Good guys finish last. That is a saying which has surfaced every nook and cranny and has impacted several people’s everyday lives.
July 14th was another day which emphasized that claim even more to those who believe in that ideology.
But to those who are in love with cricket and sports, in particular, might beg to differ as New Zealand had to watch England lifting the iconic World Cup trophy in a dramatic finish on an evening which just shouldn’t have had any losers.
The Kane Williamson led Kiwi side made it to the finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup for the second consecutive time.
Some fans suggested that New Zealand won’t commit the same mistakes which they did in 2015 versus Australia.
To an extent, they did commit fewer mistakes, but an external source of energy went against New Zealand for the very first time in this tournament.
The Black Caps were being labeled as the ‘luckiest side’ in the tournament as they scraped through to the semis because of a positive Net Run Rate, and narrowly managed to edge past the likes of South Africa, Bangladesh, West Indies, and later India.
Be it the catch taken on the boundary line by Trent Boult to deny Carlos Brathwaite a win for the Windies, the untaken DRS by South Africa that could have dismissed Kane Williamson, the two wickets win versus Bangladesh, or the freak direct hit by Martin Guptill to dismiss MS Dhoni from the deep square leg region in the semi-finals.
There was an instance when India, Australia, and England, the three semi-finalists were preferring to face New Zealand in the knock out stage as many considered them as ‘weaker opposition.’
As the Kiwis narrowly secured their place into the semis, Kane Williamson assembled his team like a true captain and made his side play like a new tournament, in spite of enduring three consecutive losses on the bounce.
When New Zealand ended up scoring a total of 239 in the first innings against the mighty Indian batting line-up, nine out of ten cricket fans gave in their verdict that it’s the men in blue who are going to walk away with a spot to the finals.
But the way New Zealand stuck true to their game plan, echoed how confident they were in one another’s skills and abilities. The ever so consistent bowling and fielding unit of the Kiwis ensured that a target of 240 seemed like 280 for the Indians.
To top it all the Kane Williamson’s gutsy captaincy through attacking fields and smart bowling changes while defending a meager target of 240 caught everyone’s attention as they bamboozled India by getting four early wickets for just 25.
Though there was a hundred run stand from MS Dhoni and Ravi Jadeja, Williamson and his men remained patient enough and didn’t hesitate under pressure as the game eventually did go in New Zealand’s favour.
With New Zealand winning the game by 18 runs against the men in blue, Kane Williamson became the first-ever captain in the eyes of Indian fans or world cricket for that matter who was not despised or seen with annoyance as his calmness and modesty even in the post-match conference enticed “those 1.5 billion supporters from India to not be too angry and support his side in the process for the finals.”
The host nation and the branded “favourites” of the World Cup, England did their bit and thumped the defending champions Australia in the second semi-final, who before the game hadn’t ever lost a semi-final on the previous six occasions.
With England going through, most of the cricket fraternity suggested that the three lions may just run away with the game in the finals as New Zealand lacked the firepower and relied more on their bowlers’ abilities to defend a target less than 250, which doesn’t happen more than once in modern-day cricket.
Regardless of the result, history was about to be made, a new champion after 27 long years were about to be crowned who will surely inspire millions of upcoming youngsters from their respective nation to pick up the bat and ball.
With the stage set, the match to take place at the “home of cricket,” it was Kane Williamson who had won the toss as he elected to bat first.
With English bowlers having the knowledge that New Zealand lacks big hitters in the middle order, they knew they had to restrict the Kiwis to a score under 250, which they successfully did.
Surely, various cricket experts and fans believed that New Zealand couldn’t possibly restrict the best batting lineup with unparalleled depth under a score of 242. But once again, it was that man Kane Williamson along with his ever so disciplined faster bowlers and athletic fielding unit which tightened the screws on the hosts.
Though England started of comparatively on a better note than India with the bat, the Black Caps made sure that they stuck to their line and bowled according to the field which was being set by their skipper.
The thorough dot balls and the pressure of chasing in the finals were being taken advantage of by New Zealand as they chipped in with wickets at regular intervals.
Kane Williamson’s decision of bowling out Colin de Grandhomme’s ten overs was nothing more but a bold move by the skipper as it paid dividends and got New Zealand the wicket of England’s best batsman, Joe Root.
In spite of Mitchell Santner’s heroics versus India, Williamson held him back versus England and made him bowl just three overs which came in as a surprise for many who analyze the game with such depth, but many were taken by surprise that the decision nearly paid off.
However, it was the brilliance of Ben Stokes and Jos Butler which propelled England to a position where it would have been an uphill task for the Kiwis to win.
But the patience and perseverance once again paid off for the Kiwis as they picked the wicket of Butler through clever bowling by Lockie Ferguson.
Ben Stokes was the only recognizable batsman and he was indefinitely feeling the heat. A slog sweep which was skied by Stokes was taken by Trent Boult at long-on but on his way back his foot hit the boundary fence as it was now a six.
An indication that the luck was now in favour of England and more commonly Ben Stokes, who funnily enough originates from New Zealand.
With England needing 15 of four balls, Ben Stokes had to go for two big shots. He did execute one shot brilliantly to the stands which got him a six, but the most vital six of the entire tournament was when Stokes rushed in for two on the next ball, as Martin Guptill threw the ball towards the keepers end and it got deflected by Stokes’ bat as it went for four extra runs to the tally.
The same fielder who had got them to the final through a heroic run out in the semis was now involved in the most unfortunate overthrow in cricketing history.
The rub of the green was now on England’s side and it was ever so evident. In spite of three needed from two Trent Boult still ensured that the match went to a super over as the final of the World Cup was tied.
England ended up scoring 15 in the super over. Jimmy Neesham and Martin Guptill also chipped in significantly as they got close to the target.
With roles reversed and two now needed of three for New Zealand, it was Martin Guptill who got run out while scampering for two and it was England who announced themselves as champions.
The super over was shockingly tied as well but with England having scored more boundaries in the game, it was the hosts who prevailed as champions.
It was a game where England didn’t win and New Zealand didn’t lose. But irrespective of the nature of the game there was an outcome.
The Kiwi players were devastated and stunned as it was clear through the visuals, but it was in the presentation ceremony when another odd visual was observed and that was of Kane Williamson smiling and having a conversation with his teammates while waiting for his chance to go up on the stage.
It just didn’t seem like he had endured one of the harshest defeats in cricketing history. Kane Williamson was indeed the embodiment of New Zealand cricket and was one of those rarest personalities in the tournament who put in a smile even in despair.
His unwillingness to argue with the umpire while questioning the rules of cricket and him getting surprised while getting the Player of the Tournament award signified the humility to the game as well.
Williamson’s ode to his mates who never gave in even when the chips were down made the world admire him and the spirit of his side even more.
Though New Zealand was on the receiving end of another heartbreak, they made sure that they created history by creating one of the most iconic sporting finales the world has ever seen.
New Zealand had enlightened the young cricketers of tomorrow that even in this era of T20 that a meager score of 240 can be defended against the best of opponents if you just back yourself and your troops while sticking to the basics once you walk into the field.
Good guys might not finish on top on most occasions, but eventually, it doesn’t really matter if they enjoy what they do and make an impact on the generations to come.
Kane Williamson and his men were perfect ambassadors of the game who made sure that cricket is the only sport which can be nerve-wracking in spite of eight to nine consecutive hours of nonstop action.
In a world of innovative, exhilarating, and over the top celebrations, New Zealand proved that a team can still turn out to be champions if you keep the game as simple as possible.
The Black Caps had ensured that winning is not only about lifting the trophy in the end.