“By the barest of margins”… “Ecstasy for England, Agony! Agony for New Zealand”, the great Ian Smith’s words on the mic pinched every single cricket fan… the only exception being the English camp. Players, fans, and every single individual who witnessed the greatest ODI WC Finals of all times in the year 2019 had their hearts out for the nice guys of world cricket. Kane Williamson’s smile through the pain of losing his dream title for the country was clearly visible as New Zealand lost the World Cup on boundary count to England.
What do you do when the chips are down? What could you possibly do when the deciding parameters are not under your control? How do you pick up 15 wounded heart-wrenched, hard-working men, to rebuild again and feature in the next big ICC Tournament that has never been played in the past?
New Zealand’s campaign in the World Test Championship started with a disappointing loss in Sri Lankan territory where they faced a six-wicket defeat at the Galle International Stadium. However, they came back in the series in dramatic fashion on the backs of Tom Latham & BJ Watling’s historic 154 & 105*. The Kiwis got their 1st away victory by an innings margin and 65 runs.
After drawing their 1st series in the WTC, then came the forgettable tour of Australia. New Zealand not only lost 0-3 down under but also with margins that were 200+ consistently across the 3 match series. Their chances to feature in the finale had almost gone to the drain after this horrific loss but a silver lining at home was waiting for the bruised black caps.
A certain Indian team that they’d supposedly meet in the final in a year’s time came to visit the overcast conditions at the New Zealand home turf. The Kiwis & the Men in Blue played under conditions that were similar to England and the Indians looked completely out of sorts. The Jamiesons, Southwest & Boults were all over the Indian batting line-up as India lost to New Zealand in a one-way affair of 0-2 to New Zealand.
With this victory, New Zealand stamped their authority at their home as the visitors to come were Pakistan and West Indies. New Zealand won all their fixtures at home from hereon, storming into the finals of the World Test Championship title. 2-0 to India, Pakistan & the West Indies at home, and the next assignment for them was under similar conditions in Southampton, England against a side whom they’d already thumped at home.
Facing India at Southampton for the Mace was dramatic, to say the least. A bruised, broken heart was against an equally thrashed one. India had last won an ICC trophy in 2013 under MS Dhoni and ever since they’d lost the 2014 T20 WC, 2015 WC, 2016 T20 WC, 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, and the 2019 WC: all these at the business ends of the tournament.
After 2 days of complete washout, Southampton had still plenty to play for. The Indian T20 battles between Boult vs Rohit Sharma & Jamieson vs Virat Kohli were under full swing as the two greatest Test teams were head to head against each other. New Zealand with their pace battery of Trent Boult, Southee, Wagner & the tall Jamieson asked questions that were left unanswered by the Indian batting line up and they choked yet again. While a hard-working New Zea batting lineup fought their way to get to a result, a win! Finally after the heartbreak of the 2019 WC and an ICC triumph after a gap of 21 years against the same opposition they’d faced last time in a successful final.
And what better way to end the proceedings than New Zealand’s underrated legend Ross Taylor to hit the winning runs with his skipper Williamson at the other end. Ian Smith’s “barest of margins” were now healed by Simon Doulle’s “Sometimes, just sometimes the Nice Guys finish 1st!”
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