Ben Stokes looked exhausted. Jofra Archer seemed too raw. But between them – somehow, with millions all over the world glued to their TVs – they won England a World Cup under a rule of play that no one outside Lord’s dusty office knew, didn’t even exist: more limits in the match after the scores had ended level in a super over.
Thank God at the time for the rulebook’s pedantry and precision. The emotions showed when Jos Buttler completed the winning run-out, after Jason Roy’s desperate throw from deep midwicket, and Martin Guptill’s equally desperate plunge for the second run that saw New Zealand, and not England, a first World Cup would have perhaps never equaled in the long history of this sport.
Archer, the man tasked with defending 15 against Jimmy Neesham and Guptill – the two most dangerous hitters in New Zealand – moved away to the cover point, momentarily lost in the magnitude of what he had just achieved, just an issue weeks later qualifying for England.
Ben Stokes is lying on his back while his teammates in England celebrate winning the World Cup
Jofra Archer takes a moment to lower the performance of his match in following the game
Stokes lay on his back, overwhelmed by a mixture of elation and exhaustion. Three years ago, as he was tired of being reminded, he was hit four times in the final by Carlos Brathwaite when the West Indies stole the World Twenty20 from under the nose of England on a crazy night in Kolkata.
And it had been eleven months since he was cleared of affray, an episode that lingered throughout his life and deprived him of an Ashes tour at the height of his career. Some wondered if he would ever be the same again.
He answered those doubts on Sunday. First, he dragged England flush with the New Zealand 241, despite looking like he was running empty. With 15 needed over on Trent Boult’s last over and only two wickets in hand, Stokes failed to score the first two balls. New Zealanders in the crowd were beyond themselves. Stokes, it seemed, was destined for another heartbreaking near miss.
Earlier on Sunday, Stokes’ brilliant innings with the bat helped keep England alive in the final
Jos Buttler runs out of Martin Guptill from New Zealand to secure the victory for England at Lord’s
Instead, he conjured up 12 of the next two deliveries – a swing over midwicket, followed by a sprint for two and a dive, with the ball bouncing off the bat to the third man’s boundary for four turns. It was outrageous luck and the cruelest blows to New Zealand.
Stokes singled each of the last two balls, but always lost a partner who returned for the second.
He finished with an unbeaten 84, but with the scoring level, he hit his bat with rage. Surely he wouldn’t come back to open the batting in the super over? Imagine yourself as the man who told him to take a breath.
The England players are showing their joy of coming to the top in an extremely tense super-over
Archer was the man who had to bowl the last six balls of the World Cup at Lord’s
He stumbled into the evening sun once more – cricket’s equivalent perhaps of Alf Ramsey’s admonition to his 1966 footballers for extra time. Stokes hadn’t quite won it yet, but he was doomed if he were deprived of the chance to win it again.
New Zealand may disagree, but there was a pleasant circularity in the Stokes World Cup. He got it on a flyer with his catch on the deep midwicket border to catch South Africa’s Andile Phehlukwayo in The Oval, and here he was at death, back in the middle of things.
But of course not quite death. That honor was due to Archer, a young man whose balance and presence have taken England’s bowling to a new level. He finished the game with 20 wickets – only Mitchell Starc from Australia and Lockie Ferguson from New Zealand – claimed more, and Eoin Morgan relied on him to cast on what will most likely remain the most important of his career.
England is lifting the Cricket World Cup trophy after being crowned champion for the first time
Stokes embraces Archer after they come together to help England cross Lord’s
He started with a tight offside widespread and was soon thrown over midwicket by Neesham at six o’clock – a hit that seemed to confirm New Zealand’s name on the trophy. Instead, he kept his nerves going, this unlikely product from Barbados and Sussex.
Both men were out of breath trying to understand what had just happened. “I’m pretty lost for words,” said Stokes. “All that hard work for four years and now that I’m here as world champion, it’s a great feeling.
“Playing against New Zealand is always difficult. They are a seriously good team. Sometimes we got lucky and I said to Kane [Williamson] that I will apologize for what has happened for the rest of my life. ‘
Eoin Morgan lifts the World Cup together with his teammates in England to a packed Lord’s
That was a reference to the four overthrow that reduced the comparison to three from two balls – but no one was planning to sift through mosquitoes.
“I was pretty sure I would make the crossing, but I just had to double check,” said Archer. “It would have been disappointing if we hadn’t won, because this is a great group.”
It felt like an understatement under the circumstances. But it was also the observation of a young man whose calmness under pressure had just brought him a World Cup. England is lucky to have him.