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Cricket news - Bedlam for the ages
This is why.
This is why we talk about the game even though you're not interested.
This is why we tell you to come along because we've got a spare. But it's no coincidence. We bought it for you.
This is why we ask if you've got any plans on Saturday because we need an extra player. To be honest, we always do. So do countless other teams as participation takes a hit across the country. But you can help.
This is why when England reached the World Cup final, we told you to watch. They'd never won it before and this was their first final in 27 years. It was on free-to-air television, too, so it was easier. Not only do the hosts have an exciting side, but New Zealand have the best pace attack in the tournament, a great-in-waiting as a captain. Neither team had won this trophy before. If ever there was a time to put it all on the line, here it was.
But we had no idea it would be like this.
There are some bits we can quantify. New Zealand batted first because that's the way this World Cup has worked out. Pitches have deteriorated more than expected. A total of 241 was posted. Then England had a crack at chasing it down but looked like falling short. That, really, is where our expertise ends. Where any semblance of rationale went out the window until we came out the other end of this mad, mad caper and were able to say, with utter confidence, that it was the greatest ODI ever played.
Of course, cricket does not have a monopoly on sporting drama. Far from it, especially in a football country. But what cricket can do - and often what cricket does not mean to do - is create theatre beyond reasonable comprehension out of these minuscule, seemingly inconsequential moments and created just utter, utter madness.
Mitchell Santner ducked the final ball of the New Zealand innings because he was looking for the umpire to signal a head-high wide. That's fairly normal, though: a familiar tactic, a shrug of the shoulders that says "look what I have to work with here?". You knew what Santner was trying to do because countless others gestured as he did with 17 wides were offered up by England's bowlers.
There's an unwritten rule that when a throw hits a batsman by accident and sneaks out into a vacant part of the field that no run is taken. As with all unwritten rules in cricket, there is no penalty for breaking it. But there is heavy scorn. Accusations of playing "against the spirit of the game", a crime punishable by tuts. Yet when the ball runs away to the boundary and the maximum four runs added to whatever was scampered in the middle, well nothing but a few smiles and a mutual appreciation that these things *just* happen.
And ties. Yep, ties happen too. In games of accumulation by any number. Nil-nil. 1-1. 15-15. 241-241. 12-12 (in the fifth). Rare for sure. But it happens.
But how about all in the same afternoon? Imagine it: these moments chucked into a single glass, swirled around and thrown down your throat. Because that's what happened. In a World Cup final.
Santner, who won an IPL match for Chennai Super Kings by striking the final delivery of the game for six, decided not to use the bat in his hands to find something, anything, to supplement a competitive yet gettable total.
With nine needed off the final three balls of the match, Ben Stokes dived, scampering back for a two. Only the throw from the deep cannoned off his bat, squirting away to the boundary in front of the Lord's Pavilion. What could've been seven off two was now three off two. Stokes was on his knees, hands out in apology. Trent Boult, in charge of the 50th over, just laughed. The umpires conferred to see if there was something they could do even though they knew there was not. The Blackcaps simply cursed their luck and got on with it.
But only two of those runs were forthcoming, with two run outs seeing England only match New Zealand's total. After 100 overs of play across more than seven hours, 241 played 241. Then, to determine a winner - a Super Over. And, yep, that finished 15-15. Somehow, they tied the tiebreaker. Can you get more cricket than that?
The deciding factor was boundaries, by the way. 26 to 17 in favour of England. The team knew this was the case, as evidenced by the celebrations. But not everyone did. An ICC official in the press box wondered if another Super Over would be forthcoming. Some journalists with a plethora of world tournaments between them were querying the deciding boundary count as England embarked on their lap of honour.
Heck, that's probably the best example of what this game is and what it can do. Because even the most well-read and travelled of journalists, pundits and savants can be reduced to fools when trying to comprehend it.
But for the game's inherent chaos, maybe it knew there were so many more eyes on it than usual with UK television station Channel 4's sharing of Sky's broadcast, with Trafalgar Square rammed and Lord's swaying like the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury rather than the hushed hum of a private members club. That this was the time for something truly unique.
So if this was your first cricket match, welcome. What a treat. It won't be like this all the time with victory celebrated by one man running and sliding chest first on the outfield and the rest haring after a man with gloves who is in absolute bits after knocking over some dark blue illuminated stumps.
It has its tedious days. Its mind-numbingly dull phases. The rules can be antiquated and you will find out the hard way about its intolerance to outsiders and even the most innocent ignorance - the sort all newcomers to the sport have. Oh and Sweet Caroline. Good grief - Sweet Caroline.
Oh and England being World Champions? Maybe don't get used to that. It's taken 48 years to get to this moment. They had not contested a final since 1992.
But stick with us through those lesser, leaner times. Because the rewards are days like Sunday and the memories will live on for a lifetime. Now that you're in, all that's left to do is sit back and immerse yourself in it. Oh - and pass it on.
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