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England claimed the cup, New Zealand the hearts

The gut-wrenching final at Lord’s was adjudged by a thoughtless, arbitrary number-of-boundaries rule in a tie after 100 captivating tension- filled overs. Many believe that the World Cup should have been shared between England and New Zealand, but rules were made clear before the tournament and all cricket Boards agreed to it.

Unfortunately, no cricketing nation looked at this kind of possibility that eventuated at Lords. New Zealand ‘lost’ by zero runs in both regular play and the Super Over, and was, unlike England, not bowled out during normal play. New Zealand coach Gary Stead is open to the idea of a shared World Cup if the ICC decides to re-look the events and circumstances of that epic Sunday that left millions of aficionados, cutting through barriers, feeling justice had not been done.

Then it emerged that the final over’s pivotal moment - that left the luckless New Zealand devastated - when the ball rocketed off the desperately diving Ben Stokes’ bat and shot past the ropes, was marred by a match-turning umpiring error. The umpires awarded six runs which as celebrated umpire Simon Taufelrevealed later, was a clear mistake. The batsmen had not crossed for the second run when Martin Guptill unleashed his throw and the umpires should have awarded England five runs and not six. This also meant Adil Rashid would have been on strike and not the influential Stokes.

These ‘game-changing’ umpiring mistakes hurt New Zealand in a game of such fine margins. The umpires could have taken their time and referred the contentious extra run to the television umpire. Surely, they would have been aware of the rules.

However New Zealand also blundered in the hectic minutes by not understanding the rules. Under Law 20.1.2, "The ball shall be considered dead when it is clear to the (umpire) that the fielding side and both batsmen have ceased to regard it as in play.”

Plainly, batsmen Ben Stokes and Adil Rashid regarded it as dead at the critical time, even a bit stinky. So New Zealand's fatal mistake might have been for Colin de Grandhomme to chase the escaping ball to the rope, his desperation a tacit acknowledgment that it was alive and wreaking awful havoc.

A long-drawn championship with its starting grid harking back to May 30, finally wound to a close through seconds that stretched inexorably at Lord’s. The finest World Cup final since the quadrennial tournament’s inception in 1975, twisted and turned as both eventual champion England and runner-up New Zealand fought the good fight.

The social media, former cricketers and each and every fan had their own opinion on how the match should have been decided. One fan said, “Surely you play another ‘‘super over’’ with a different bowler and batsmen. Can’t imagine a World Cup soccer final being decided by the most corners if the match is still tied after the first round of penalties.” Another fan lamented “England may well have claimed the World Cup but surely the moral victory belongs to New Zealand.

Drawn level at 241 after the full duration of the contest and again on par at 15 following the super-over’s conclusion, boundaries scored through the day became the last word. It was a touch unfair on New Zealand, which with 17 hits, paled to England’s 26. The boundary rule evoked questions and asked for his reaction, England captain Eoin Morgan said:

“If you could give me an alternative, I would be able to compare both. But I can’t think of an alternative at the moment. The rules are obviously set out a long time ago and we have no control over them.”

Morgan and his merry bunch have carved a space for the distilled pleasures of limited-overs cricket amidst the languid joys of Tests. Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, the unrelenting Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer have played their stirring parts and Morgan harnessed his resources. Perhaps the latest epochal win would lure some youngsters to prefer a bat over their football boots and that constitutes the bigger picture about where cricket belongs especially in a landscape leaning towards the English Premier League.

At the other end, New Zealand showed that nice guys can almost finish first. The Black Caps never lost the cup except on a technicality that was keen on extracting the singular champion. And Williamson has continued the glorious tradition of Kiwi skippers using the sum of their team’s parts to ambush fancied opposition.

Several cricketers have also questioned the boundary-rule. Sachin Tendulkar endorsed a second Super Over to decide the winner instead of considering the boundary count if such an extraordinary situation arises like it did in the World Cup final.

“I feel there should be another Super Over to decide the winner, instead of considering the number of boundaries scored by both teams. Not just in a World Cup final. Every game is important. Like in football, when teams go into extra time, nothing else matters,” Tendulkar said.

Current and former cricketers including Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh, have questioned ICC’s “ridiculous” rule on boundary count that decided the World Cup title.

After table-toppers India was knocked out of the World Cup after losing the semi-final to New Zealand, skipper Virat Kohli had suggested IPL-like playoffs instead of knockouts in the World Cup, going forward.

Asked if the World Cup format needs to be changed in the knockout stages, Kohli said: “I think the two teams that finish at the top should definitely have something going for them for having played consistently through the tournament.”

Morgan’s New Zealand counterpart Kane Williamson felt ambivalent: “It is pretty hard to swallow when two teams have worked really, really hard to get to this moment in time and when sort of two attempts to separate them as winner and loser and it still doesn’t perhaps sort of shine with one side coming through. It is what it is. The rules are there at the start.”

The climax had its multiple talking-points but there is no denying that England and New Zealand deserved to be in the summit clash. All this summer, England has roused itself to the ‘it is coming home’ slogan and Morgan’s men would hopefully weave in multiple narratives into the cricket story at the game’s birthplace. In the end, England claimed the cup, New Zealand the hearts.

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