Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

England beat New Zealand to lift Cricket World Cup amid controversy at Lord's

Tournament hosts win title in super over after match in regulation time ends in tie

So, does this qualify as cricket coming home?

England, finally, after 44 years of trying, got their hands on the World Cup.

Finally, undisputed champions of the game they invented, only to spend the rest of time watching the rest of the world perfect it.

And at the Home of Cricket, too. In a classic, against everyone's favourite second team. New Zealand, cricket's perennially miscast underdogs - yet simultaneously its greatest overachievers.

England, the best side in the world for the past four years, resorting to clawing across the line, piece by piece, inch by inch.

The margins literally could have been no more fine. It took the first Super Over in one-day international history to separate the two sides. Even that was tied. A run out on the final delivery.

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England are world champions, by dint of a second tie-breaker: having scored more boundaries than the vanquished heroes from New Zealand. Who had ever even heard or such a rule?

For most of it, it felt like water torture. No matter for England. Finally, the spoils were theirs.

And the identity of the match winner? Ben Stokes. Remember that name?

The villain of some misadventures in the past, no doubt. But, when the spotlight shone brightest on English cricket, it was the player with the greatest celebrity who stole the acclaim.

Six weeks earlier, Stokes had launched this tournament with a catch so stunning, it was front page news. And that in a sport that was supposedly being pushed to the margins in this country. He ended it the hero of the nation.

Admittedly with two outrageous pieces of good fortune. First when Trent Boult stood on the boundary marker while affecting his catch in the penultimate over. Then, with an unwitting deflection of the ball for four overthrows - to add up to six - in the last.

And then, in the Super Over, in concert with Jos Buttler, with whom he had shared a match-saving century stand in real time. The made 15. New Zealand made the same.

Yet, agonisingly, they lost, by so never-before-invoked sub-rule. It feels a little glib to claim this was the hottest ticket in town, given Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were simultaneously duelling for tennis greatness less than a few kilometres away. And, elsewhere in the country, was the small matter of the British Grand Prix.

But the appetite for the cricket was still palpable. This was the grandest occasion for the game in England in recent memory. So important, in fact, it was the first time the sport had been shown on free-to-air television in 14 years, since the great Ashes series of 2005.

It went without saying it felt like the best chance they would ever have to win a World Cup. More than that, it felt like the first day of the rest of English cricket's life.

Fewer than half the tickets sold for this match had gone to supporters who termed themselves England fans. The percentage of New Zealanders inside Lord's, meanwhile, must have been in the low single figures.

Neither, paradoxically, did there appear to be many neutrals. At 9.30am, amid a rare early rush for seats, two men in full Bangladesh kits made their way up the staircase leading to the top tier of the Edrich Stand.

Their uniforms included green and red sun hats, topped with tiger cuddly toys. No doubting the allegiance, but there were clues to who they were supporting, too. On their cheeks was white and red face paint, while draped across their shoulders were England flags.

The penthouses of the Lord's View apartments, which run adjacent to the stadium, were decked with St George's flags, too - albeit with one Indian tricolour dominating in the centre.

No doubt, there were many in the ground who would have preferred to be watching someone else, given the choice.

With the early exchanges at the their most gripping, the ball nipping, and Chris Woakes bearing down on the wickets of Kane Williamson, a muted chant of "India! India!" rolled down from the Mound Stand, from a large group of supporters wearing Indian blue.

In their vicinity, Merv Hughes was sat in a tour group wearing Australian canary yellow. Even they stayed till the end.

It was that sort of day. The one that, no matter your allegiance, you would be happy to say: "I was there."

Updated: July 15, 2019 12:35 PM

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