A jubilant England won Cricket’s World Cup for the first time on Sunday, following a heart-stopping super over triumph against New Zealand at Lord’s.
Nothing could separate the two sides after 100 overs of regulation play – both made 241 from their fifty – and it needed a six-ball shoot-out to decide the winners.
Even that was as tight as it could have been – New Zealand’s Martin Guptill forced the ball into the off-side on the final delivery and came back for a second run that would have given Kane Williamson’s side victory.
However a combination of Jason Roy’s throw from the outfield and Jos Buttler’s neat glovework ran Guptill out and England won on boundaries scored in the original 50-over match.
It was hard on the gallant Blackcaps, who came into the match having also never previously won the World Cup.
Chris Woakes hailed Ben Stokes’ World Cup final man of the match performance as full vindication for his second chance with England.
Stokes was found not guilty of affray in August 2018, apologised for his actions and worked his way back into the England set-up. He completed a personal redemption in a virtuoso display at Lord’s on Sunday.
Stokes’ unbeaten 84 dragged England to a tie with New Zealand after 50 overs; the two sides then tied a super over too, with the tournament hosts crowned champions courtesy of superior boundary count.
Warwickshire seamer Woakes paid tribute to Stokes for seizing his second chance with both hands, as England lifted the World Cup for the first time.
“I’m a big believer that people should be given second chances; you live and you learn in this life,” said Woakes, of Stokes.
“Ben’s always given 110 per cent on the field, he’s the best team man we have in this team, and we’ve got a lot of good ones.
“He puts in a shift every single day, he wants to be the best he can be, and today he was, and that’s brilliant to see.
“He has been through a tough 12 months or so, and for him to come out the other side is credit to him, because he’s put in some hard yards.
“He owned up to what he did, he also apologised to the group and things like that.
“And he copped a lot of stick. So for him to come out of the other side, and be a world champion and be man of the match in that game, is richly deserved.”
Stokes and Jos Buttler inched England home through the super over drama, the added over for each team acting as cricket’s equivalent of extra time.
Asked if Stokes’ match-winning turn crystallised his personal redemption, Woakes replied: “Yes, definitely. Ben’s a world-class cricketer and he’s delivered on the world-class stage on a number of occasions, but today will top it all.
“To get us as close as he did, his and Jos’ partnership was crucial.
“But to go about getting that score batting with the tail shows his quality.
“He’s the whole package, and he’s a top bloke as well so I’m delighted for him.”
Woakes bagged 16 wickets across a hugely-fruitful personal tournament, as pre-competition favourites England ground their way to their maiden triumph.
The 30-year-old admitted he will cherish his contribution as England battled through must-win group matches against India and New Zealand, before also starring in the knockout clashes to boot.
“This really is amazing, and I think the most pleasing thing for me is that I’ve performed in the last four games, which have been our most crucial ones,” said Woakes.
“You want to stand up in those big games and I’m pleased I’ve been able to deliver something for the team.
“My role is to get the team off to a good start, which thankfully I’ve been able to do.”
Nobody thinks about legacy in the split second when a World Cup is won and lost, but in the swing of Ben Stokes’ bat, the resolve at Jofra Archer’s fingertips or a hopeful hurl from Jason Roy, England’s history-makers might just have reset the course of their sport.
The drama that unfolded at Lord’s will take an age to unpick, with enough defining moments and pivot points to fill a season let alone one unforgettable day out at cricket’s most fabled ground.
For those involved there are stories to be told for a lifetime, for those lucky enough to see it happen at close quarters there are memories that will never fade, but the most resonant moments might have occurred in living rooms and pubs up and down the country.
Of those who tuned in to witness the national team’s first live outing on a traditional free-to-air platform in 14 years there will have been children, lapsed fans, hangers-on and bandwagon-jumpers of all stripes. Somewhere in that curious collection, English cricket might find a brighter future.
The 2005 Ashes has too long been frozen as a moment in time. Like Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon, the industrial revolution and the casting of Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, all associated events are simply described as ‘before’ or ‘after’.
Now, arguably for the first time since those days, the country’s traditional summer sport has captured the hearts and minds of the wider public.
A solitary, celebratory appearance in the mass market will not single-handedly reverse cricket’s gentle but profound slide but it could plant a seed.
In 2016 research showed more British children could recognised WWE wrestler John Cena than then Test captain Alastair Cook. Only one of those athletes had the catchphrase “you can’t see me” but it was true of both, at least for those without access to Sky’s high-quality subscription platforms.
On Sunday some children will have seen Jos Buttler’s genre-bending ramp shot for the first time or witnessed the raw steel that pushed Stokes to his decisive contributions. But this World Cup has also seen a team that relies on a mild-mannered Muslim (Adil Rashid), a breakneck Bajan with a British passport (Archer) and follows the lead of a Dubliner who crossed the Irish Sea to fulfil his ambitions (Eoin Morgan).
The next time they are asked to name an England cricketer, they probably won’t say Andrew Flintoff, who has been a boxer, an actor, a panel show stalwart and a Top Gear presenter since he last wore the Three Lions, but still regularly tops such surveys.
And it all started with a leap of faith. Not the kind of metaphorical vault that takes place in the intersection between dream and reality, but the literal variety that takes place at deep midwicket.
England were already well on course to see off a thoroughly underwhelming South Africa side in the World Cup’s curtain-raiser when Stokes threw himself one-handed at a lost cause. Defying probability, possibly gravity and certainly his own expectations, Stokes pulled off a once-in-a-lifetime catch. It ended Andile Phehlukwayo’s innings and began the job of nudging England’s cricketers into the role of mainstream entertainers.
Such watershed moments require a jumping off point, and for the 2019 World Cup that point was a few yards in front of a rapt OCS Stand.
Yet in a tournament comprising six weeks and 48 matches, keeping the momentum at fever pitch was always likely to be a tough ask. A series of predictable results followed close behind, then the rain came and washed four games in six days down the drain.
Even when England were upset by Pakistan it was taken in stride, with the world number ones performing too well in defeat to provide their rivals much by way or schadenfreude and the elongated group stage robbing the moment of jeopardy.
Concerns were brief but real. When the biggest controversy on offer surrounded the flashing ‘Zing’ stumps and their reluctance to shed their bails, and the major talking point was who had or had not underestimated the all-round talents of Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan, it was tempting to wonder quite how long the tournament’s shadow was cast.
In the end it fell to England, as hosts, to reignite the flame. They did so at first with a bombastic display of showboating against Afghanistan, Morgan hitting a world record 17 sixes among an unprecedented 25 maximums from his side.
Appetites suitably whetted, England somehow followed up with an identity crisis of the worst kind. In losses to Sri Lanka and rivals Australia they were infuriatingly timid, rock stars recast as recruitment consultants.
Jonny Bairstow and former England captain Michael Vaughan traded barbs in the press, described by the former as tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapping but ultimately serving as today’s blue touch paper.
Pushed to the brink of early elimination they pushed back, besting India, New Zealand, Australia and – thrillingly – New Zealand one last time.
The whirlwind that engulfed both teams at Lord’s will surely have swept the nation up in its wake. Legacy assured.