England's Jos Buttler runs out New Zealand's Martin Guptill
England's Jos Buttler runs out New Zealand's Martin Guptill during the Super Over in the Cricket World Cup final at Lord's cricket ground in London, on July 14, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: So England is the illegitimate recipient of the cricket World Cup 2019 – for no fault of theirs.

That’s exactly how millions of die-hard cricket fans around the world have branded the outcome of last night’s World Cup final.

As for the record book, England has finally won the cricket World Cup – a thriller of a match if there ever was one!

And how did they win, you ask?

By zero runs.

Or rather by a 26-17 boundary count.

After all the drama that we will never again see perhaps in our lifetime, a match that could have become the loftiest benchmark of cricket instead sank into the abysmal depths of spectacular farce – and ended up as the most ridiculous display of the International Cricket Council’s indifference to the game.

It prompted Indian opener Rohit Sharma – the highest run scorer in the tournament – to tweet this:

In the dying moments of the game on Sunday night, when Trent Boult was gasping for breath after executing a second successive run-out in the last ball, New Zealand fans were still full of hope. Despite the unfortunate deflection from Ben Stokes’ bat which bled six runs instead of the two that England deserved (more on that later).

And when Jimmy Neesham smashed a six off Joffra Archer while chasing 16 runs in the super over, their hearts were full of joy. New Zealand were so near… Some nostalgic Indian fans even recalled the heroics of another Jimmy some 36 years back at the same ground, certain of the Kiwi namesake pulling off an equal feat.

But then there was the International Cricket Council, its antiquated mandarins and rules that predate dinosaurs.

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After all this is the World Cup and there must be very convincing reasons for a team to be declared world champion.

Calculating the total number of boundaries by a team doesn’t count as one for me: in the fairness of things, there are several other freak ways of deciding a World Cup winner.

Why not decide the winner with a toss of coins? Or whichever team has the bowler with the longest run-up? Batsman with the longest beard? Run the randomizer? Or perhaps by the highest humidity during each innings!

By the same token, at 12-12 in the final set, the other thriller playing out in London at the same time should have been decided by the number of aces hit by Federer and Djokovic. It’s a small mercy that the bosses of All England Lawn Tennis Club and the ICC are yet to finalise a random-winner agreement!

But for generations to come, for the millions who were glued on to their TV and phones watching that final ball from Joffra Archer and Martin Guptill’s mad dash for the second run last night, for the millions more who will talk about this match for the next several years, people will remember the outcome of the England-New Zealand final as a cruel joke.

The match itself will perhaps go down as the game of the century, but the result was anything but – devoid of moral legitimacy and sporting spirit, it will be remembered as a study in arbitrariness of ICC’s rules. Cricketers past and present from across teams agreed:

It is quite appropriate that this travesty in the name of a cricket World Cup final played out at the Lord’s – the proverbial home of cricket. The lords of cricket today are so blinded by their pursuit of politics and pettiness that they neither see the absurdity of the boundary-count rule nor the ludicrous standard of umpiring for a tournament of this magnitude.

For instance, it has now become common knowledge that England should have been awarded five runs instead of six in the final over of the World Cup title clash. The throw from Guptill that struck Ben Stokes’ bat and ran away for a boundary, should have resulted in 5 runs – not 6 as umpire Kumara Dharmasena awarded. At a crucial stage, the lack of oversight for such error of judgment is unacceptable. This is how Australian cricket great Dean Jones put it:

There’s nothing that takes the credit away from England and New Zealand for producing the most memorable game in cricket history and for being its best ambassadors.

A repentant but jubilant Ben Stokes said he would continue to say sorry to New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson for the accidental deflection that eventually led to the super over.

And Williamson was gracious in defeat – even if it was by a boundary count. But a shattered Jimmy Neesham summed up the result when he said:

Eoin Morgan and the English Cricket Board should have offered to share the trophy on the face of the absurd result – for New Zealand is certainly the World Cup co-winner in the hearts of the most die-hard British cricket fan. But when you have waited for 44 years to lay your hands on the World Cup trophy, that’s perhaps a tall task.

So who exactly won the World Cup?

England, New Zealand, umpiring howlers or the Jurassic rules of ICC? Former England captain Michael Vaughan supported both, while former New Zealand international Scott Styris was more frank:

So the next time you are in the mood for a flight of fancy, catch up on the local circus instead wasting your time hunched in front of the telly or cheering for your team on the field. In fact even WWE provides better entertainment – and there are no pretensions of a serious game being played out and all that drivel about national pride and fairness of rules etc.

But wait – forget what I said just now.

Apparently the ICC has relented under mounting backlash and decided to scrap the boundary count rule!

Instead, the next time there’s a tie in a super over, the ICC will award the winner based on the number of fans cheering for the team.

So cheer on, even if July 14 goes down as a dark day in the annals of cricket history.