Classic Exchange Stories: 'England have won the World the barest of margins!'

Stokes and Root.
Ben Stokes produced a once-in-a-lifetime innings. Except he did it all again just a few weeks later...

For this week's Classic Exchange story, Jamie Pacheco recalls how favourites England needed help from the ICC rule-book, umpire Dharmasena and a brilliant Stokes/Buttler stand to win the 2019 World Cup final...

"The Archer delivery on leg stump, the Guptill flick, the Roy pick-up-and-throw, the sight of Buttler collecting the ball and stretching out his gloves to demolish the stumps, Guptill a couple of feet short."

England red-hot favourites

England went into the final as 1.364/11 favourites and one couldn't help but think that looked a little short. They'd won 'just' six of their nine matches in the Group Stages finishing behind India (one defeat, one no-result) and Australia (two defeats).

More worrying was the fact that all three of those defeats had been chasing, which is what they were supposed to be so good at.

Then again, they'd been excellent when it most mattered. Australia had looked pretty impressive in the Group Stages, but Eoin Morgan's men had made light work of them in the semis.

Add home advantage to the equation on a wicket they knew so well at Lord's and home support and you could sort of see why the layers weren't taking too many chances.

Black Caps, dark horses

New Zealand are always the dark horses at any cricket tournament but this time it wasn't just their usual valiant run to the semis. They'd already gone one better after an excellent blowing display against India in the semis saw them take early wickets and eventually turn the screw as the Indian middle-order was forced to go for broke.

Before that, crucial to their place in the final was the cricketing brain of skipper Kane Williamson. Throughout the tournament he'd engineered smart bowling changes, inspired field placements and the odd reshuffle of his batting line-up. His sound-thinking had allowed them to crucially hold on against a Carlos Brathwaite assault at Old Trafford, the Windies falling one big hit short of New Zealand's 291. They didn't know it at the time but if they'd had lost that, they would have been out.

In their final group game, there was an obvious strategy to bat out the overs rather than going for broke and genuinely try to chase England's stiff total: maybe 'not cricket' to do so but pragmatism sometimes doesn't give you too many choices. It would prove a crucial move with Pakistan set an impossible task of trumping their net run rate in their own final group match.


And it's not like he'd gone all Mike Brearley, either. Williamson had done his fair share of heavy lifting, too. His 578 runs saw him finish as the fourth highest run-scorer in the World Cup and that included 148 in that match against the Windies just mentioned. One of two hundreds, to go with a further two fifties. No wonder he went on to win Player of the Tournament.

Williamson wins toss, Williamson bats

Kane got the first bit right; he won the toss. He then got the second bit right as well, when choosing to bat. England's three defeats had come chasing. If he let them get 300 batting first, it was game over.

The second reason would have been that their semi-final win over India had been achieved by making first use of the pitch. Bat first, get as many as you can, take early wickets, bowl and field your heart out and that could well be enough, with scoreboard pressure doing the rest. It was a game plan that played perfectly to their strengths.

In a final, it will never be straightforward chasing anything. And everything can happen. It did.

Black Caps start strongly

England drifted a bit in between the toss and the start, touching 1.584/7 briefly, but they were back to 1.384/11 as Martin Guptill and Henry Nichols made their way out to the middle.

For the first time since an opening match 73 against the Windies in an easy chase, his only fifty in ten matches, Martin Guptill is looking good.

Martin Guptill - 1280.jpg

Nichols is given out LBW, but DRS saves him, the ball just missing the stumps. Guptill is then also given out LBW on 19 but foolishly reviews what looks a good decision. Guptill gone, review gone.

Nichols is batting like a man in form, rather than one with no fifties in three innings at the tournament. Williamson is just being Williamson, slowly accumulating runs with risk-free cricket while punishing the odd bad ball. On 103/1 with two men at the crease finding their feet, 28 overs to go and nine wickets in hand, England are out to 1.684/6.

Williamson goes, a feather not picked up by Umpire Dharmasena, but one that doesn't fool DRS. England have their man. Back to 1.434/9.

What do we make of this score?

It turns out to be one of those innings where New Zealand just never get going. Liam Plunkett, one of England's unsung heroes, adds the wicket of Nichols to that of Williamson. Tom Latham hits a priceless 47 while all of Ross Taylor, Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme get starts but don't kick on.

Liam Plunkett 1280.jpg

A costly over from Woakes, the 49th, almost threatens to undo England's good work. It includes five wides off the third ball, a no-ball off the fourth and a boundary off the sixth.

But Jofra Archer makes up for it. Bowling the 50th, he goes for just three runs. Mitch Santner doesn't attempt to run a bye off the last ball after failing to connect. Why? What did he have to lose? How costly could that be?

Chris Woakes ends up with three wickets, as does Plunkett.

New Zealand post 241 and remarkably, 50 overs later, England are the exact price they were to start off with: 1.364/11.

See-saw match sees England up against it

Jason Roy is the first to go, for 17. Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow are going nowhere for the next few overs and after three maidens in a row followed by the dismissal of Root by de Grandhomme, the market starts to reconsider its stance on the hosts' chances: England 1.51/2.

Roy and Bairstow - 1280.jpg

That was the only wicket de Grandhomme was to take in the match but he was arguably the best bowler on the day from either side. He gave the batsmen no pace to work with and his 10 overs went for just 25 runs. He better than anyone, sussed out the pitch and realized it was taking the pace off that made it so hard to score.

If only he'd been equally smart with the bat. His boundaryless 16 off 28 earlier had failed to make the most out of a decent platform, while his dismissal, spooning one up in the air, was one of a man who didn't know whether to stick or twist.

Jonny Bairstow is out for 36, bowled Lockie Ferguson. In comes skipper Morgan but he never looks comfortable. He's well caught for just nine, England are 86/4 and go odds-against for the first time in the match, briefly touching 2.265/4.

Cricket...Only Bettor: Listen to The Miracle of Headingley

Buttler builds, Stokes survives

Jos Buttler joins Ben Stokes. It's the two that England want at the crease but it's not easy. De Grandhomme is in the middle of that excellent spell, New Zealand are fielding well as ever and the two batsmen know they can't leave it to the tail to finish the job.

It's a game of cat-and-mouse for the best part of 20 overs and England touch 3.259/4 with that target looking dangerously out of reach at times. But crucially, England start to get a boundary an over to stay in touch while a series of nudges, flicks and hard running keep the scoreboard ticking over. Having been at the crease for over an hour and a half, Stokes and Buttler finally start to feel like they're 'in' and seeing the ball well, just about the only two men on the day who can claim that.


Both get to 50 and needing 46 off 30, England are into 1.4740/85. Buttler gets out playing one big shot too many: England drift to 2.35/4 when he departs. Woakes fails to replicate his efforts with the ball and is out for two. England 3.211/5. Plunkett makes a valuable 10 then gets out, Archer goes for nought, Stokes keeps on going.

From the fourth ball of the penultimate over, Stokes launches it high in the air to deep midwicket. Trent Boult, whose boundary catch off Brathwaite settled that match against the Windies, somehow mistimes his leap this time. It looked for all the world he had it but the fast bowler steps on the boundary line and what would have been the game, becomes six. Stokes survives, England survive.

That over

England need 15 off six. Remarkably, the first two balls are dots, Stokes refusing the single; if he loses the strike he doesn't know if or when he'll ever get it back. It's 15 off four needed. England are out to 10.09/1, the biggest they've been all match.

Similar to that great win of Red Rum's in the 1973 National, beating top-weight Crisp on the line, you can watch the video of what happens next 100 times and still not believe it actually happened.

The third ball is deposited for six by Stokes; nine off three. England: 4.94/1.

Off the fourth, Stokes knows he needs two and it's nip-tuck as to whether Guptill's inch-perfect throw from the deep is going to be a direct hit. Not only does the ball cannon off Stokes' outstretched bat to (possibly) stop it from hitting the stumps but it somehow ends up on the boundary rope, where fine leg would be.

The Umpire awards six: four for the boundary resulting from overthrows, two for the runs they had completed. Or had they?

It was later shown with the help of replays the signal should have been five because the batters hadn't crossed at the time of Guptill's release. But six it is. Bowler Boult looks to the skies.

Trent Boult NZ.jpg

Consider this: had a player any slower between the wickets than Stokes been at the crease and he may easily have been run out there and then. At best he should have got two and it would have been seven off two needed. Having survived the run-out, he got another four, which should have been three.

England need three off two. They trade at just 1.21/5 but Rashid is out running a suicidal second to get Stokes back on strike. It's 1.51/2, England needing two to win with all three results possible.

It isn't to be as Stokes bunts one to mid-on, gets back for his second, but number 11 Wood is well short of his ground. After six weeks of cricket and seven hours on the day, it's a tie.

England will feel they had no right to still be in it given what happened for most of their innings but with just two needed off the last ball, they also think they should be celebrating in the dressing room by now.

New Zealand are left cursing their luck after Stokes' two close shaves but they're also thankful for another chance.

Drama on the field, chaos on the Exchange

It's 1.68/13 England, who send that heroic Stokes/Buttler partnership out for one last hurrah. Boult has the ball.

Three, one, four, one, two and crucially...a four from Buttler off the last ball. Stokes is punching his bat in delight. He thinks they've got enough. So does the market: they're 1.21/5.

A year earlier and Archer wasn't known to cricket fans outside dedicated followers of T20 leagues. Now he's bowling a Super Over in a World Cup final.

Wide, two, SIX. Neesham goes over deep midwicket, England go out to 3.02/1. After more good running off the third ball, the Kiwis come back for two. Three off two, it's theirs to lose. The market certainly thinks so and England are out to 5.04/1.

Things don't go to plan for Neesham and Guptill off the fifth, just the single coming. They need two off one. The Super Over tie is enough for England, remember, because they scored more boundaries. The market doesn't really know what to make it of all. The prices are all over the place as Archer runs in but for the most part, England are outsiders.

Jofra Archer at Lord's.jpg

What happens next will be played time and time again on highlight reels, YouTube lists of great Sporting moments, nominations for cricket's closest-ever finishes and plenty of other places, for decades to come.

The Archer delivery on leg stump, the Guptill flick, the Roy pick-up-and-throw, the sight of Buttler collecting the ball and stretching out his gloves to demolish the stumps, Guptill a couple of feet short.

You could pick any one of five or six moments in the match where England could easily have lost it. Fortune goes their way with the mistimed Stokes catch, the overthrows and the spur-of-the-moment decision to award them six, and not five. Even the ICC's arbitrary rule of boundary counts being the tiebreaker plays into their hands.

But that's all to mull over another day and it would be unfair to say England didn't deserve their win. Partly because it certainly wasn't their fault that the ICC hadn't made the necessary adequate provisions for it being all-square after the Super Over.

Plunkett took wickets when it mattered, Archer bowled brilliantly in the 50th Over and Super Over, Woakes was economical. And that's just the bowlers.

Buttler played out a role he was born to play as the team's counter-attacking number six with distinction and Stokes' own knock was the stuff of legend.

Ben Stokes celebrates - 1280.jpg

Mind you, if you want to be really harsh, in a way he only got the job half-done, not finishing it in 'regular time' with England needing the Super Over to (somewhat) put the matter to bed. But then again, you'd probably need to go back to the 1996 final and Aravinda da Silva's unbeaten 107 for the last time there had been a stand-out match-winning knock with the bat in a World Cup final.

On that warm sun-littered afternoon at Lord's that gutsy, defiant and skilled Stokes/Buttler partnership was the cricket equivalent of the Phoenix rising from the flames, while not for the first (or last) time that summer, Stokes was on fire, as Ed Hawkins details here.

Over on the Exchange meanwhile, there were plenty of burnt figures on one side and happy bettors on the other.

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