The biggest lesson I learned from the Cricket World Cup Final was that I am too old to stay up all night, sitting on the edge of my seat, adrenalin pumping, for close to nine hours. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!
What an exciting and thoroughly absorbing game from first ball to, eventually, last. Such ebb and flow throughout the night meant never a chance of falling asleep and after Buttler’s dismissal there was finally the sense that the New Zealanders had just snuck ahead… until that fateful last over.
It was a magnificent performance by the New Zealand side in a match rightfully being touted as one of the best limited overs encounters of all time – it was certainly that rare thing – a World Cup Final worthy of its billing. To paraphrase the comment of one journalist, if cricket were to end tomorrow, we would always have this match to remember it by.
And wasn’t it great to see that a limited overs match doesn’t need to be a festival of run-making to be a spectacle. New Zealand put together three of the tournament’s most exciting victories, against Bangladesh, South Africa and India, and then there was the Final, all with scores below 250. Games played on pitches that reward class batting and offer something to quality bowling make for outstanding viewing, and this World Cup has proved that point.
Rightfully, much of the plaudits for New Zealand’s performance have gone to Kane Williamson, ably supported by Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult and Ross Taylor in particular, but it was a Tournament when people stood up when they were most needed.
After Jofra Archer had given him such a severe working-over at the crease, Colin de Grandhomme’s miserly bowling spell in the Final went a long way to creating the scoring rate pressure which ultimately delivered the match’s conclusion. Mitchell Santner’s spell against India had done much the same job.
Then there was Tom Latham, coming back to his best with the bat as the tournament drew to a close. What has gone barely noticed has been his performance with the gloves. He not only held onto some crucial chances, but he equalled Adam Gilchrist’s 2003 record for the most dismissals in a World Cup tournament, with 21.
Martin Guptill’s fielding has got to the point where he is almost taken for granted, but to be recognised by the critics as possibly the most outstanding fieldsman of the tournament is due recognition of his outstanding contribution. He was not alone – Boult, Ferguson, Southee, Williamson, de Grandhomme and Neesham were amongst the others to stand out with memorable catches.
For the future, perhaps most satisfying was Jimmy Neesham’s rejuvenation as a class all-rounder – be it with bat, ball or in the field he continued time after time to make telling contributions which made a difference.
A word for Ross Taylor too. Since New Zealand’s 2018-19 campaign kicked off in the UAE last spring he is the only player who has taken part in every one of New Zealand’s games, scoring 1,719 runs in all formats at an average of 50.
There’s barely time to draw breath though and the cricket world has moved on. Australia has quickly taken a dominant position in the Women’s Ashes Test match against England at Taunton and would be even closer to victory had it not been for rain interrupting play. The remarkable Ellyse Perry, having taken 7/22 to bowl Australia to victory in the final ODI of the series, then scored 116 to help her side to 420/8 in the Test. Allysa Healy, Meg Lanning, Rachael Haynes and Beth Mooney all also contributed half-centuries.
In the midst of her eighth Test match, and Perry averages 68.5 with the bat, while her 31 wickets have come at 17.8 runs each. What a pity she doesn’t get more opportunities on the biggest stage.
The rain that upset the Women’s Test also wreaked havoc with the early rounds of the English men’s T20 competition, the Vitality Blast. The bad weather came after Martin Guptill had had the chance to contribute 27 off 24 balls as Worcestershire began their title defence with victory over Nottinghamshire. Pleasingly for Guptill, he batted into the 11th over and had taken the total to 85 by the time he was the third batsman dismissed.
At Lord’s AB de Villiers showed South Africa what they had been missing with a 43-ball innings of 88 to help Middlesex score 166/3 to overtake Essex in just 17 overs. Auckland Ace Matt Quinn is back in the Essex side and he finished with 1/20 off three overs, as several of his team-mates were put to the sword.
Reduced to 15 overs by the weather, Essex’s next game was against Surrey and Essex reached 226/4 on the back of a 49-ball 129 from their South African-born all-rounder Cameron Delport. Delport brought up his hundred in 38 balls and hit 14 sixes and 7 fours through his dramatic innings. After Surrey had scored 19 from the first over of their reply, Matt Quinn turned the game his side’s way with a spectacular second over.
Quinn’s first two balls were hit for six by young Surrey opener Will Jacks, but he was caught on the boundary off the next. Aaron Finch then took a single from the fourth ball, before Quinn dismissed Test players Sam Curran and Ben Foakes with his next two deliveries. He finished with 3/34 from three overs and Essex won by 52 runs.
Logan van Beek had a useful spell of 2/22 from four as Derbyshire beat Yorkshire, and Adam Milne has made a quiet start to his campaign with Kent.
Before the four-day game went into its mid-summer hiatus, Matt Quinn also featured with the bat in Essex’s County Championship match against Warwickshire. Coming in as nightwatchman at number three, Quinn ended up facing 69 balls and batting 99 minutes to score 9 before being caught behind off Jeetan Patel. Along the way he enjoyed a 63-run second wicket partnership with Sir Alastair Cook. Patel finished the innings with 3/97.
Meanwhile the teams have been announced for the Euro T20 Slam, a new T20 competition played from late August through September by two teams each from The Netherlands, Ireland and Scotland. New Zealanders feature strongly in the Scottish sides with Martin Guptill being named ‘icon player’ for the Edinburgh Rocks and being joined in the squad by Corey Anderson, Matt Henry and Anton Devich (as well as former Auckland Ace Tymal Mills). Meanwhile Brendon McCullum trades commentator’s microphone for cricket bat as the ‘icon player’ for the Glasgow Giants.
Luke Ronchi will turn out for the Rotterdam Rhinos while former Aces coach Mark O’Donell will be in charge of the Amsterdam Knights, with Dan Vettori coaching the Eoin Morgan-captained Dublin Chiefs.
The 2019 Caribbean Professional League begins later than in previous years, in early September, and there is again a New Zealand presence there, with Glenn Phillips and George Worker joining the Jamaica Tallawahs and Colin Munro and Jimmy Neesham listed in the Trinidad and Tobago Knight Riders squad. Given the timing of New Zealand’s T20s in Sri Lanka, they will doubtless be slightly late starters.
Photo Credit – Photosport.co.nz