I watched the match today at Brit’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis. I arrived right as the chase was beginning and there were maybe a dozen people there watching. As the England innings wore on, the crowd grew to about 45 or 50. Most of whom were supporting England, with the rest being neutrals or neutrals supporting New Zealand. By the end, it was a rollicking ship of a bar, as we heaved and turned on every ball, like we were being tossed by waves in a storm.
At around the 48th over or so of England’s innings, a woman was offered the seat next to mine at the bar by the one of the England supporters who could physically no longer sit down. She was beautiful. Long dark hair and features like a super model. I paid no attention, the greatest cricket match of all time was happening. However, with three or four balls left of New Zealand’s Super Over, she leaned over and asked me: “so who’s winning?”
I literally had no answer for her. There was no answer really. I mumbled something like, “I don’t know New Zealand right now kind of but not really actually no one is winning.” And for the first moment I realized: there is never an answer to that question in cricket. Not ever. Sure, occasionally, a team is in the ascendancy, like if the team that opens the batting is at 74-8 after 10 overs. Or if there’s a team chasing 324 and they are 280-9 with two overs left. Then, sure, one team could be said to be winning. But, technically, in cricket, no one is ever winning until the last ball of the game is bowled.
And that was never more true than it was today at Lord’s.
At no point during today’s marathon World Cup final could you have accurately answered the question: “so who’s winning?” Or even given it an educated guess. The match was so even throughout every delivery that it was almost a miracle of sport. It was a truly magical day of cricket. And, yes, it’s a shame on how it was decided — by the fact that England had the most boundaries on the day — but that does not take away from the fact that the two teams on the day were all square, matching each other stroke for stroke, single for single, delivery for delivery. 100 overs. 130 deliveries. Nothing could separate them. And, more than that, there were no goats today. Only heroes. Stokes, Williamson, Archer, de Grandhomme. All 22 were heroes. All 22 gave it their all.
There were no losers today. England won the World Cup, but New Zealand did not lose it. And we, the fans, were winners, too, as we were able to behold such a miracle of a game. And the game was a winner too. Here is cricket, in its dying stages, heaving itself back up off the canvas, and reminding the whole world why it is so great, and why we lucky few love it so much,
There’s a lot more to say, of course, but the one moment that sticks out for me above all the rest, isn’t a moment at all, but a man. Ben Stokes. He took an entire country on his shoulders and as his teammates fell away around him, carried them to glory. It was one of the gutsiest performances I have ever seen from a player, no matter the game. He ran himself absolutely ragged, and gave every last inch he had for England to win. Stokes, shaking off Bristol once and for all. Stokes, so tired at the end he could barely lift his arms. Stokes, leaning on his bat, in the long shadows of a London late afternoon at the non-striker’s end, begging for his chance to win it for his adopted country, only to fall just short. And then a few minutes later, walking out to bat the super over, his kit grass stained and filthy, ready to give just a little more.
At around the second over, the bar manager asked me if I was for England or New Zealand. I said I was a neutral, and that I just wanted it to go down to the final ball.
For once, my wish was granted, and then some.
What a match. What a day.
Cricket, am right?
More, hopefully, tomorrow.