There are undoubtedly moments in sport that define us. As an Englishman of an advanced age, in my memory there will forever be those immortal words from the 1966 Football World Cup Final commentary…. “there’s people on the pitch, they think it’s all over ….. it is now” as Geoff Hurst smashed the ball from the edge of the penalty area into the roof of the German net! Then there was the Jonny Wilkinson drop goal in the dying seconds to land England the Rugby Union World Cup in 2003. I’m sure there have been similar moments for my American friends related to Joe Montana or Michael Jordan, or to my friends of European nationality (Europe sans borders) in the Eurovision Song Contest!
But the events occurring around 9pm Europe time, 8pm GMT, last Sunday, MUST go down as the moment that brash Aussie sledging or Maradonna’s “hand of God” are banished from all tomes, social media or beer bar conversations for ever. It was the cricket World Cup Final between England and New Zealand, England the current #1 ranked team in world cricket and New Zealand rank underdogs, but nobody told them that! With 6 balls remaining England entered the final over of the match, in the middle of which there was a “freak incident” with a throw from a NZ fielder hitting the bat of Englishman Ben Stokes and ricocheting for an extra 4 runs. A Maradonna would have pretended it hit a blade of grass, a typical Australian would have celebrated. But this sporting Englishman firstly apologised to NZ, then implored the umpires to remove the runs from England’s score! They couldn’t, it was within the rules as they saw it.
You also need to know that just a few minutes prior to this, that same Englishman had launched a ball high into the sky headed for the boundary. Would it clear the ropes for a score of 6, or would he be caught by a NZ fielder? The NZ fielder caught it …… but …….. simultaneously stood on the boundary rope, did he try to hide the fact, did his team mate alongside him begin celebrating? No, the team mate immediately signalled that it was worth 6 runs and conceded it was a “no catch”. The World Cup final was tied, both teams had equal scores after 8 hours in which our whole family watching the game on an iPad on holiday in France were utterly exhausted, as was the whole of England and New Zealand. But there was more to come as each team now had to play a “super over” with two players from each team batting for 6 balls. England won by one run!
This was an emotional gut wrenching, high drama game of cricket that has now been hailed as the greatest World Cup final … EVER! The next day newspapers and online media competed for the best headline, the best quote from a player, the best action photo. Across India, Pakistan, South Africa, Australia, Sri Lanka, the headlines proclaimed the drama and the sportsmanship of the players of both teams.
Meanwhile, here in England, the left wing Marxist Labour Party, specifically one of their Shadow Ministers, poured scorn and derision on the nation’s celebrations by declaring that there were too many players from private schools in the England team and that correcting this would be a priority of the Party if elected into government! As usual, the diversity of the England team was ignored …. It contains two Muslims, child immigrants from South Africa, West Indies and New Zealand, plus about 50% of players from state schools. If this Marxist party ever get into government of the UK…….. God help us all! Because the miserable response of the British Labour Party has just defined THEM!