It was supposed to be a World Cup dominated by wrist-spinners but it ended up anything but in the end as pacers ruled the roost in England.
Wrist-spinners had taken limited-overs cricket by storm over the past two years or so and had emerged as a popular wicket-taking option in the middle-overs for several top sides.
However, their impact in the 2019 World Cup was barely felt with the conditions in England not really playing to their strengths.
It was the fast bowlers who dominated the wicket-taking charts instead with no spinner featuring among the top 18 wicket-takers in the tournament.
At 19th spot, India’s Yuzvendra Chahal finished as the leading wicket-taker among all spinners with 12 scalps to his name.
Here, we take a closer look at how the top wrist-spinners in business performed in the World Cup.
Yuzvendra Chahal (India)
Chahal was more prolific than his wrist-spin twin Kuldeep Yadav but the senior bowler still performed well below expectations in the tournament.
His start to the tournament was a strong one with a four-wicket haul against South Africa but his performances declined drastically in the latter stages.
He was taken to the cleaners by England’s batsmen and conceded 88 runs in the match and had an expensive outing in the semi-final loss to New Zealand as well where he returned with figures of 1-63.
Imran Tahir (South Africa)
If one takes economy-rate into account, the South African veteran was the best of the lot among all wrist-spinners in the tournament.
However, it wasn’t really the perfect swansong for Tahir in England and he would have wanted to sign off with some more wickets to his name.
While he did pick up 11 wickets overall, the veteran wasn’t really effective against the four sides who qualified for the semi-finals. In the four clashes against England, New Zealand, India and Australia, Tahir was able to muster only three scalps in total.
Adil Rashid (England)
The England leg-spinner blew hot and cold throughout the tournament although he did get better towards the business end.
Rashid was one of the more expensive wrist-spinners on show and went at nearly run-a-ball over the course of the World Cup.
His best display came in the semi-final against Australia where he picked up a three-wicket haul while he also put in a tidy wicketless display in the final.
With England’s pacers firing on all cylinders, Rashid did not really have to be at his best and he did a decent job in a supporting role.
Shadab Khan (Pakistan)
The Pakistan leg-spinner came into the World Cup after recovering from a viral illness and performed admirably without being sensational.
His only poor outing came against India where he went wicketless while conceding 61 runs but he came into his own in the latter stages when Pakistan went on a four-match winning run.
It was the maiden World Cup campaign for the youngster and Pakistan will be satisfied with what they saw of him in England.
Kuldeep Yadav (India)
The India wrist-spinner came into the tournament on the back of a disappointing IPL campaign and that reflected in his displays which were well short of standard.
Although he was economical, Kuldeep failed to bring the wicket-taking threat expected of him and finished with an overall tally of just six. His wicket-taking struggles were underlined by the fact that all-rounder Hardik Pandya managed to pick up 10 of them and was a bigger theat.
Expensive outings against England and Sri Lanka ultimately cost Kuldeep a place in the playing XI for the semi-final and he will be disappointed by his overall performance.
Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)
The Afghanistan leg-spin sensation came in with a huge reputation as the No1 ranked T20I bowler but he had a tournament to forget by all accounts.
He could fetch only six wickets in his nine outings and averaged nearly 70 with the ball in hand. He is usually one of the most economical bowlers on show but he failed to contain runs as well in a dismal campaign.
Rashid created records for all the wrong reasons after being taken for 110 runs in just nine overs in the clash against England with Eoin Morgan going on a rampage.
It was the most expensive figures by any bowler in World Cup history and second-most overall in ODIs.
Adam Zampa (Australia)
Zampa was expected to be Australia’s leading spinner in the World Cup but the leggie was replaced by Nathan Lyon in the playing XI midway through the tournament.
The 27-year-old was the most expensive among all wrist-spinners while three of his five wickets came in the win over Afghanistan.
He had a dismal outing in Australia’s win over Bangladesh and was consigned to the bench for the rest of the tournament.
Yorkshire duo Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow were unanimous in their verdict on England’s once-in-lifetime World Cup win, with both men convinced they have just played in the greatest game of all time.
That they would wake up on Monday morning as world champions was in itself no major surprise – it has been the driving ambition of the England and Wales Cricket Board for the past four years and they had home-soil advantage and world number-one status in their favour.
But the circumstances of their victory over New Zealand have instantly entered British sporting folklore. Not only was the World Cup final tied for the first time in its 44-year history, but England got there courtesy of two moments of outrageous good fortune.
First Trent Boult stepped on a boundary marker after catching man-of-the-match Ben Stokes, then Martin Guptill’s shy at the stumps canoned off the all-rounder’s bat as he dived earning England a game-changing batch of overthrows.
The first ever ODI super over followed, with the scores tied again after six balls apiece from Boult and Jofra Archer, leaving England to scoop the trophy courtesy of boundaries scored.
Neither Root nor Bairstow are untried ingenues but as they toasted their career-defining achievements in a victory party at The Oval, neither could believe what they had been part of.
“It was ridiculous, genuinely ridiculous. Wow,” said Bairstow.
“There’s never going to be a game like that ever in history ever again.”
Root, England’s top run-scorer in the tournament with 556, concurred.
“What a day yesterday was. Probably the best game of all time,” he said, taking a break from selfie duty with the massed hundreds of schoolchildren who headed to the stadium to watch their heroes parade their newly-acquired silverware.
“World champions…it sounds pretty special, doesn’t it? If you’d said it four years ago, I might not have believed you. But what a journey, what a tournament. If we’re honest, some things are just written in the stars.”
Bairstow had heard people say the same, sentiments that brought his father David to mind.
The former England international killed himself in 1998 but remains a lifelong inspiration to his son.
“People said it was written in the stars…Dad was there, Grandpa was there. It was awesome. I’ve been through quite a bit and I’m able to relate to different things along the way. Of course, there are things that are tougher to go through than that (match) but the intensity of it was huge.”
Root and Bairstow were joined by a third Yorkshireman on the winners’ podium, leg-spinner Adil Rashid.
“I was sharing fish and chips with Rash when I was 15, rooming together in Liverpool,” recalled Bairstow.
“Now we’ve just won a World Cup together.”
The stakes will continue to be high over the coming weeks, with a Test against Ireland just around the corner followed by the intensity of an Ashes series.
That contest is likely to enjoy an even greater profile than usual following England’s World Cup triumph, and the 8.3million people who witnessed it on television thanks to Sky agreeing to a free-to-air broadcast deal with Channel 4.
“As a team we talk of leaving the game in a better place when we finish and taking it forward all the time,” said Root.
“I feel like the way we’ve gone about things has hopefully done that and given an opportunity for the next generation to see what we’ve achieved and want to go on and emulate it.
“I was 14 years old when I watched that 2005 Ashes series and it was hugely inspiring for me. Hopefully we can do something similar for the next generation now.
“The Ashes will be massive, especially on the back of this. It will make it even bigger.”
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Ben Stokes has barely had time to process his role in England’s unforgettable World Cup win but has already set his sights on sealing a historic double by reclaiming the Ashes.
Stokes turned in a man-of-the-match performance as England emerged triumphant from a Lord’s final that he believes will go down as “the best ever” in the sport.
Without his epic 84 not out, an innings punctuated by several moments of raw brilliance, good fortune and draining tension New Zealand would be flying home with the trophy, but his work was still not done.
Having tied the scores at 241 he reemerged to bat in an unprecedented super over, battling fatigue to help play his part as the teams once again reached a stalemate – each scoring 15 from six balls before England were crowned champions on boundaries scored.
Speaking at a celebratory reception at The Oval, attended by hundreds of fans and schoolchildren who took up the invitation to toast their heroes, a sleep-deprived Stokes said: “I’ve woken up in better conditions, but it’s an incredible feeling.
“I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet but coming down here and seeing what a small portion of the support we’ve had feels about it…the kids, the adults…these feelings are something we will hold on to forever.
“We would have been devastated if we hadn’t managed to lift that trophy but looking back over that game I think it will go down in the history books as the best ever, with all the drama of a World Cup final. It’s an amazing thing to be part of.”
In any other circumstances Stokes and his team-mates might he settling down for some well-earned down time, having stretched themselves to the limit over the past six weeks.
And while several of the triumphant squad are likely to be excused next week’s Lord’s Test against Ireland, the small matter of a five Test series against Australia is just around the corner.
The battle to regain the urn begins at Edgbaston on August 1 and Stokes has promised there will be no World Cup hangover.
“We may be world champions but also want to be Ashes winners as well,” he said.
“Everyone here deserves to feel like a champion because we’ve just won it, but when it comes to the Ashes it’s going to be heads on again because it has to be.
“Whether you’re winning or losing games, you’ve just got to wipe the slate clean.”
"England have won the World Cup by the barest of all margins. Absolute ecstasy for England, agony for New Zealand!"— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) July 14, 2019
The final moments of #CWC19 haven't quite sunk in yet 😅
Relive them once again ⬇️#CWC19Final | #WeAreEngland pic.twitter.com/y1zWIlEg4g
Stokes has not had it easy in the last few years, clubbed for four successive sixes as England slipped to a heart-breaking final-over defeat in the 2016 World T20 and missing the previous Ashes series Down Under following the late-night incident that eventually led to his acquittal on a charge of affray.
He has done his best to leave those travails behind him and to see the 28-year-old mobbed by star-struck children as he signed autographs and posed for pictures on the outfield was to witness a man at ease with his role-model status.
“That’s all gone and forgotten. It’s about now and what goes on in the future. I’m just going to enjoy this moment,” he said.
“In sport, and cricket in particular, you ebb and flow with your emotions, but we’re going to enjoy the next two days because we deserve it. I’ve got this medal around my neck so it’s all good.”
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