Do England deserve to win the World Cup?

Adrian Meredith shares his opinion on a question many are asking after the World Cup Final?

Best team for the past four years? Check. World number one? Check. Favourites pre-tournament? Check. Best team in the World Cup? Check. Favourites in the final? Check. Best team in the final? Um, not sure.

A lot of people have been saying that New Zealand were deserved winners of the final, that they, not England, should be the World Cup winners, and that it is unfair that they didn’t get to lift the trophy.

When we look at the four overthrow runs, after Ben Stokes was hit while running a second run, we have to feel for them. Even when Trent Boult caught Stokes but then stepped on the boundary rope just before he had the presence of mind to throw it up in the air for his teammate, you felt for them. Even when they tied the Super Over but it was given to England on the basis of most boundaries scored, you felt for them. After all, New Zealand had lost the least wickets (8 vs 10).

It has been 35 years since any cricket competition decided the result, after a tie, based on who lost the least wickets. That system was in place in the mid-1980s, during a time when rain-reduced matches were decided by who had the highest run rate, and when positions in finals were similarly decided on run rate, not net run rate. It was a poor system. Everyone agreed it was a poor system. Until this final cropped up and that archaic system, long since dismissed as unfair, would have meant that New Zealand would have won.

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As a quick history lesson, the run rate/wickets lost system was replaced by the “highest overs” system, made famous in the 1992 World Cup semi-final between South Africa and England, when South Africa went from needing 23 off 13 balls to 23 off 7 then finally 22 off 1. And that, don’t forget, was an improvement over the run rate/wickets lost system. The replacement for that was DRS, with the most boundaries scored being a part of that, and they did that because the wickets lost system was regarded as being unfair.

Imagine if a team scores 3 for 291 batting first and their opposition get them with 9 wickets down, 9 for 292. They are the deserved winner, regardless of how many wickets lost. Indeed, when chasing, you tend to lose more wickets than when setting the target. It’s a part of the mentality, perhaps, as you are more desperate when trying to chase the target, knowing precisely what it is.

It is rare for a team chasing to lose while still having lots of wickets intact. More typically, they lose because they are bowled out, or at least they have only their bowlers left, players not proficient enough with the bat to score at the rate required. It’s rare to get a team score 9 for 291 and then the team chasing to fall short in spite of having lots of wickets in hand, perhaps with 3 for 280. That wouldn’t happen, because the chasing team would just take some extra risks and either get the runs required or be bowled out.

People arguing for the wickets lost method to be reinstated aren’t thinking straight, or perhaps they don’t understand the history that has got us this far. It’s a bad system. We used it in the past, yes, but we have better systems now.

As for whether the most boundaries scored is the best method, that much is debatable. Certainly, in a tournament such as this, I would have thought that the rule for the semi-finals, which depends on who finishes higher on the table, should be the same rule for the final as well. It seems bizarre to me that they change the rule from semi-final to final.

Incidentally, England finished higher on the table, and, using the rule they had in place for the semi-finals, England would have won.

The argument that Ben Stokes should have been awarded 5 runs, not 6, when the ball hit his bat as he was running for a second run is very debatable, and is not as clear-cut as some people think.

It’s a fine point and some people have argued, hours after the fact, that the umpires might have gotten it wrong, but at the time nobody was in any doubt. None of the players on either side questioned the decision, nor did any commentator or anyone at all really. It was only hours after the fact, when it was discovered that it could have been used to give New Zealand a victory, that anyone cared.

The umpires did check, it should be noted. There was a delay of several minutes as they checked and checked and checked, with the third umpire and match referee and presumably several others getting involved, ultimately concluding that 6 runs was the correct decision.

While on the point of correct decisions, it should be noted that Jofra Archer’s first ball in the Super Over was given as a wide when it was very close to hitting the off stump. While we have narrow borders for wides down the leg side, we don’t normally down the off side. That was not a wide and would never have been given a wide. Take that away and England would have won the Super Over by 3 runs.

It also should be noted that Kane Williamson was nowhere near the player of the tournament. It was said that it was because of his batting (he was the fourth best batsman, after Rohit Sharma, David Warner and Shakib al Hasan and only just in front of Aaron Finch) and his captaincy (by winning three nail biters, upsetting India in the semi-final and then nearly upsetting England in the final). It’s a strange reason to give such a prestigious award, especially when Shakib al Hasan was a very long way ahead of the next best, having single-handedly won three matches for Bangladesh – the only matches that they won. Kane Williamson was good, but not Shakib good.

If you want to talk about turning points, consider when Ben Stokes hit a six only for it to be caught about two metres in from the boundary line, but then momentum forced Trent Boult to tumble over the line. Just before he did so, he had the presence of mind to toss the ball up into the air for his teammate to catch it. The only problem was that he was a moment too late. It wasn’t even a second, perhaps only 0.1 of a second, maybe even less than that, as his foot trod on the boundary rope with ball still in hand. That moment cost New Zealand the match. Had he caught that, New Zealand would have won.

We can talk about the unlucky moment when the ball hit Ben Stokes’s bat, or the poor decision by the umpire to call Jofra Archer’s first ball of the Super Over a wide, but those are just bits of luck. That non-catch by Trent Boult was something that they could have done differently.

Also note that Ben Stokes turned down 2 singles in the final over, and, had he ran them, they may well have won the final without needing a Super Over. Adil Rashid is a pretty good batsman and may well have got them home.

In the end, it was a magnificent match, and talking about New Zealand being cheated is unfair to the match.

And yes, I know that I do that when talking about the 2005 Ashes and that dismissal that wasn’t out that cost Australia the series. But it was still a pretty good match.

Good matches, close matches, almost always have controversy, but it doesn’t mean that England were not deserving winners. To see Ben Stokes and his effort in the last few overs, when he was having trouble standing up due to exhaustion, you couldn’t really claim that they didn’t deserve it.

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