Last night England and New Zealand played in the final of the 2019 Cricket World Cup. England won the game, and the tournament. The end.
Except its not, of course.
I won’t go into detail here, because if you care the tiniest bit about cricket you already know what happened, and if you don’t care about cricket, well, then you don’t care. ESPNcricinfo has the whole story and more. The short of it is that the game was tied at the end, so they went to a tiebreaker, and were still tied after that, so the game was awarded to England on a technicality.
Its not the result that will be remembered though. Yes, England have a trophy in the cupboard and their name on the wall and New Zealend go home empty handed, but in the future when we’ve all calmed down and a few more years and a few more tournaments have happened we won’t remember the time England won the World Cup. Not like that, anyway.
What we’ll remember is that England and New Zealand played a game of cricket and it was strange and special in ways that very few are.
Of course, we’ll remember the ins and outs of the game; the borderline DRS calls; the dropped catches; the overthrows; the Super Over; the bizarre boundaries countback to finally declare the winner.
But we’ll remember how England’s “Total Cricket” approach of the previous four years emerged. We’ll remember how the frequent 300 and even 400+ scores drove fear into the hearts of every other team out there, and we’ll remember how we worried that it could be the end of the game as we know it.
We’ll remember how New Zealand found a way to counter such game through sensible, controlled batting and relentlessly accurate bowling, and yes, a little luck, and we’ll remember how they did the same thing to India in the semi-final, and how even then, everyone thought it was a fluke.
We’ll remember the tournament as a whole; where India fielded perhaps the most complete team seen in modern times but lost out largely to their own hubris; where Australia fielded one of their weakest sides in years, had an objectively poor tournament and still were rated as a team to beat; where Sri Lanka fielded maybe the worst ODI side in history yet beat the eventual winners and gave relevance to the last three weeks of the tournament; where South Africa, perennial chokers, surprised us by failing so completely they didn’t even have an opportunity to choke.
We’ll remember the weirdness of the tournament itself; the baffling way in which the final was decided; the strange single-group structure and fixture that seemed designed to maximise India’s chances; the way that the ICC appears unwilling or unable to grow the game by shrinking the tournament further; the rain that ruined more than one game; and the bails that wouldn’t move.
We’ll remember the 2019 final in the same way we remember Australia and South Africa in the 1999 semi-final; or New Zealand and South Africa in the 2015 semi-final; or Australia and West Indies in the 1996 semi-final; or India and Pakistan in the 1996 quarter-final. The results mattered, but how they happened mattered more.
We’ll remember how Martin Guptill’s throw at the stumps hit Ben Stokes on the dive and richocheted to the boundary and then we’ll remember his direct hit the game before to run out MS Dhoni and actually get to the final. And then will remember other individual efforts from previous editions; like Kevin O’Brien putting England to the sword; like Mitchell Starc yorking Brendon McCullum in the first over; and like Herschelle Gibbs “dropping the World Cup”.
We’ll remember our other favourite cricket moments, like the 438 game; like the 2006 Adelaide Test; like the 2005 Edgbaston Test; like Michael Bevan’s last-ball four. We’ll remember Grace and Trumper and Bradman and Gilchrist and Inzamam and Dravid and Tendulkar and Waugh and Ponting and Hobbs and Hammond and Lawry and Richards and Warne and Lara.
Because in cricket, and maybe in most sports, when the next game or season or tournament are over, the previous results aren’t really remembered in the same way that the stories are. Perhaps we can say that the results are for the players, but the stories are for the fans, and we remember them and nurture them and pass them on. Against that history, individual match results barely rate a mention.