Thursday, April 25, 2024

OPINION: No shame in glorious loss

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Cricket’s greatest World Cup won by one Kiwi and lost by 11.

That was the amazing scene on the hallowed turf of Lords on Monday morning NZ time after the scores had been tied on 241 and the Super Over at 15 runs apiece.

The difference was England scored more boundaries, 26 compared with New Zealand’s 17.

Yet the Black Caps could have won. Should have won but for Christchurch-born England hero Ben Stokes who top scored with 84 that included a boundary off his sliding bat from a Martin Guptill throw that reaped six runs instead of a hard-run two.

Stokes, the son of Kiwis rugby league prop Gerard, also delivered killer blows in that Super Over 15 that Jimmy Neesham and Martin Guptill equalised before the latter was run out.

What a game! What a shame! Yet for nerve-tingling drama on cricket’s finest stage it was fantastic.

At the end England’s sporting Irish captain Eoin Morgan held the trophy aloft on a day there were no losers despite the Black Caps gutted feelings.

Back home, a nation of fewer than 5 million citizens had cause for pride, not only at taking mighty England so close but also breaking the hearts of 1.3 billion cricket mad Indian fans by winning their semifinal.

It was in that game Martin Guptill redeemed himself from a poor batting performance throughout the tournament with a magnificent run-out throw of champion closer MS Dhoni that swung the game New Zealand’s way.

While Stokes earned man of the match honours in the final, humble Kane Williamson was just as deserving of the player of the tournament kudos.

Not only did he average 82.7 with the bat but his captaincy was superb in his reading of the pitches, field placement and rotation of his bowlers.

The complete antithesis of the gung ho Brendon McCullum whose swashbuckling antics led to the 2015 World Cup final against champions Australia, Williamson is an incredibly calm character with a sharp cricket brain.

That is not to belittle the brave McCullum, who gave his team belief and thrilled with his belligerent batting. But Williamson’s coolness under fire sets him apart.

In this World Cup Ross Taylor was once again reliable Williamson’s batting partner who gave the team stability after the openers repeatedly failed to fire. Allrounders Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme also had their moments, the former with bat and ball and the latter with his miserly bowling.

Trent Boult nabbed an historic hat-trick in an early game although some wickets were not conducive to his swing.

Particularly impressive was Lockie Ferguson who added guile to his pace in mixing up his deliveries.

Once again the fielding was often outstanding with Guptill, Boult, Neesham and Ferguson taking spectacular catches and wicketkeeper Tom Latham tidy behind the stumps.

Finally, congratulations to live Sky Sport television commentators Ian Smith, Brendan McCullum and Simon Doull for an outstanding coverage of a tournament in which the ugly ducklings came so close to winning a cricket beauty contest.

And, on the home front it, was also good to see former Howick Pakuranga Black Caps Kyle Mills and Mitch McClennan add their insightful expertise with such polish on the goggle box.

Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer

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