So many times I’ve said ‘You can’t beat the drama of live sport’ – and today was one of those unbelievable afternoons when we witnessed two epic sporting contests that played out simultaneously on a perfect summer’s day in London.
While Roger Federer at the golden age of 37 pushed the World’s No.1 to the brink of exhaustion in one of the great Men’s Singles Final at Wimbledon, over at Lords’ England’s cricketers went into extra time after a pulsating finish ended with a tie after 50 incredible overs
As Djokovic walked round centre court with his fifth Wimbledon title after a rollercoaster 7-6, 1-6, 7-6, 4-6, 13-12 tie break triumph against the legendary Swiss, England v New Zealand was heading for an astonishing super over.
It was the most preposterous, unbelievable, dramatic, pulsating finish to any cricket match in the history of the game – certainly the closest finish ever in a World Cup Final.
Chasing New Zealand’s formidable target of 241-8, England reached the final over requiring 15 to win the World Cup with two wickets remaining.
Trent Boult bowled, Ben Stokes was the batsman and the first two balls produced nothing. Surely the Kiwis were going to lift the trophy, with England still needing 15 off the final four deliveries.
Then came a monstrous six from Stokes that lifted England’s hearts, leaving nine to win off three balls.
What happened next was a twist that no script writer could possibly even dare to suggest could be reality.
Desperately scambling for a second run and diving for the crease, Stokes’ outstretched bat was struck by Martin Gupthill’s throw for the stumps and deflected to the boundary.
The Kiwis frantically chased what was now an overthrow but could not stop the ball reaching the boundary. Incredibly, the net result was a second straight six for Stokes with four runs added to the two he’d run with Adil Rashid.
Three were now needed off two balls and when Stokes hit to long on and they chased a second, this time Rashid was run out leaving two runs required off the final ball.
This time Stokes sent his shot to long on and when England chased what would have been their match-winning second Mark Wood was run out leaving the match a tie with both teams finishing their 50 overs on 241.
Now we moved into the drama of a super-over shoot out with both teams electing two batsmen and one bowler for the sport’s equivalent of a penalty shoot out.
This time England batted first, with Stokes heroically continuing along with Jos Buttler – and once again it was Boult to bowl for the Kiwis.
England once again mustered 15 from six balls, meaning a superior number of boundaries in the original 50 overs meant New Zealand now had to score 16 to win the World Cup, with 15 giving the crown to England.
Up stepped young Jofra Archer to bowl for England, with Gupthil and Neesham the Kiwis men at the crease. And there were groans of disappointment when the first ball was a wide, reducing New Zealand’s target to 15 with six balls still remaining.
Next came a massive six from Neesham that put the Kiwis back on top. But we still found ourselves back in familiar territory when the final target became three off the final two balls.
A single off the penultimate ball meant the World Cup would now be decided by the final delivery. Two runs would give New Zealand the trophy. A single would crown England champions by virtue of their superior number of boundaries.
In came Archer, Gupthill sent his shot to mid wicket and in came Jason Roy’s far from perfect throw. But Buttler gathered the ball and dived for the stumps with Gupthill well short of the crease.
Lords erupted and England had done it by the narrowest of margins in the most unbelievable circumstances.
It was Sir Alex Ferguson who famously said ‘I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. Football. Bloody hell’ after Manchester United famously won the Treble 20 years ago with two injury time goals in the European Cup Final at Camp Not in 1999. Well this was cricket’s equivalent.
An unbelievable finale to a pulsating World Cup Final and England World Champions for the first time in their history in their fourth final. This was one of the most amazing games of cricket ever played, twice the teams tied 241-241 after 50 overs and 15-15 in that extraordinary shootout. But England are crowned champions.
The margin of victory decided by England scoring a total of 26 sixes and fours, while New Zealand only managed 17 boundaries.
This was cricket. But not as we know it. Using poetic licence to describe what I’ve just seen I’d say this clash of two cricket titans was decided by a supersover as dazzlingly brilliant as a supernova.