I cannot really do justice to the incredible game that was just played. England won in the end after a tie-breaker within a tie-breaker. It was really wild, with fortunes swinging this way and that, and with some freak plays at the very end. You can read a comprehensive report here. In short (and this summary comes nowhere close to capturing the drama that took place on the field) , what happened was that New Zealand batted first and scored 241 in their 50 overs (300 deliveries) for the loss of eight wickets. England also scored exactly the same number of runs in their 50 overs, losing their last wicket off the very last ball, making it a rare tied game.
The game then went into a so-called ‘Super Over’ tie-breaker where each team gets to bat for just one over (six deliveries). England batted first and scored 15 runs. Then New Zealand batted and also scored the same number of runs but England were awarded the victory based on the second tie-breaker rule, the fact that they had scored two ‘boundaries’ (where the ball is hit out of bounds and scores four runs or six runs depending on whether it bounces before it crosses boundary) in their six deliveries, while New Zealand hit just one.
I have never liked the Super Over tie-breaker system. It seems a shame to use it in a game where both teams played so well and so evenly. To decide the result based on the number of boundaries in six balls somehow diminishes the glorious game that had just been played. I don’t see anything wrong with declaring the two teams joint champions after the 50 over tied score. They both deserved it for playing one of the most exciting games in cricket history.
One point that I hope cricket authorities learn from this tournament is that ‘difficult’ pitches lead to more exciting games. Because of the increasing popularity of the very short form T20 game (where each team faces just 120 deliveries) that favors big hitting at the expense of everything else, there has been a tendency to tilt the game to favor the batters, mainly by preparing pitches that give little help to the bowlers. As a result, in the 50 over games, we routinely see scores of over 300, frequently over 350, and occasionally even 400. But in this World Cup, the most tense and exciting games have been on ‘difficult’ pitches where there was better balance between bat and ball and scores were 250 or less. Difficult pitches require batters to dig deep into their skill sets to score runs and encourages bowlers to try to get batters out instead of focusing mainly on trying to prevent runs being scored.
But this tournament and the final has been a great advertisement for cricket in general and that is all to the good. Congratulations to the England team on their win but New Zealand have every right to feel that they had earned an equal share in the trophy, although the record books will record them as runners up.