The final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 between New Zealand and England was at fever pitch when it came to tension. England needed 15 runs off the last over and they had only two wickets. Crucially, Ben Stokes was on strike and he was looking in good touch. Trent Boult was given the task of bowling the final over and after two dot balls, the pressure was on England. Stokes blasted the third ball for a six but on the fourth ball, there were controversy and pandemonium. Stokes thumped a full ball to midwicket and took off for a couple, Martin Guptill threw the ball at the striker’s end as Stokes attempted to make his ground. However, as he dived with the bat stretched, the ball hit the bat and raced away to the boundary.
Umpire Kumar Dharmasena awarded six runs and England needed three off two. The match ended in a tie and the super over was initiated to decide who the winner was. The super over was also tied but England was declared winners after their boundary count was greater than that of New Zealand. Kane Williamson, speaking after the end of the match, said that was the key moment and said this situation should never arise in the future.
“It was a shame that the ball hit Stokes' bat, but I just hope it doesn't happen in moments like that. I don't wish to nitpick, just hope it never happens in such moments ever again. The New Zealand side showed a great amount of heart to get us to this point, but it just wasn't meant to be. The guys are shattered at the moment - it is devastating. It's pretty tough to swallow at this stage. But a fantastic effort from our guys,” Williamson said.
However, awarding the six runs has raised controversy. Many believed that the ball hitting the bat and going away to the boundary was unlucky. If one looks at the MCC playing conditions, England’s second run should not have been counted as the batsman had not crossed when the ball was thrown from the deep. A closer look at the footage suggested Stokes and Rashid had not crossed for the second run.
Law 19.8 of the playing conditions related to overthrows and willful act of the fielder states, “If the boundary results from an overthrow or from the willful act of a fielder, the runs scored shall be any runs for penalties awarded to either side, and the allowance for the boundary, and the runs completed by the batsmen, together with the run in progress if they had already crossed at the instant of the throw or act.”
Now, the last six words of the law are ambiguous. The ‘instant of the throw or the act’ is not clearly defined. The law states the onus on the fielder and it does not clearly mention what are the actions of the batsman.
The overthrow was a case of rotten luck for New Zealand. The incident was a one-in-a-million moment. But, the final was all about small margins. That is why this match will always be considered the best of all time.