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Moment that mattered: England win the Cricket World Cup

England captain Eoin Morgan kisses the trophy after the World Cup Final. Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images

“I spent a great deal of my first World Cup final perched on a washing machine in the laundry room of Lord’s. On the pitch outside, my teammates were trying desperately to get the runs needed to top New Zealand’s score and win the biggest trophy in cricket. Meanwhile I couldn’t do anything but sit on this machine, which occasionally vibrated wildly, watch the match on a tiny television set and wait to see if I’d be needed to take to the field. I was so nervous. It was just awful.

“As a team we’d been building to this moment for four years. After a disappointing 2015 World Cup [when England failed to make it out of the pool stage] England one-day international captain Eoin Morgan wiped the slate clean and we started again playing a different style of cricket – one that we all believed in.

“Our first game of the 2019 World Cup was against South Africa and we put in a great performance, winning by 104 runs. We lost against Pakistan, but after that everything seemed to be going to plan – we beat Bangladesh, the West Indies and Afghanistan. Then the hiccup came.

“Against Sri Lanka we didn’t play with our usual intensity and it was a bad game for me personally. As a bowler I’m not known for being good with the bat and I was the last man in with Ben Stokes, who was the only England player to really step up that day. We still needed 47, but Stokes looked like we might just do it. He hit 23 off eight deliveries. The crowd started to believe that we would pull off a remarkable victory and then I got out – caught behind – and it was all over. It was the lowest point of the tournament for me. We had lost to a team most people expected us to beat easily and we carried that baggage over into the Australia pool game and lost again. Our confidence had been knocked and we were now in a position where we needed to win every game to reach the knockout stages.

“We had a fairly frank team meeting where we talked openly about how we were feeling and what we could do better. We asked ourselves, ‘Do we still see it happening?’ The answer was ‘yes’, we still had that belief. We won the next three games [in which Wood took four wickets] and we were in the Cricket World Cup final against New Zealand.

“Warming up for the game, because we have the same routine, felt like any another match, but then when we walked out of the dressing room to play the adrenaline really ramped up. As we made our way from the dressing room to the field to start the match a roar just carried us down the stairs and onto the pitch – everyone was patting us on the back. It was like we were going out to battle. I felt like I could bowl at 150 miles an hour after I heard that roar.

“It was my proudest moment to sing the national anthem at a World Cup final, seeing the English flag flying above Lord’s with all its history. I always stand between Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root because we all really belt out the anthem. The three of us just bellowed it that day.

“New Zealand won the toss and decided to bat. I couldn’t stand still while I was fielding, I was just desperate to get in the game. I had to wait until the 15th over for my turn to bowl. If anything, I was too worked up. I was trying too hard and I didn’t bowl very well in my first spell. Then I came back from the pavilion end and got a wicket with my first ball to Ross Taylor [who had been New Zealand’s top scorer in their  semi-final win against India]. That relaxed me and it seemed to just flow a little bit easier from there. I thought, ‘I’m now doing my job. I’m helping my country. I’m helping my teammates.’

“By the end of New Zealand’s innings they had a score of 241. I thought it was a good total, but Morgan said, ‘No, it’s under par. We bat well and we’ll win this game.’ But we didn’t start off well. By the 23rd over we were 86 for four. We needed 156 runs from 27 overs with most of our best batsmen gone. I was down to bat last and I said, ‘I’m not watching any more.’ Which brings us back to the washing machine.

“I’m not sure if everybody is like this, but I felt like I was cursing the team with the places I was watching from. When I was watching from the balcony we lost a wicket. So I moved to the dressing room. We lost another. In the physio room, another. The only place we didn’t lose a wicket was when I was in the laundry room.

“That’s when Stokes and Jos Buttler formed an incredible partnership, adding 110 runs between them. So I thought, ‘Right. I cannot move from this spot.’ I stayed there until I was needed. The whole game flowed between ‘Yes, we’re going to win’ and ‘Oh no, we’re dead and buried’. By the last over we needed 15 runs and we had eight out – if anyone else got out I’d be up to bat. I’ve never felt so sick in all my life: ‘What if it’s on me to hit the winning runs? I’m not really a very good batsman. What am I going to do?’ By now I’d thrown up in one of the posh Lord’s sinks.

“The last over was incredible, the ball bounced off Stokes’s bat as he was running and went to the boundary for an extra four runs. Then Rashid was run out with one ball to go. I was up. We needed two runs to win the World Cup. Stokes was going to face the ball, so all I had to do was run.

“On the way out I was thinking, ‘I’ll make it. I’ll be as fast as Usain Bolt.’ It was only when I got out to the stumps that I thought, ‘Why have I come out with all my pads on?’ I had my chest guard on, my arm guard, my outer thigh pad, my inner thigh pad, but I didn’t have to face a ball. I just needed to run and I’d come out in a suit of armour.

“Stokes hit it, and I thought, ‘Right. Come on. Do this. Win the World Cup. Run. Run!’ The ball went to a fielder. I ran as fast I could and we got one run, but I turned like the Titanic and I didn’t make the second. I was run out. The game was tied and we went to a deciding ‘super over’. Six balls each. Whoever scored the most runs would win the World Cup. If both teams scored the same then we’d win as we’d hit more boundaries.

“By the time I got back into the dressing room everybody’s emotions were all over the place. Apart from Jofra Archer who is the most laidback man in the world. Morgan said, ‘Jofra, are you going to bowl the super over?’ And he just said, ‘Yeah OK. If you want me to.’

“I wasn’t going on the field because I’d torn a muscle at some point in the match. So I had to watch from the boundary’s edge. Buttler and Stokes went out to bat and they did tremendously, getting 15. Again, I started to believe we were going to win the match.

“But our bowling over didn’t get off to a great start. The first ball was a wide which gave New Zealand a run and then they hit a six. By the last ball they needed two to win, just like us at the end of the regular innings. It almost happened in slow motion: Archer bowled, Martin Guptill hit it, Jason Roy fielded, threw it to Jos Buttler, he got the ball, he hit the stumps, Guptill was run out by inches, and then that was it. The score was tied, but we had won the World Cup.

“I ran over the boundary and sprinted to the middle. It was just like when you’re a kid and you run down to the bottom of a hill as fast as you can, your legs almost going faster than you can move.

“That feeling of freedom when you feel anything and everything is possible. That’s what it was like. It was an absolutely euphoric moment.

Mark Wood celebrates on the balcony after England wins the super over. Credit: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

“Because the team were in a bubble it wasn’t until later that we realised the impact the win had on the rest of the country. We were being sent videos of Trafalgar Square going wild. People in their local cricket clubs celebrating, the England Women’s cricket team, who won their home World Cup in 2017, people in their living rooms.

“Since then people who have never liked cricket have come up to me and said, ‘We never watch cricket, but the final was fantastic. We’re into it now,’ and, ‘My son has been inspired to join his local cricket team.’ That’s what it’s about: inspiring everyone to enjoy, watch and play cricket. Because clearly it’s the greatest game in the world.”

We hope you enjoyed this sample feature from issue #36 of Delayed Gratification

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