Martin Guptill is left thinking what might have been.
Martin Guptill is left thinking what might have been.

Cricket’s greatest contest ruined by game’s worst rule

It stands in instant glory as the most dramatic game of cricket ever played, sadly decided by the most drama-sapping, powder-puff rule ever invented.

Cricket never thought it would see anything to match the suspense of its two famous Tied Test matches (Australia v West Indies, Australia v India) before Australia and South Africa played out an epic tie in the semi-final of the 1999 World Cup.

But as for two ties in a World Cup final 20 minutes apart?

It beats everything because it meant everything.

Unthinkable, and so tense it was almost unbearable to watch, this match was a gift from the cricketing gods.

Martin Guptill is consoled by teammates and Chris Woakes. Picture: Getty
Martin Guptill is consoled by teammates and Chris Woakes. Picture: Getty

England's 44 years of pain washed away. New Zealand's heartbreak that sadly will live with the team forever.

The only regret about this twisting, twirling beast of a game was the rule which ended it.

To have such a glorious match decided by who hit most boundaries was like separating Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the fifth set at Wimbledon by who hit most aces.

Sport is all about theatre. The challenge for rule-makers is to capture and enhance it not to crush it.

If you have tied the match and then the super over is tied as well the only fair outcome for both sides is another super over - or a shared title.

Not that England is complaining and nor should they be and you can understand their headline writers tossing up instant gems like 'Champagne: Super Over'.

England earnt their title the cavalier way and lit up not simply the tournament but the 50-over game.

There have been times in recent years when the one-day game seemed like one of those tired old circus troupes who travel from city to city with flagging support and half-committed performers.

But this tournament and its crackerjack finish have given the format not simply a fresh coat of paint but an electric crackle as it reminded everyone about the spicy plot twists that the game's often derided middle son can produce which are beyond the scope of the more hyped 20 over game.

 

England deserved their victory. Picture: Getty
England deserved their victory. Picture: Getty

 

The Kiwis performed magnificently and no team has ever gone closer to winning a major title without raising the trophy.

They will have nightmares about Trent Boult standing on a boundary rope at the death when a catch became a six and The Bat of God incident when Ben Stokes accidentally bunted a ball for four overthrows.

And then there will be the little moments that now seem big: Mitchell Santner ducking under a short ball near the end of the innings when he should have had a swipe at it; Ross Taylor being given out lbw to a ball which would have cleared his stumps; Martin Guptill wasting a review on a ball which would have cannoned into middle stump, robbed Taylor of the chance for a later review.

 

New Zealand, forever gracious in victory and defeat. Picture: Getty
New Zealand, forever gracious in victory and defeat. Picture: Getty

 

How on earth will they ever get over it?

Had the Kiwis won, these stories would have been great fodder for guest speaking nights about their potholed path to glory.

Instead they are now agonising memories.

At the time the much-admired Kiwis took it all in their gracious stride and there is so much to learn from their efforts over the past six weeks.

Read the conditions and play accordingly. Play within your limitations. Don't try and be something you are not. Stay humble and most of all, stay in the contest.

Where England had the big bazookas, New Zealand chipped and chiselled and clawed away like a stone mason crafting a statue.

It almost worked.

The most underrated quality of all in the World Cup - steadiness - almost claimed the prize.

England, tormented by so many ill-fated World Cup soccer campaigns, is celebrating with rare gusto, from the man in the street to famous cricket fans like Sir Tim Rice, the lyricist who penned Jesus Christ Superstar and many other stage hits which, like this game, have an appeal which will never die.