By Rhys Benjamin
The World Cup kicked off with explosively, with hot favourites England recording a comfortable victory over South Africa at The Oval. The West Indies dismissed Pakistan for just 105, Bangladesh recorded a shock win over South Africa and Pakistan shocked the cricketing world by defeating England at Trent Bridge just three days after their dire performance against the West Indies. The weather then played its joker card, as a band of rain across the country washed out four of the next eight games. South Africa finally recorded a win when they beat Afghanistan at Cardiff, but by now they had played more than half of their games. In the hotly anticipated India vs Pakistan match at Old Trafford, India ran out deserved and clear winners, before Bangladesh’s success story at the World Cup continued when they beat the West Indies in Taunton. The following day, England set the highest score of the entire tournament when they made 397 against Afghanistan, with a breath-taking 148 from just 71 balls by captain Eoin Morgan putting the total firmly out of the reach of the Afghanis.
With the table starting to take shape, the wheels began to fall off for England, who were without opener Jason Roy through injury. After failing to chase 233 against Sri Lanka, England collapsed to just 221 at Lords against Australia, with Ben Stokes (remember the name) the only batsman to get to 30 in both games. Jason Roy returned for England’s final two games against India and New Zealand – an especially tough run-in – and England would probably need to win both to qualify. He and Jonny Bairstow put on 160 for the first wicket as England won comfortably (and India finally lost). England then put any doubters to bed as they destroyed New Zealand, bowling them out for just 186. India finished top of the group, with their loss to England the only blot on their copybook. Australia lost their final dead rubber group game to South Africa (whose three late wins retained some form of dignity in the end) to finish second, with England and New Zealand, who lost their final three games having been unbeaten until then, the other two qualifiers. New Zealand progressed at Pakistan’s expense on net run rate despite both finishing on 11 points each, and, controversially, with Pakistan having beaten New Zealand in the game between them.
With New Zealand having lost their last three group games, nobody gave them a chance against India in the first semi final. 67 from Kane Williamson and 74 from Ross Taylor gave New Zealand a respectable, if slightly under par, score of 239-8 from their 50 overs. Trent Boult and Matt Henry then blew away the Indian top order, including the key wicket of Virat Kohli for just 1, to leave the Indians at 24-4. India recovered well, with Mohendra Singh Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja putting on 116 for the 7th wicket, leaving India with 32 to win from 2 overs. Dhoni, however, was run out for 50 in the next over, ending any realistic hopes India had, before the tail was blown away, sending New Zealand through to the final.
Either England or Australia would join them in the second semi final at Edgbaston. The omens were evenly split, with Australia having not won at Edgbaston in any format since 2001, but having never lost a semi final in the World Cup: one of those records would be broken. England started extremely well, reducing Australia to 14-3, before Alex Carey and Steve Smith resurrected Australia. Smith was run out on 85 when Jos Buttler somehow, more by luck than by skill, threw the ball between Smith’s legs. With Australia all out for 223, Jason Roy (85) bludgeoned the Australian attack to all parts of Birmingham, with Joe Root and Eoin Morgan seeing England comfortably into the final with nearly 18 overs to spare.
The final: England versus New Zealand. New Zealand won the toss and chose to bat, and although England got Martin Guptill for 19 early on, Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls got New Zealand up to 103 in the 23rd over, before Williamson fell to journeyman Liam Plunkett. His prize wickets of Williamson, Nicholls, and Jimmy Neesham contributed to New Zealand making a slightly-below-par 241. England’s reply didn’t start well when Jason Roy, Joe Root, and Eoin Morgan fell cheaply. Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler resurrected England with 110 for the fifth wicket, and by the time Buttler was out for 59, England needed 47 from 31 balls. It was all up to Ben Stokes as he got that down to 24 from the final two overs. Stokes got that down to 9 off the last 3 balls, before an incredible piece of good fortune. Stokes played the ball out to mid wicket and sprinted back for 2. As Stokes came back for the second run, the ball was thrown in and accidentally ricocheted off him. The ball trickled away to the boundary rope, and England had suddenly picked up 4 additional runs through a freak accident. It came down to needing 2 off the final ball, and with Mark Wood run out comfortably coming back for the second run, the match was tied.
That meant a super over – a one-over game to decide the winner. England batted first and made 15 in that super over, meaning New Zealand would need 16 from 6 balls to win the world cup. If the super over was tied, England would win on countback, having scored more boundaries than New Zealand. With New Zealand needing two to win off the final ball, Jofra Archer bowled to Martin Guptill, who played it into the leg side. As the batsmen came back for the winning second run, Jason Roy picked the ball up and threw it at Jos Buttler. Buttler took the ball and dived to his left to bring the ball onto the stumps. Guptill was well short. England had won the World Cup.