters turn to the next four-year cycle.


Liam Plunkett has enjoyed a fine tournament for England

Pace like fire

When Colin de Grandhomme’s helmet became the latest to be rattled in a tournament that has highlighted a wealth of fast-bowling talent, it completed a unique hat-trick for Jofra Archer.

After the gruesome blow taken by Hashim Amla in the first game of the competition many moons ago, Archer had struck Alex Carey in Thursday’s semi-final. On that occasion, Carey had plucked his lid from the sky as it fell, having been rocked by the ferocity of Archer’s searing pace.

The bouncer that hit De Grandhomme early in the allrounder’s painstaking innings, therefore, marked the third cage rattled by Archer’s fast arm. It has been a startling beginning to his international career.

And if much of the pre-competition hype was around England’s new addition, then it was Mark Wood who clocked the World Cup’s fastest delivery. He sent down a rocket of his own at Henry Nicholls, registering at 95.7mph (154kph).

And then there was Lockie Ferguson – the moustache of an artisan coffeemaker, the thighs of a sprinter. Ferocious, rapid, a fast bowler’s fast bowler. A purveyor of thunderbolts.

A tale of two umpires

There is no tougher job in sport than that of the match official; lose focus for one solitary moment and the watching world turns. If a striker misses an open goal, another chance will come its way. If a slip fielder drops a straightforward chance, another will soon fly towards him. No umpire has such luxury.

Given his semi-final performance, which was punctuated by a high-profile error in giving out Jason Roy, it was something of a surprise to learn that Kumar Dharmasena had been handed the keys to the World Cup final.

The difference between that episode, however, and Marais Erasmus’ opening salvo at Lord’s was stark. The best official on earth by quite some distance; Archer nipped a super delivery past Martin Guptill’s bat.

There was a noise and a deviation – it appeared to be a regulation nick through to Jos Buttler. Even the scoreboard on the live broadcast had given Guptill out. Erasmus, the man who mattered, didn’t. A flick of the hip, a brush of the pocket, but no bat.


Tim Southee took a fabulous catch to get rid of Jos Buttler

A fabulous piece of umpiring, while Dharmasena continued to struggle. Just as batting is a game of confidence, so too is umpiring – trusting what your very eyes have witnessed, believing what you have seen.

The Sri Lankan gave Henry Nicholls out – and with some justification, only for his review to show a full delivery almost inconceivably missing the stumps. Then, he failed to spot a Kane Williamson edge that would ultimately see the demise of the talismanic captain. That seemed a bigger error.

But Dharmasena – for his detractors – is the reigning ICC Umpire of the Year. It is his second successive World Cup final and, by the looks of his embrace with Roy before play began, he enjoys a real rapport with those he oversees.

It is a tough job in a cauldron of immense pressure. Even Erasmus, a man lauded as a beacon of accuracy, erred in sending Ross Taylor on his way. As with Roy’s dismissal on Thursday, however, a poor review had cost him. Guptill was as plumb at Lord’s as Jonny Bairstow was at Edgbaston.

Let’s talk about this pitch…

It produced quite a game of cricket. Let’s get that out there straight away. An extraordinary occasion, in all honesty. When England walked off the field after New Zealand had batted, the general feeling was that England had bowled the Black Caps out of the game, that this was Edgbaston against the Australians all over again, that this was a victory parade, that this was some kind of cakewalk.

There is an old adage – indeed, a wildly overused adage in this curious sport. Never judge a pitch until both sides have batted on it, they say. As I say, wildly overused. Yet here, it has arguably never been truer.

By the time England’s initial powerplay had come to an end, 242 looked so very far away. Perhaps, Liam Plunkett’s own spell should have highlighted the two-paced nature of this deck.

Is it the type of pitch to bring in a new generation of fans, all fixated to Channel 4? Who knows? It really depends on what your new followers are looking for. Do they want the swashbuckling stroke-play of Thursday’s demolition job of Australia?

Or do they want the drama created by these slower, more complex decks? Certainly, both semi-finals and this Lord’s finale have provided memorable moments. But which makes for the better game of cricket?

Our coverage of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 is brought to you in association with Cricket 19, the official video game of the Ashes. Order your copy now at Amazon.co.uk



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