‘I certainly hope participation levels go up or continue to rise’
LONDON: England captain Eoin Morgan hopes his side’s “incredible journey” to World Cup glory will inspire a new generation of fans in the sport’s birthplace. There have long been concerns about declining player numbers in English cricket, with the sport hidden behind a television paywall in Britain since England’s iconic 2005 Ashes series triumph.
But Sunday’s match at Lord’s — the first of the 12 World Cup finals to end in a tie and to be settled by a Super Over contest — was on free-to-air television. “I certainly hope participation levels go up or continue to rise,” said Morgan, who has overseen England’s climb from the depths of a miserable first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup.
Morgan, asked if the final would have resonated far beyond cricket’s core audience, replied: “I hope so. Obviously today is a big day of sport with Wimbledon and the Silverstone GP going on. “But with Sunday evening, people normally settle in for a bit of (naturalist) David Attenborough or some random film that’s on, so I hope they were tuned into the cricket.” England, set 242 to win, were dismissed for 241, with Ben Stokes stranded on 84 not out after Mark Wood was run out off the last ball of regulation play.
They then made 15 in their additional Super Over, bowled by Trent Boult, before New Zealand matched that in their own Super Over, bowled by Jofra Archer. But with Martin Guptill run out off the last ball of the match going for the winning run, England triumphed on boundary count during the match — 26 to 17. England had a moment of astonishing good fortune with a bonus four runs during their main innings when a Guptill throw deflected off the bat of Stokes, who was diving to make his ground.
‘Allah with us’
But the Dublin-born Morgan, asked if England had enjoyed the famed luck of the Irish, said: “I spoke to Adil (England leg-spinner Adil Rashid), he said Allah was definitely with us.”It actually epitomizes our team, quite diverse backgrounds and cultures.” The 32-year-old added: “It was the most incredible game of cricket, with nothing between the sides. “I commend the Black Caps and Kane (Williamson, New Zealand captain), they’ve been absolutely incredible.”
England have consciously tried to emulate New Zealand’s aggressive one-day style since the Black Caps thrashed them in a 2015 group match, with Australian coach Trevor Bayliss appointed after that World Cup. “The biggest risk for us throughout the tournament was not playing a positive brand of cricket,” said Morgan after England’s World Cup win, which following defeats in the 1979, 1987 and 1992 finals.
Williamson, for whom this was a second straight World Cup final reverse after Australia overwhelmed New Zealand four years ago, said he felt “just gutted”. “I think throughout this whole campaign I have spoken about ‘uncontrollables’ and there were a couple today that were pretty hard to swallow,” added star batsman Williamson, named man of the tournament for his 578 runs. Barbados-born fast bowler Archer only made his England debut in May but Morgan still entrusted the 24-year-old with the Super Over.
“Jofra was pretty easy, he’s an unbelievably talented player,” Morgan explained. Archer said his nerves had been settled by Stokes, who three years ago had four straight sixes hit off him by Carlos Brathwaite during a last-over loss to the West Indies in the 2016 World Twenty20 final in Kolkata. “Stokesy came over and told me, win or lose, today will not define me as a player,” said Archer.
The success meant England’s cricketers matched the nation’s 1966 football team and the 2003 rugby union team in becoming world champions. But Morgan, asked if he had joined fellow captains Bobby Moore and Martin Johnson on the English sporting equivalent of Mount Rushmore, said: “Not at all. There’s no Mount Rushmore. “Primrose Hill (a northwest London suburb near Lord’s), that’s about it.” – AFP