There has never been a better or more infuriating finish to a World Cup: a twice-tied match separated only by an absurdly mandatory criterion.
So incredible was the final that it’s going to cast every other aspect of the tournament in its shadow. In the interest of giving every highlight the attention it deserves, let’s recap the past month and a half with some awards, some of them the usual fare, others not so much.
Kane Williamson was given the official gong, and it’s hard to argue with that given he scored about 30 per cent of his side’s runs while captaining them to the final. But I will.
No one had a better all-round tournament than Shakib Al Hasan, who, in eight games, scored 606 runs at 86 and took 11 wickets. He scored two superb hundreds – one against eventual champions England, the other in Bangladesh’s record chase against the West Indies – passed fifty a further five times, and his one ‘failure’ was still over 40.
Had he had some more support, particularly on the bowling side of things, the Tigers would have been every chance of pipping New Zealand for the last semi-final spot, where their star all-rounder could and almost certainly would have added to his astounding tournament.
Still, fans of the Grade Cricketer will know that, after posting those figures with bat and ball while his side missed the finals, Shakib will be the happiest man in world cricket.
Honourable mentions: Kane Williamson, Jofra Archer, Mitchell Starc, Rohit Sharma, Ben Stokes.
The fielding this tournament ranged from the horrid to the sublime, but nothing could top Cottrell’s astounding one-hander against Australia. Yes, Ben Stokes’ opening-match grab was incredible, but that was in part due to poor positioning in the first place. The West Indian’s one-handed, tiptoeing effort was faultless.
Honourable mentions: Ben Stokes vs South Africa, Martin Guptill vs Australia, Jimmy Neesham vs India.
It wasn’t the fastest or the highest score of the World Cup, but Williamson’s match-winning century against the Proteas was the best. The New Zealand skipper’s superb technique and temperament were on full display as he guided his side to a crucial win, sealing it with a slog-swept six and glided four in consecutive balls in the final over.
Honourable mentions: Ben Stokes 84* (98) vs New Zealand, Eoin Morgan 148 (71) vs Afghanistan, Shakib 124* (99) vs West Indies, Ravindra Jadeja 77 (59) vs New Zealand.
With Stokes guiding England to what would have been a critical win against Australia, Starc produced the best yorker many have ever seen – no mean feat for a man who bowls plenty of quality sandshoe-crushers.
It was fast, it swung late, it cannoned perfectly into the base of off-stump, it turned the match in Australia’s favour, it was… pretty much perfect.
Honourable mentions: Jofra Archer to Soumya Sarkar, Lockie Ferguson to Faf du Plessis.
If there’s one bugbear many non-English fans will have about the final, it’s that it was decided on the number of boundaries hit by each side. Why not reward the team which bowled more dots? Or took more wickets? Or ran more threes?
Or why not just have another super over, and keep having as many as are needed to find a clear winner?
Mind you, it’s only slightly more absurd than using net run rate to qualify teams for finals, so maybe New Zealand don’t have all that much to complain about.
Honourable mention: New Zealand qualifying for the semi-finals on NRR.
Cheap shot? Maybe, but once again South Africa failed on cricket’s biggest stage. While Faf du Plessis was excellent with the bat and we saw plenty of Imran Tahir’s trademark celebrations, the Proteas lacked depth on both sides of the ball and paid the price for it. They faceplanted out of the gates and were never in finals contention.
Honourable mentions: West Indies, India, Australia’s semi-final performance.
For someone who didn’t expect them to win a game all tournament, the sight of Sri Lanka upsetting the hosts, having had to defend 232, came as quite the surprise. That shock was all down to the efforts of Lasith Malinga. The veteran was at his miserly best at the death against England, hitting his yorkers time and again as he grabbed four wickets and an unlikely victory.
Honourable mentions: Shaheen Shah Afridi 6-51 (9.1) vs Bangladesh, Trent Boult 4-30 (10) vs West Indies, Liam Plunkett 3-42 (10) vs New Zealand, Mitchell Starc 5-26 (9.4) vs New Zealand.
Had there not been so much hype about Archer’s looming inclusion in England’s squad, had he not already well and truly broken out through his performances in the Big Bash and IPL, he’d have this one all to himself. After all, 20 wickets at 23, plus a Cup-winning super over, is quite the performance from someone who’s still yet to play 20 ODIs.
But Carey, too, had an outstanding tournament. He finished 14th in the run-scoring charts, behind 13 players who have now all played 70 or more ODIs. Carey is yet to play his 30th. Having come into the World Cup with questions rightly surrounding his place in the Australian side, he’s now established himself as the team’s wicketkeeper, and taken another step towards cementing his place as the heir apparent to Tim Paine in the Test side.
Honourable mentions: Nicholas Pooran, Shaheen Shah Afridi.
Having come to England with question marks over just one of their opening slots, New Zealand leave with them hovering over both. After blasting Sri Lanka all around the place in an opening-match ten-wicket win, Guptill posted sub-par score after sub-par score, including in the semi-final.
And yet, despite those failures with the bat, he still produced a game-defining moment against India, picking up with one hand and rifling in a perfect throw with just one stump to aim at to run out MS Dhoni and seal the Black Caps’ spot in the final.
Honourable mention: Ravindra Jadeja in that same match.
When the ball ricocheted off Ben Stokes bat in what seemed like the last over of the final and the umpires signalled six, it turned the game in England’s favour. But, according to Simon Taufel, the correct decision would have been to award five runs, keeping Stokes off strike for the next ball and leaving the hosts with one more run to chase.
We don’t know what would have happened the following ball had that been the case. Adil Rashid might have creamed one to the fence. He might have edged it over the keeper for four. Or he might have been castled as Trent Boult bowled New Zealand to World Cup victory. Either way, hypothetical ‘what-ifs’ won’t do anyone any help, and it’s a shame that an incorrect decision has the chance to take the gloss off an incredible tournament finale.
Honourable mentions: Australia losing to England in the semi-final, Afghanistan not getting a win.
Do you really need an explanation for this one?
Honourable mentions: New Zealand vs India, New Zealand vs South Africa, New Zealand vs West Indies.