Closer than close

England did well to win the World Cup,but New Zealand did not deserve to lose
Summit clashes of global sporting tournaments can often be underwhelming. One team revels in the occasion, the other wilts, and a lopsided climax occurs. But Sunday’s ICC World Cup final involving England and New Zealand at Lords wasn’t cut from the same cloth. Never has a cricket match invested with such magnitude concluded in a tie. The same finish line was again replicated after the super over was taken to break the stalemate. The rivals scored 241 apiece in their respective innings and drew level at 15 in the super over. Ideally both units should have shared the trophy but the quest for a singular winner and a tournament law that mentioned cumulative boundaries as the ultimate deal-breaker, helped England pip New Zealand. The host had 26 strikes past the ropes, well ahead of the visitor’s 17. For a contest of gladiatorial proportions, it was perhaps an unfair judgment. In the current popular imagination both squads are champions, but after many years when only cold statistics linger, England will have the halo and New Zealand will remain the bridesmaid. The tussle that kept London agog had many stars, but one player shone the brightest. Ben Stokes, who had spoken about how England cannot be denied, rose to the occasion, and his splendid unbeaten 84 helped Eoin Morgan’s men keep pace with Kane Williamson’s unsung heroes. A win of this scale should increase footfalls at various training academies and grounds, and the talent base will widen. For New Zealand, the second consecutive loss at the last hurdle will hurt, but unlike in the 2015 edition where it succumbed meekly to co-host Australia, here it fought with all its might, be it crucial runs or decisive wickets. The Black Caps dished out outstanding fielding, and in a face-off of slender margins every run saved has deep ramifications. Williamson, who excelled with the bat and amassed 578 runs, was a brilliant captain and he never lost his sense of grace. Judged the ‘Player of the Tournament’, the Kiwi skipper and his men can return home with their heads held high. For a championship that featured skewed games and four rained-out fixtures in its first part, the second stage proved engrossing and the final was the piece-de-resistance. The World Cup also held a mirror to cricket’s overall health. Except for England, New Zealand, Australia, India and to some extent Pakistan, the other squads have become weak and the respective boards have to address structural flaws. The sport needs robust competition, not jaded outfits.

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