Anyone who watched the most enthralling cricket World Cup final of all time on Sunday night, must have gone through a roller-coaster of emotions, as New Zealand and England took turns to appear as certain losers of a conflict, that unprecedentedly produced two ties – one at the end of the two innings, and another at the end of the supposedly tie-breaking Super Over.
“England did not win the Cricket World Cup final, and the Black Caps did not lose it,” a New Zealand editorial said. It’s true, because in effect, New Zealand lost the World Cup final by 0 runs.
How Jofra Archer ‘Came From Nowhere’ to Win England the World Cup
The Fairest Result Would’ve Been To Declare A Tie
With England and New Zealand both finishing their innings with 241 on the scoreboard, albeit NZ 241 for 8 wickets and England 241 all out, the match went to a Super Over. England batted first and scored 15; New Zealand batted second and also scored 15.
But England were declared the new world champions, because it hit more boundaries during the match.
This left several keen observers scratching their heads. Former Indian captain and now MP Gautam Gambhir remarked in a tweet: “Don’t understand how the game of such proportions, the #CWC19Final, is finally decided on who scored the most boundaries. A ridiculous rule @ICC. Should have been a tie. I want to congratulate both @BLACKCAPS & @englandcricket on playing out a nail biting Final. Both winners imo [in my opinion].”
Had the match been decided on the basis of who lost fewer wickets in the match rather than which side hit more boundaries, New Zealand, not England, would have won.
The fairest result in a such a close contest would have been to declare the final a tie, and allow both teams to share the World Cup trophy.
But of course, everyone knew the rules before the final began, and they were explained to both teams again, it seems, by the umpires at the start of the Super Over. So the Kiwis took their “defeat” with good grace, even though their cricketing performance on the day was in no way inferior to that of the declared “winners”.
Umpires Wrong to Award England 6 Runs for Stokes ‘Overthrow’
Ambiguous ICC Rules & Why The Second Run Shouldn’t Have Been Awarded
Still, the question arises: should it have been a tie at all?
England were awarded 6 runs for an overthrow after a freak deflection that raced to the boundary off Stokes’ bat. Stokes was trying to complete a second run at the striker’s end, but before he could reach the crease, the ball, thrown unerringly towards the stumps by the gimlet-eyed Martin Guptill, accidentally hit Stokes’ extended bat as the batsman dived for the crease, and ricocheted off his bat to the boundary.
This gave England 6 runs in a tense final over: the two runs they ran, and four for the overthrow. Umpire Dharmasena held up six fingers to convey that number to the scorers and the public.
But should it have in fact been 5, rather than 6?
According to International Cricket Council rules, not 6 but 5 runs should have been awarded, as the act of throwing the ball (which resulted in the overthrow) took place before Stokes completed the 2nd run. The relevant ICC rule (Rule 19.8 “Overthrow or wilful act of fielder”), says somewhat ambiguously: “If the boundary results from an overthrow or from the wilful act of a fielder, the runs scored shall be any runs for penalties awarded to either side and the allowance for the boundary and the runs completed by the batsmen, together with the run in progress if they had already crossed at the instant of the throw or act.”
The footage of the incident indicates that the batsmen had not yet crossed when Guptill threw the ball. They had crossed, however, when it hit the bat and flew off to the boundary. Since they had NOT “crossed at the instant of the throw”, the second run should not have been awarded.
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ICC’s ‘Sins’: Boundary Rule & Sloppy Drafting
A clever English lawyer could, however, argue that Dharmasena was right, if the “act” in question is the ball hitting the bat, not the throw itself, since at that point “they had already crossed at the instant of the . act.”
So in addition to all the sins of which the ICC can be accused – including coming up with the boundary rule in the first place – one can accuse them of sloppy drafting.
What was the impugned “act” to determine the application of this rule, the throw or the accidental encounter with the bat? If you took this to court the verdict would surely depend on the preference of the judge, because there is no uncontroversial answer.
A Dash Of Predictable English Chauvinism
The English victory gave rise to some predictable chauvinism in the British Isles, with some celebrating the victory as a triumph of English doughtiness, even as it prepares to exit the EU.
Pro-Brexit Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg tweeted that the final was a “close run thing, we clearly don’t need Europe to win”! In fact England needed not just Europe, but the whole world, to win: of their 15-man squad, only eight were Englishmen of “English stock”.
English Cricket Team Ironically Reflects An England Open To Immigration
There were five players born outside the UK, including the Irish-born captain, Eoin Morgan. Ben Stokes (born ironically in New Zealand) and Jofra Archer (born) in Barbados are joined in the squad by South Africans Tom Curran and Jason Roy, while, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, though British citizens, are the grandchildren of Mirpuri Pakistani immigrants.
If anything, the team that claimed the World Cup reflects an England open to immigration and foreign influxes, not the “Little England” that the likes of Rees-Mogg wish to shield behind protective national walls.
The Biggest Winner? Cricket Itself
Which brings us back to where we began: who really won? Even as the match was reaching its thrilling climax, I tweeted the only possible answer. “By far the most exciting Cricket World Cup final of all time!”
I wrote as the two sides tied their first innings: “However the super over goes, ODI cricket has won!”
A form of the game that seemed impossibly squeezed between the non-stop thrills of the less time-consuming T-20 format on the one hand, and the majestic ebbs and flows of the slowly-unfolding five-day Test match on the other, had finally reaffirmed its worth, and its indispensability.
Cricket remains the only major sport that can be played in three different formats, with different rules, over different periods of time, and retain different kinds of appeal to fans around the world. The World Cup final, by resurrecting a form of the game whose utility many were beginning to question, ensured that the biggest winner of all on Sunday night was cricket itself.
(Former UN under-secretary-general, Shashi Tharoor is a Congress MP and an author. He can be reached @ShashiTharoor. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)