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July 15, 2019

England win in heart-stopping final

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July 15, 2019

LONDON: Ben Stokes became the toast of England here on Sunday as he shepherded them to first-ever title-winning triumph in a World Cup final for the ages at the Home of Cricket.

The home team edged gritty New Zealand on a Super Over – the first in World Cup history – as drama unfolded at Lord’s in the dying stages of what is easily the most exciting final in the tournament’s history.

New Zealand were unlucky losers as they came agonisingly close to defending their total of 241-8 after having brought England to their feet earlier in the final.

And it was all Stokes. The all-rounder brought England back from the dead against New Zealand, hitting an unbeaten 84 to take the final in a Super Over. Even the Eliminator couldn’t separate the two teams as batting first England made 15. New Zealand needed two to win on the last ball but Martin Guptill was run out while trying to finish the second round. England were crowned World Cup champions because they had more boundaries than the Black Caps.

The sensational title-winning triumph should give English cricket a new lease of life. Just when the sport was losing its sheen in England, Eoin Morgan and his team have given England the World Cup for the first time in history.

Playing in front of a packed home crowd, England exploited bowling friendly conditions to restrict New Zealand to 241-8 on a greenish wicket and overcast conditions and later recovered from a series of early hiccups to finally prevail in what was their fourth World Cup final.

Jos Buttler returned to form with a timely 59 from 60 balls but it was Stokes who was the architect of the run-chase as he saved England from what could have been another heart-breaking defeat in a World Cup final.

England’s last final appearance came 27 years ago in Melbourne when they succumbed to Imran Khan’s Pakistan. England also lost in their previous two final appearances in the World Cup against Australia in 1987 and the West Indies in 1979.

On Sunday at Lord’s, it seemed that it would be a case of fourth time unlucky for England. Chasing 242 in the face of piercing spells from the likes of Trent Boult and Matt Henry, England stumbled as they lost their top four batters – Jason Roy (17 off 20), Jonny Bairstow (36 from 55), Joe Root (7 off 30) and Eoin Morgan (9 off 22).

New Zealand seemed to be on top when in the 24th over, Lockie Ferguson dashed from the point boundary to take a stunning catch and dismiss England captain Morgan off James Neesham. Morgan’s exit left England in a perilous situation at 86-4.

But just when England needed a hero, they found two in Stokes and Jos Buttler. The duo first stabilised England’s innings and then stepped up on the gas just when the required run-rate was going up.

Together, they put on 110 runs from 133 balls for the fifth wicket taking the title away from New Zealand, who were also looking for their first World Cup crown. But Stokes and Buttler made sure that the Black Caps, who also featured in the World Cup title clash four years ago, would fall in their second successive final. Buttler hit 59 from 60 balls.

Earlier, England’s impressive pace attack restricted New Zealand to 241-8. The quartet of Chris Woakes, Liam Plunkett, Jofra Archer and Mark Woods bowled tight spells to keep the Black Caps on a tight leash with only opener Henry Nicholls managing to hit a fifty. After electing to bat first, the Black Caps were never really able to lift their innings in what were quite challenging conditions.

Out-of-sorts opener Martin Guptill briefly threatened the potent English attack as he hit Archer with a six and four but in the end it was yet another World Cup disappointment for him. Guptill, who was the top-scorer at the 2015 World Cup, fell to a peach of a delivery from Woakes that nipped back in off the seam. It seemed plumb but the openers discussed it and then opted for a review, a decision which turned out to be a bad move.

Williamson then joined Nicholls and the duo slowly began to build a platform with a second wicket stand of 74. In the 23rd over, things were looking good for New Zealand at 103-1 but it was then that Liam Plunkett got into his act.

It was the key wicket as England knew that with Williamson gone, they could go for the kill. It was only the second time in this World Cup that the New Zealand captain was dismissed for less than 40. His workmanlike 30 came off 53 balls with just two fours.

Plunkett struck again 15 runs later, this time removing the well-settled Nicholls to put New Zealand on the back foot. Nicholls was trying to hit him towards the covers but ended up dragging on to his stumps leaving New Zealand at 118-3. His 55 came off 77 balls and included four boundaries. From then on wickets fell at regular intervals as England’s pace attack tightened the screws.

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