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.”
Provided by Press Association Sports
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