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Nine better ways to settle the World Cup final

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16th July, 2019

England’s dramatic World Cup final win over New Zealand is rightly being praised as one of the greatest ODIs ever played.

And while the twists and turns produced agony and ecstasy of unmatched scale, many fans have since asked if England’s victory on the basis of having scored more boundaries inside the 50 overs is a fair way to decide the world champion.

As an added kicker for all Kiwi supporters, we now know that the second ‘six’ in England’s 50th over should have only been given as five runs.

Can you imagine the stink that England or Australia’s cricketing boards would have kicked up had they been in New Zealand’s shoes? And as for what the BCCI would do… it doesn’t bear thinking about.

That said, here are some ways we could separate the teams in the rare event that the game is tied that aren’t as arbitrary as a boundary countback.

1. Wickets lost inside 50 overs
In the event of a rain-reduced match, we employ the Duckworth Lewis Stern method to decide the relative strength of a team at a given position in the match.

For example, if Team A is 0/35 after 5 overs, and Team B is 3/40 after 5 overs in the same match, we say that Team A is in a stronger position and thus more likely to win, despite having slightly fewer runs than Team B.

It would seem to follow, then, that New Zealand’s 8/241 was stronger than England’s 241 all out. I’m still all for a super over, given that the objective of limited-overs cricket is to simply score more runs than your opponent in a given time frame.

But when you’re faced with a tied match and tied super over, then perhaps we should consider the economy with which those runs were acquired.


2. Wickets lost in the super over
Going back to the original 50 overs to find a result might actually be counter-intuitive. The premise of a super over is that there was nothing to separate the two teams inside the original contest, and that an additional contest is needed.

If that’s the case, then it seems logical to use the wickets lost in a super over as the next tie breaker in the event that a super over is tied.

The problem with this – and any wicket countback – is that it may discourage teams from winning the game outright. It seems less likely that Guptill would have attempted a fatal second run off the last ball of the super over if he knew that a mere single would secure a share of the trophy.

3. Previous head to head
This method is used at the FIFA World Cup when determining which side should advance from the group stage in the event that both sides finish level on points, goal difference, and goals scored.

It seems a reasonably good test of which side is superior within the tournament. There would be no fear of teams playing for a draw as you might have in a two-legged tie in football.


But in the group stages, teams might very legitimately rest superstar players in order to keep them fresh for later games, so they don’t always field a full-strength side, and thus the outcome of the contest in the group stage might not be a genuine representation of the comparative strength between the teams.

4. Tournament ladder position
If the objective of a tournament is to determine who the best team is, then why not look at which team has fared the best against all other teams?

While this would discourage teams from tanking earlier in the tournament to avoid particular finals fixtures, it doesn’t resolve the problem that sometimes no result is achieved in group stage matches, thus limiting team’s ability to gain points and climb the table.

More games were abandoned during this World Cup without a ball bowled than in all previous editions of the tournament combined. But this is already an accepted consideration in determining who progresses to the finals, so maybe it’s not that bad.

One potential way to avoid both these problems is to take a team’s average points per completed game, or their total number of wins divided by total number of completed matches. Interestingly, neither of these results would have led to a different ladder than the one that was ultimately produced.

5. Share it
The tournament by-rules state that in the event of a washout in the final – for example, poor weather on the scheduled day and the reserve day prevents a match from being completed – the two teams will be declared joint champions.

Chris Woakes and the beaten Kiwis.

(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

This is important because it shows that the ICC is not strictly wedded to the idea that there can only be one champion. If the two teams are tied after 50 overs and a super over, and maybe one more tie-breaker (my preference would be a wickets countback), then just give them a share of the trophy.


6. Best bloke
In the case of a tie, award the game to the team you’d most like to have a beer with. This rule has serious merit.

It rewards countries like New Zealand, who boast the banterous Jimmy Neesham and the bristling Lockie Ferguson, as well as the energy of West Indies, despite Chris Gayle only referring to himself in the third person.

It also punishes teams with Ben Stokes in them and satisfies every Australian’s desire to see Virat Kohli never win anything.

7. No World XI
It’s been the subject of many a meme on social media that five of England’s starting XI and seven of their total squad were born outside England.

Captain Eoin Morgan joked on Sunday through a heavy Irish accent that not only did they have “the rub of the green,” but according the Pakistani-born English spinner Adil Rashid, “Allah was definitely with [the team].”

Pace ace Jofra Archer was born in Barbados, while Ben Stokes grew up in New Zealand and Jason Roy is South African by birth. At least we know the British Empire is alive and well.

8. Fastest to correctly pronounce the umpire’s names
This is a beauty. Marais Erasmus might not be too much of a challenge, but his partner in the final – Handunnettige Deepthi Priyantha Kumar Dharmasena, also known as that bloke that pissed off Jason Roy in the semi – is bound to challenge some of England’s cockney crew.

9. Just run another super over
Simple stuff, really.


Personally, my preferred order of tie-breakers would be super over, wicket countback, best bloke, anyone but England, share it.