By Cahal Bakaya
In the weeks preceding the 12th ICC Cricket World Cup held in England, little attention was dedicated to putting cricket in the nations heart by the media and press. However, over the course of the 6-week tournament we were to find out that the drama and the twists and turns of one of the most spectacular World Cups in history would ensure we never forgot the cricket played in this year. 2019 saw England win their first ever Cricket World Cup, which seems surprising given that it is an English sport and the majority of participants have previously been introduced to cricket via England and the British Empire. However, this year, cricket really did come home, and in remarkable fashion, too.
The tournament started in late May and saw England open the World Cup with a convincing win over South Africa at The Oval. After this impressive start, a feeling of hopefulness seemed to descend on the English camp for the coming matches. However, a week later, England fell at the second hurdle against Pakistan, who claimed their first win of the tournament by narrowly beating England by only 14 runs. The first major upset of the tournament proved to be a loss for the pre-tournament favourites, England, who put on a somewhat uninspired performance which the Pakistanis capitalised on at Trent Bridge. Later, England returned to winning ways with back-to-back victories against Bangladesh and the West Indies with the batsmen taking centre stage seeing centuries in both matches.
A third of the way through the tournament, the table was starting to take shape with New Zealand, England, Australia and India making up the top 4 which would decide the semi finalists of the tournament. New Zealand, who were dubbed the dark horse of the competition, won their first three matches on the trot beating Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan by 10 wickets, 2 wickets and 7 wickets respectively, completing a remarkable start to the World Cup. The other stand out match was India against Australia, the two teams battling it out for 3rd and 4th position. India showed their message of intent as they beat the current world champions.
Next up for England was another resounding win against Afghanistan, the newest team to compete at the World Cup, by 150 runs. Captain Eoin Morgan and England broke the record for most sixes hit in a one day internationally as Morgan hit 17 of the 25 balls that flew over the boundaries of Old Trafford. However, records don’t win tournaments and England suffered their second shock of the competition as Sri Lanka won by 20 runs as they put on a marvellous performance bowling England out for 212. Unfortunately, Trevor Bayliss’s boys couldn’t go into damage control mode as they suffered a consecutive defeat to Australia. This left the pre-tournament favourites needing to win both of their last two games to ensure a top four finish and a place in the semi finals, including a victory against India. With a spark of rejuvenation England managed to beat India against all odds. The final game before the semi finals for England was against New Zealand, who England brushed aside with another century from Bairstow. This secured their semi-final place in 3rd position, setting them up for a showdown against Australia in order to get to the final.
New Zealand against India in the other semi-final seemed un-losable for the latter, but New Zealand’s bowlers played aggressively and dominated the Indian batsmen. New Zealand triumphed, booking their place in back to back World Cup finals after losing to Australia in 2015.
In the penultimate game, England excelled through the magnificent bowling of Woakes and Archer, condemning Australia to a crushing defeat by 8 wickets. Australia were all out for 223 whilst England had hit 226 with 8 wickets to spare.
Then it was time to face New Zealand at Lords, the underdogs against the hosts on the 14th July – what followed was the most enthralling, exciting and dramatic Cricket World Cup final of all time.
In an unprecedented turn of events, both sides had hit 241 after 50 overs. Woakes had hit 89 whilst Buttler went out for 59. New Zealand’s Nicholls and Latham hit 55 and 47 respectively. Both sides still had a stake in the game and the umpire called for a final decisive super over. As the deciding factor came to the boundaries hit in the game, England had hit 26 combined fours and sixes compared to New Zealand’s 17. England had their first ever World Cup and won in the most thrilling finale showing the world how cricket could capture drama and excitement as well if not better than any other sport. In the end, England were bound to win.