How not to decide a championship

If I were a Kiwi, I’d still be feeling sick, three days after the final of the World Cup. They were stiffed out of the title, not once, but in a succession of unlikely events. Mostly it was bad luck, but it becomes more than mere luck when every 50/50 call goes against you. There was the incompetence of umpires as well, as well as, ultimately, being defeated by an arcane and unfair rule cooked up by an administration that has no feel for the game. Worst case scenario, New Zealand should be joint winners right now, but play it all again, and odds on the kiwis would come out on top.

Let’s recount the events. New Zealand bat first and make a moderate 241. The first ball of the England innings Roy survives an LBW appeal on umpire’s call. Regardless, inside 20 overs England is four down. They rally, Stokes is batting well, and Buttler joins making a half-century, but then they lose wickets. Eight down they need more runs than balls remaining. It’s probably a 50/50 game, maybe the Kiwi’s in front, just, but then the first bit of ill-fortune strikes.

Stokes hits the ball towards the boundary. Boult is there on the boundary line waiting for the catch. He takes it, but as he steps back with the momentum, his heel touches the rope. In an instant, what was almost certainly the match-winning wicket of the danger man is now six runs off the target. Then stokes hits the ball to the boundary again. It’s fielded, and Guptill makes the long throw to the keeper hoping to effect a run-out. The ball never makes it to the keeper. Instead, it hits Stokes’ bat as he makes his ground and rebounds to the boundary. What were a rushed two runs is now ruled six runs. It’s wretched bad luck for New Zealand.

And here is the first bit of contention, and it comes in two parts. Firstly, it should only have been ruled five runs by the umpires, not six, because the batsmen hadn’t crossed when the ball was thrown in. The real significance of that is that instead of being on strike for the next ball, Stokes would have been at the non-striker’s end, leaving a tailender to score the winning runs. None of this emerged until after the match.

The game goes on, and England finish on 241 – tying the score, all out. What happens now? Super-over!

England bat first and score 14. Then the New Zealand batsmen take strike and on the last ball of the over – having scored 14 – are run out attempting the winning run.

So, theoretically it’s a tie still, but no – and this is where the arcane, ridiculous rule determines the victor.

England is ruled the victors, and why? Because they scored more boundaries in their innings than New Zealand did! Such an arbitrary ruling is nonsense. You might equally rule that New Zealand are the victors because they played fewer dot balls than England. But really, if there should be an administrative tie-breaker like this then clearly it should come down to wickets lost in achieving the score. On that count, the Kiwis would have won because they lost eight against England’s ten.

But any administrative ruling is inadequate and unsatisfactory. After 46 days of intense and compelling competition, the championship must be decided on the field, not in the rule book. As I see it the common sense approach would have been one of two ways – either the two teams are named joint winners because the deadlock couldn’t be broken; or, logically, they keep playing super overs until one team wins it. Shouldn’t take long.

This match has been called one of the greatest ODIs ever, and for drama, you can’t argue that. It’s left a lot of people with a sour taste in their mouth though because it feels wrong. I can’t help but think that New Zealand has been dudded. I won’t call them moral victors, but, on balance, I think they were the more deserving.

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