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‘Whatever happens will not define you’ – England’s super over memories

Wisden free-to-air
by Almanack Archive 10 minute read

Eoin Morgan’s troops – the men who powered England to their first-ever World Cup title on July 14, 2019 – revisit their memories of that breathtaking super-over finish at Lord’s.

In what was arguably the greatest World Cup game of all time, probably the greatest ODI game of them all, England emerged victorious by the “barest of margins” to get their hands on the prestigious trophy for the very first time. As 13 men took the field in the second half of the epic tie-breaker, two of them in bid to chase 16, the rest 11 to defend it: all in search of a maiden World Cup title for their respective countries, to say that the pressure must’ve been enormous would be an understatement.

As it turned out, it was young Jofra Archer who turned out to be England’s hero, defending two of the final ball to help his side attain glory.

From skipper Morgan, whose leadership revolutionised England’s limited overs cricket after the disappointment in 2015, to Ben Stokes, the protagonist of the tale on that evening at Lord’s, England players share memories of perhaps the most cherished moment of their cricketing careers.

Joe Root

There wasn’t the normal Lord’s hum, but pockets of pin-drop silence, like a game of snooker. Jofra was unlucky when the first ball was called wide, and he got quite animated. To keep his composure after that was a credit to him. When Neesham hit that six, I thought back to Eden Gardens in 2016 – this surely can’t happen again. Watching the ball sail into the stands was a sinking feeling.

But Jof has such strong self-belief. From the penultimate delivery, he fielded off his own bowling, and I screamed: “Hold it!” If he had hit the stumps with a shy, Neesham would have been run out – but if he had missed, it would have handed New Zealand an extra run.

When Jos took the bails off next ball, I had a great view from mid-wicket. Straight behind him, on the balcony, all the support staff and coaches were bouncing around, and to the left were the families. Jofra ran off and did a Klinsmann dive, but everyone hurried after Jos, wheeling away into the bottom corner of the ground.

Seeing my parents up above us, with my grandfather, little boy, wife and friends, was really special. Jonny Bairstow picked me up. I punched him in the chest, and screamed in his face: “World Cup! World Cup!” The other squad members were soon on the field too. I have never seen Moeen Ali run so fast. It was pure elation.

Jofra Archer

When Woody got run out off the last ball of our 50 overs, everyone was so confused about what came next. But the waiting period got us all fired up, especially me. At one point, I didn’t think we were even going to tie the game, so to be given another life meant everyone had that little bit more fight.

Jofra Archer was England’s leading-wicket taker at the 2019 World Cup with 20 scalps at 23.05

I wanted to bowl the super over, but didn’t get confirmation until about two minutes before we warmed up. I usually bowl at the death of a 50-over innings, so I thought it was likely to be me, but I wouldn’t have been too upset if it hadn’t: at least I wouldn’t have been responsible if we’d lost.

When the umpire signalled a wide on the tramline first ball, I asked Morgs to review it. He said, “You can’t with a wide, Jof, I’m sorry,” and we laughed. Even when I was hit for six, I was not worried. You have to accept you are probably going to go for a boundary. We had the misfield, but kept our heads, and limited them to ones and twos.

When Jos completed the run-out, I set off in the opposite direction to the others, and did a chest slide. Then we all joined up, and people started jumping on me. It was the sweetest moment I’ve had on a cricket field. I’ll be honest: it almost brought a tear to my eye. As someone who has always loved the game, it still feels surreal to be a World Cup winner. I can only imagine how special it feels for the others, because they were on that journey for four years. They went through what happened in 2015. In fact, I feel happier for them than I do for myself.

Chris Woakes

Like all the others, I enjoyed a minute of utter madness, picking up Mark Wood and tossing him in the air. Then I saw Martin Guptill still lying on the ground. I’ve always felt that the only thing worse than a sore loser is a sore winner. I’m sure people could understand why we were all running around like headless chickens, but going over to commiserate seemed the right thing to do. It probably helped that we’ve always got on well with the New Zealanders.

Chris Woakes comforts Martin Guptill after victory evades New Zealand

Jimmy Neesham was there too, and I said: “Hard luck, lads, great game.” I half-tried to pick Guptill off the turf, but he wasn’t budging. Neesham just said: “Nah, we’re all good, mate. Congratulations.” It wasn’t until I saw the photo later of me and Guptill that I thought back to 2005 and the image of Andrew Flintoff with Brett Lee at Edgbaston. I was there that day on the groundstaff. Now, here I was as a player, in a moment I’ll never forget.

Mark Wood

Umpire Aleem Dar came into the dressing-room, and Eoin Morgan told him: “Woody’s torn his side.” Even throwing a ball was going to hurt, so Aleem said a substitute fielder was fine. I watched from the bench with the physio and the doctor.

Ben was so intense: he had that eye-of-the-tiger look. He headed out the back to gather himself. Jos Buttler is someone who’s normally really calm, yet he was quite animated. At one point, he was on his haunches, hitting the physio bed with his fists, shouting expletives. That’s definitely not like him. But when he and Stokesy went back out, they were both in the zone.

I felt sick the whole time but, when Jos hit that last ball for four, it settled me down. I thought 15 was a great score. During their over, I was biting my nails, unable to stand still. Moeen Ali and I were guessing every ball what Jofra was going to do; I’m not sure we got any right.

Jos Buttler

I was excited to have another chance to affect things. I had got out at a crucial time, and it was tough watching, but suddenly I was back in the game. I started to pad up, because I assumed it would be me – and wanted it to be me. I’d been involved in a few super overs, so I knew what to expect.

Trent Boult bowled a good over, and it did feel like we had to scramble hard. Stokesy skewed one over third man, then I hit one to deep cover that the fielder didn’t pick up, so we managed two. After I hit the last ball for four, Stokesy gave me a massive fist-bump: we got 15, which felt like a decent effort, plus we had Jofra to bowl, and no one had got him away in the regular innings.

As we walked back out, Rash said we had Allah with us, and Morgs spoke about the luck of the Irish. We had definitely enjoyed some good fortune – when the ball deflected off Stokesy’s bat to the boundary, that must be how it feels to win the lottery.

I’ve watched the super over back on TV and, when Neesham hits the six, you think the game is over. But on the field it never felt lost. We knew how good Jofra was. I just thought: do your job, don’t get ahead of yourself. That was the same right down to the run-out.

People have often asked whether I thought I might be about to drop the World Cup, but it never entered my mind: there was no time. It was a simple bit of fielding. The ball goes straight to Jason, and when he throws it in, you know the bounce at Lord’s will be true: just catch it, and break the stumps. I knew as soon as Guptill had hit it that I was going to have time, and he was a long way short.

Then I remember the biggest and best feeling of pure emotion for 30 seconds or a minute, with everyone running around, and me throwing my gloves in the air. I don’t remember anyone saying anything, just running and hugging…

Eoin Morgan

The only moment I felt rushed all day was when we batted in the super over. The plan before the game, in the unlikely event of one happening, had been to send out Jason with Jos, but because Ben had played so well – and almost everyone else so terribly – we thought he had to go out again. I asked him if that was all right, and he said he’d be fine, even though he could barely breathe.

When Boult started bowling yorkers from the Nursery End, I thought that, if a wicket fell, it would be tough for a right-hander to hit him up the hill. So I hurried to get my pads on. It was the biggest panic of the day.

Morgan’s  captaincy has been one of the defining aspects of England’s ODI supremacy

After the 2016 World T20 final, you never think you have enough runs, but Jofra is the best, and we felt we could defend 15. Marais Erasmus called us over as we were walking out to field, to tell us about boundary countback: 15’s a win, he said, 16 a defeat. But when Neesham hit that six, New Zealand needed seven off four. It was theirs to lose.

I was talking to Jofra every ball. What matters as a captain is that you receive a response which makes sense. If the bowler’s talking gibberish, or his eyes are glazed over, you need to take more time, and ask him what he’s doing. The only time he wasn’t thinking clearly was when he wanted DRS for the first-ball wide! But his presence of mind was extraordinary. From the fifth ball, which was supposed to be a bouncer, he decided not to try to run Neesham out: if he’d missed, it would have been game over.

The last delivery to Guptill was superb. We only had three fielders on the off side: short third man, point and cover. So Jofra had to follow him if he tried to create room. I was at the bowler’s end as Jason gathered the ball at deep mid-wicket, and Guptill was just turning for the second: he had no chance. It was a good throw, not a great one, and Jos did unbelievable work at the stumps.

We were all running around, trying to grab each other as fast as we could. It was brilliant. That feeling didn’t stop. Even now, I still think about it.

Liam Plunkett

I remember listening to Petr Cech, the former Chelsea goalkeeper, talking about the penalty shootout in the 2012 Champions League final, and how each one felt as if it was happening in slow motion. That’s how it was for me, like I was in a film. Adil Rashid and I covered the areas behind the wicket – I was at short third man – and we chatted about what we were doing. We just wanted to protect our areas.

Liam Plunkett struck crucial blows in the final, including that of New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson

Even though Jofra got hit for six, I always felt we were going to win. For some reason, I was never worried. I knew how skillful he was: he’d missed one ball, but didn’t usually miss many. When I saw J-Roy get to the last ball quickly, all I could think was: “Get it in Jos’s hands.” The feeling when the bails came off was insane. I met Morgs on my celebratory run, and he jumped on me. It was perfect, after the way we had come through the campaign, that we were all out there on the field together.

Jason Roy

Morgs told me and Jos to get our pads on, but then there was a discussion. More thought went into the fact that the shorter boundary from the Nursery End was downhill for a left-hander. Ben had been in a long time, and had the pace of the wicket. He was exhausted, but we were saying to him: “Come on, mate, get a Red Bull down you, and get back out there.”

Because I had been a member of the team that lost the World Twenty20 final when Carlos Brathwaite had his day out, at no stage did I think we had won. I knew Jof was going to try to hit the hole, and the ball was likely to come my way at cow corner. The third did, but it took a slight bobble, and I stood up too quickly as I went to collect it. I thought: “How the hell have I done that?” Maybe I was over-keen to laser it in. They pinched two.

I thought I had got to the next ball quick enough to throw it to the bowler’s end. They were my nearest stumps, but not the ones I should have been aiming for: that’s what pressure does. My thinking was not as clear as it should have
been. Two more.

Thankfully, I found a happy medium for the final ball. I visualised it coming to me, and didn’t have the level of anxiety you might expect. I was more on edge watching it back – which I didn’t do until Christmas. For months, I had been saying to myself: “Imagine if I’d fumbled!” It would have been catastrophic – and tough to come back from.

Jason Roy scored a blistering 85 off 65 balls in the semi-final against Australia at Edgbaston

At the time, though, I knew I had to do what I had trained for. You can always overthink things: “If I don’t get this ball in, we lose.” I actually took longer to gather it than I had the previous ones – I knew that if Guptill was at that far end as I was picking it up, there was no way he was getting back.

Luckily it was somewhere near Jos. I can’t remember the next few seconds very well. I set off running, then stopped, fell to my knees, and thought “Holy shhh…”.

Adil Rashid

About five minutes before our bowling over started, there were a lot of balls being thrown into mitts, and we were buzzing. Morgs asked: “What have you got for me, Rash? What do you reckon?” I told him: “Don’t worry. Allah’s with us.” “Yes, he is,” he said. Later, Morgs told me he must have been with us, because we’d had the rub of the green – although I wasn’t expecting our conversation to be revealed in the press conference, or to go viral.

As we warmed up, I couldn’t stop thinking what our celebrations would be like. There was a lot of talk among the lads. Were we going to hug each other? Which direction were we going to run? Me and Mo said that, if we won, we would run to each other.

I was at short fine leg, talking to Puds [Liam Plunkett] and Jos. I sensed excitement, not nerves. We knew we couldn’t let four years of hard work go to waste. At the end, it was an emotional time. Part of that, I’m sure, was because the win had not come easy. We will all cherish it for the rest of our lives.

Jonny Bairstow

Woody turned like the QE2 as he went for what would have been the winning run, and we were all wondering why he was wearing chest and thigh pads, plus an arm-guard; even he chuckled about it afterwards. There was disbelief when the scores were tied. Nobody really knew the rules. When it became clear we were having a super over, the questions started. Which end? New ball or old?

Who’s bowling for them, who’s batting for us? All the batters wanted a go, but there was no disappointment: we had to remain calm.

When Neesham hit that one, the crowd behind me were shouting that the ball was coming my way. They were not wrong: I watched the six fly straight over my head. The atmosphere was electric. No one could remember Lord’s that loud, ever.

For the last ball, I was on the fence at deep square but, by the time Jos had taken off the bails, I had sprinted past the umpire. As soon as Jason’s pick-up was clean, I knew the throw would be fine. Suddenly we were all at the bottom of the hill going crazy. Rooty jumped on me, and started whacking me, and shouting. Joe and I have been through plenty since we first met on the Yorkshire Academy aged 12. It was amazing.

Ben Stokes

“Whatever happens will not define you as a cricketer.” I thought it was important for Jofra to hear those words from me as we walked out again. If there was anyone who understood the pressure of defending a score in a global final, it was me. After being on the receiving end of Carlos Brathwaite, I knew how things could go wrong.

I was angry it had come to this, that I had not been able to finish the job in regulation time. As Mark Wood and I left the field, I kicked my bat in frustration. I told Eoin Morgan I thought Jason Roy and Jos Buttler should bat in the super over, because of the way they had played throughout the tournament. But he said he wanted a left-hand/right-hand combination. “Sweet,” I said, accepting it was a good point.

It meant I had to get my game head on again. I went out the back into the toilets to separate myself from all that had gone on, and enter a different place mentally. I wanted to get rid of the feelings that had built up over a crazy couple of hours. I wanted a little bit of me time.

When Jos hit the last delivery of our over through midwicket for four, I thought we’d won the World Cup there and then. I jumped in the air, arms aloft. I was going nuts, because I couldn’t see New Zealand getting 16 off Jofra.

In normal circumstances, I would have been fielding at deep mid-wicket. But I was sore and tired, so I asked J-Roy to switch with me. The decisive moment in New Zealand’s over was not the six struck by Neesham, but a stroke of luck from the penultimate ball. Jofra bowled a bumper, and an under-edge crashed into Neesham’s boot. Instead of the ball leaking behind square leg for two, it dribbled for a single.

A few seconds later, as Jofra entered his delivery stride for a perfectly executed yorker, I was 15 yards off the boundary, walking in to put pressure on the batsmen. Realising that J-Roy’s throw had beaten Martin Guptill’s dive, I pushed off on a run to join my team-mates, lost my footing and ended up on my backside. Then something weird happened: I started crying. The more I tried to stop the flow, the more the tears leaked. I never thought I would cry on a cricket field. But, on a day like that, I couldn’t have cared less.

Interviews by Richard Gibson, Will Macpherson and Lawrence Booth.

This is an exclusive extract from the 2020 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanackout on April 9.

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