My father had setup the receiver for new TV channels. He wanted to watch the Cricket World Cup as it happened. The New Zealand team had done well but they stumbled at the end. England had earned a spot in the final match but they were set to chase a tricky total. They fought hard for glory but wickets kept falling at regular intervals.
At the end, England lost. Pakistan won. That was the first live ODI cricket match I had ever watched. My dad provided his colorful commentary and cheers. I was familiar with veterans like Imran Khan and Javed Miandad. He talked of a new, chubby kid who had dismantled the undefeated Kiwis in the two prior games; some guy named Inzamam-ul-Haq. Of course, there was also the greatest bowler Pakistan had ever produced -- the Man of the Match of the 1992 Cricket World Cup final: Wasim Akram.
That was the third World Cup final for England and their third defeat. They had been set imposing totals to chase on each occasion and they failed every time. The country that invented the game still hadn't won the ultimate trophy. After the loss in 1992, England waited 27 agonizing years for another appearance in a World Cup final.
England crushed Australia, the defending World Champions, in the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup. New Zealand punched above their weight and beat the mighty Indians to make it to their second successive finals appearance.
After 44 long years of failures, this new, powerful, energetic England side had the chance to become champions. They had beaten New Zealand before in the same tournament. Surely, it won't be so difficult this time. It should be a simple, straightforward, and a sensible victory for England as they are ranked number one in the game. Right?
The Kiwis won the toss and, of course, decided to bat. The weight of history was against England. Chasing sides often lost in this tournament and England had lost all their previous finals while chasing. The pressure built up right from the start. Pakistan scored 249 in 1992. The Kiwis managed 241 this time; a very tricky and competitive total. Nothing exciting or fancy so far.
Then, England started the chase. Matt Henry was getting excellent movement and Jason Roy edged and got out for a slim 17 runs. England 28/1.
After a few quiet overs, the best batsmen in the English side couldn't handle the mounting pressure. His body language clearly signaled his increasing frustration as he shockingly tried to charge and hit the ball but missed! He again attempted a strike but, like Roy, edged and got out for a painful 30-ball 7. England 59/2.
Bairstow was playing quite well. He tried to hit a four but chopped the ball back on to his stumps. England 71/3.
Morgan, the captain of the side, couldn't control his shot selection and hit the ball in the air, only to shout a NO! as the ball flew to Ferguson who took an extraordinary catch. England 86/4.
New Zealand had the momentum. Their fans were making a lot of noise. They needed only two more wickets and England would fall for the fourth time at the biggest stage of cricket!
The sixth man to walk out and bat for England was Jos Buttler who played the most significant and stunning innings of his life. He had made 59 runs off 59 deliveries before he got out to another spectacular catch. The game was truly alive. Either team could win at that point. England 196/5.
Only one man stood between New Zealand and their first World Cup triumph. Ben Stokes had been batting for nearly 22 overs. He had five overs to get 46 runs. It was all on him. He was fatigued. He looked shaken. The pressure on this man was unimaginable.
The Kiwis had choked the second-best team in the world a few days before. Now, they were utilizing their bowling talent to squeeze the top side in the world. "What a thrilling match! This game is going to the very last delivery," I thought and I was super right.
Over 46.1: Woakes hits the ball high in the air and the wicket keeper calmly collects it. England 203/6.
Over 48.3: Plunkett wants to hit a much needed six down the ground. Instead, it finds a fielder. England 220/7.
Over 48.6: Jofra swings the bat and the wickets are rattled. He leaked wides with his bowling and then: a golden duck. England 227/8.
England needed 15 runs off 6 balls for victory in the World Cup final. Few batsmen in history have felt the absolute maximum pressure. Ben Stokes had reached that level.
Over 49.1: Dot ball.
Over 49.2: Another dot ball. 15 from 4 balls. Advantage: NZ.
Over 49.3: Stokes gets down on one knee and smites the ball into the spectators. 9 from 3.
Over 49.4: The drama hits the stratosphere. The jaw-dropping moment of this final had arrived. The teams will swap the emotions of hope and despair. Stokes is running for his life to get back for two. He extends his bat and dives to make the crease, the fielder throws the ball which hits the bat and then runs away, and away, and away to the boundary. God must have looked down and said: Not today, Kiwis! No one who watched this match will ever forget The Divine Deflection.
The stadium erupts. England need 3 runs from two balls.
Over 49.5: Stokes isn't hitting any more sixes. He wants to run and reach 242. He gets one run while the other guy is run out. England 240/9.
Over 49.6: Stokes, again, wants two runs but the other guy has no chance. Run out! England 241 all out.
England needed 242 runs to win. They managed 241. This most epic of epic failures makes this the greatest World Cup final in history. After 100 overs of the most intense and thrilling cricket, we witness a tie!
We got Super Overs at the grand stage. Each team scored 15 runs each in their over. It's another tie! England hit more boundaries. The trophy comes home! England fought till the very end and with unbelievable luck won their first World Cup. Ben Stokes is the man. Williamson, the New Zealand captain, earns the Man of the Tournament award for his exceptional batting and captaincy. The Kiwis didn't let the opposition score more runs in the final but then they went home without the ultimate prize. It was just not their day.
The historical context, drama, pressure, intensity, emotion, the double ties, and that deflection makes this the greatest ODI match of all times.