“By the barest of all margins.”
The inimitable Ian Smith couldn’t have summed it up better when, on 14 July 2019, England won the Cricket World Cup after the most tightly-contested final – and maybe the most-tightly contested match – of all time. Even two years on, it is impossible to think of the events of that day against New Zealand without getting goosebumps.
Everything happened. Everything. There was Trent Boult catching Ben Stokes only to step on the boundary rope for six. Stokes then went on that final-over onslaught which saw him hit one six then inadvertently deflect Martin Guptill’s throw off his bat and beyond the boundary for another six off the next ball.
And that was just the start… Adil Rashid was run out, Mark Wood was run out, the super over, Jofra Archer’s no-ball, Jimmy Neesham’s six, and that final-ball run out of Guptill which handed England victory on boundary count-back. Go back and watch it again… it never gets old.
After the England football team lost on penalties in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday, many of the country’s sports fans will consider it timely to be reminded of the success of Eoin Morgan’s team two years ago, but the second anniversary of that dramatic day comes at a time when the nation’s cricketers are busy building for a title defence.
Tuesday’s three-wicket win over Pakistan at Edgbaston was a notable milestone for a number of reasons. James Vince’s 95-ball 102 was the driving force behind a fantastic run chase which completed a series whitewash by a team none of whom were meant to even be playing in any of the three matches.
The Covid-19 outbreak which forced the entire original squad into self-isolation inadvertently gave England the opportunity to see just how deep their one-day stocks go. The likes of Vince, Lewis Gregory, Brydon Carse and Phil Salt would have been watching on from home if all had gone to plan, but instead they played key roles in a convincing series victory which gave England a maximum 30 points in their bid to confirm a speedy qualification for the 2023 Cricket World Cup in India.
We’re a little over two years away from the next event starting, and Morgan and his side look well placed to cause problems at the tournament again. While they are not the current world number-one-ranked team – that honour falls to Kane Williamson’s New Zealand side – the newly-displayed depth shows that they will have plenty to offer in India even if some of their bigger names don’t make it.
“Throughout the series the efforts have been fantastic,” stand-in skipper Stokes said after Tuesday’s win. “The normal personnel aren't here, but credit to Eoin, and Chris Silverwood, and Trevor Bayliss for the way they've lead the team over the last six years. The most pleasing thing is that no one is affected by the situation and had a great time in front of the Edgbaston crowd. Everyone called up has seriously put their hand up.”
With the T20 World Cup and then the Ashes coming up in late-2021, the five-day and 20-over formats take over for the time being. England are now only due to face Bangladesh and Netherlands in 50-over cricket in the next 11 months before India tour the UK next summer, albeit the international calendar has become increasingly fluid since Covid-19, meaning that the ODI scene takes a step back from the spotlight.
But the countless reruns we will no doubt keep watching of the 2019 Cricket World Cup final will keep us occupied for the time being, and thanks to the new-found depth being displayed we can also dare to dream that back-to-back triumphs might yet be on the cards.