What a day.. What an event.. What a game! Old Father Time, looking down from his lofty perch above the score box had never seen or heard the like at his old ground – I like to think that he secretly celebrated with the best of them last night in NW8!
These were truly monumental efforts by both teams, and whatever side you were on you could not escape the tension, the drama and the excitement of the whole occasion. For New Zealand, heartbreak – so near and yet so far. All efforts in vain in an incredibly close contest in which the main game, and the ‘mini game’ after were both tied on runs. Put aside the rulings on wickets lost, the controversy over runs being awarded correctly or incorrectly, decisions made right or wrong, number of boundaries hit and you have here a game of cricket that will surely never be replicated in any tournament, series or competition ever again. Those at the ground, those watching on TV or listening on radio will never forget the efforts of Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes in England’s middle order in a game that looked all but lost, due to the incredible consistency and skill of the New Zealand bowlers making run scoring almost impossible. They will never forget the Trent Boult catch and subsequent treading on the boundary not long after the same player had dived millimetres away from the boundary at the other end to save a crucial 2 runs. The Jofra Archer first ball wide in the Super Over – what must have gone through his mind at that moment!? It literally had it all.
Above all I will remember the game for those examples of supreme skill execution by all players throughout the day. The ability for all the players to be able to stay calm under the most intense pressure the game can possibly put them under. How Buttler and Stokes did not panic after Eoin Morgan and Joe Root had both struggled against the immaculate line, length and control of de Grandehomme and co, but came up with a plan that they clearly believed in. T the majority of onlookers, it will have looked like the batters were falling further and further behind leaving the title ever more likely out of reach. Not so, and fast forward an hour or so and a high pressure pick up and throw to Jos Buttler waiting at the pavilion end saw a run out and the World Cup won by only a couple of yards of the Lord’s turf.
Incredible drama all round, and the legacy for cricket in the UK will last a generation at least. It is up to us, the current custodians of the game to assist the clubs and counties, schools and colleges to facilitate ad give opportunities for our population, young and old – boys and girls, to play and enjoy the game. Allow them to recreate those scenes on our playing fields and cricket grounds this summer and beyond. They will want to come and be Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jimmy Neesham, Tom Latham and Kane Williamson. Help them to create, recreate and experience, in their own imaginations, these scenarios. Encourage them to pick up a bat or a ball and have a go. This is the moment to capitalise on the interest. They are drawn in, and those who are not already hooked will be with both the upcoming women’s and men’s Ashes – not to mention the T20 Blast and County Championship conclusion!
It’s their time to get into the great game and we all have to help them and give them opportunity to experience it and encourage them when they pick up the equipment!
PL & WD
Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains is available as a paperback (£12.99) and eBook (£3.99) from Amazon.co.uk. Books are also from Walkers Bookshops in Oakham and Stamford, and from CM Cricket in Stoughton, Leicester.