The 2019 Cricket World Cup may not have lived up to all the pre-tournament hype, failing to be the six-hitting carnival some had hoped for and dampened for a while during the group stages by poor weather, but no previous edition has witnessed such an amazing finale.
It was a vintage final that gripped all those present at Lord’s with unbearable, nail-shredding tension. The MCC benches in the Pavilion — filled with some who will have also watched the 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1999 editions — were overflowing like never before. Those that attended will probably never witness a game like it again.
England were the eventual winners of an intriguing see-saw contest played in testing conditions that provided bowlers of skill with some encouragement. New Zealand, runners-up for the second time in a row, battled so bravely and must have been shattered afterwards by losing by the thinnest of margins.
I know what it feels like to lose consecutive finals: we did so in 2007 and 2011 and in between in the World T20’s of 2009 and 2012. As a player, it was very tough. However, New Zealand’s players must not blame themselves. Unlike in 2015 where Australia dominated, here they rose to the occasion and did all they could.
England’s triumph though was well-deserved. They were widely considered the favourites in this tournament and they recovered from a mid-tournament wobble to play their best cricket under pressure. They are an exceptional team with a clear vision on how they want to play — a positive and exciting brand of cricket.
Their journey in the last four years since humiliation in the 2015 World Cup is an example to any ambitious cricket nation that wants to build and plan for the future. They identified the brand of cricket that they believed was necessary to win the 2019 World Cup and they identified the leader and players able to deliver that.
Sri Lanka need to follow a similar journey in the next four years as they prepare for the 2023 World Cup in India. The conditions will be more favourable to us than this edition and there is clearly the talent available. We need to plan carefully and build a core squad well in advance.
England’s win was also a triumph of leadership for Eoin Morgan. He captained the side brilliantly both during the actual tournament and in the previous four years. He gives the players confidence, trusting them to play their own way, and the enormous respect for him throughout the team was obvious.
Kane Williamson was also an exceptional leader. He soaked up the pressure of being New Zealand’s main run scorer and also leading the team superbly, shrewdly guiding his workmanlike team to the brink of a remarkable victory. He truly deserved to be the Player of the Tournament.