Dad loves the cricket, but he loves his work even more. His routine is everything, and he puts a premium on showing up to the office feeling fresh as a daisy.
He will stay up if India’s playing, but he’s heartbroken after eleven men wearing black robbed his country of a spot in the final.
It’s late. Dad decides to take a nap after the end of the first innings. He’ll wake up after 3 hours to watch the end of the game.
He wakes up after 2 hours. England might chase this down easily, and he doesn’t want to miss the winning runs.
The alarm rings. Mum’s not happy. She had just managed to doze off after a relentless spell of snoring. Dad apologizes, but he’s not sorry.
He debates whether he should go back to sleep, but they’re both awake anyway so he reaches for the remote and turns on the TV.
“Oh my God! New Zealand is going to win the World Cup!”
Despite the tension, he remains unperturbed. He’s still lying down with his head arched up from the pillow. The Kiwis will finish this off, and then he can go right back to bed.
“After all, there’s nothing better than a solid day at the office,” Dad thinks to himself as he falls back into his slumber.
“Janu. Janu,” Mum whispers, shaking Dad awake.
She wants this inconsiderate man to mute the cacophony that is keeping her awake.
But what’s this? It’s 9 off 3!
Ben Stokes is on one knee. He just slogged one of the world best bowlers for 6. He has nearly dragged England out of the jaws of defeat on two occasions this tournament.
And here he is again.
It’s no longer England vs. New Zealand. It’s Stokes vs. Boult. It’s Stokes vs. 9 fielders and a wicketkeeper. It’s Stokes vs. New Zealand.
Boult is in consultation with his skipper and teammates. It’s been 2 minutes since the last ball. Perhaps 5. Who knows?
Is time flying? Is time standing still?
The thing is, time knows what we are about to see, but has to see it again to believe it…
It’s still 9 off 3. Boult runs in to bowl. The ball is in almost the same slot as the one that just went for 6. Stokes, back in his crease, attempts an encore performance.
He doesn’t time it. Crisis averted. No boundary.
WAIT! Chance for a run out!
And it’s Guptill. He ran Dhoni out. Can he do the same to Sto…
This cannot go for four.
There’s nobody close to it. But this cannot go for four.
I haven’t fully woken up yet. There’s something wrong with my eyes. Fine leg? Third man? There is a black jersey somewhere. I just cannot see them.
NO. NO. NO.
It’s gone! It’s 6!
It’s not fair. Someone do something. Stokes, give those runs back to us. What do you mean you can’t?
Damn it, Stokesy. It’s not your fault. But it’s someone’s fault. We cannot lose.
Not like this…
It was cruel. Not the sort of cruelty inflicted by one man on another, but worse.
For the second game in a row, the Black Caps fought to defend a total—which many foolishly thought was too small—against a more fancied and much wealthier opponent.
A New Zealand win would’ve defied expectations, logic, and the skewed economics that defines the sport in modern times.
This was India in 1983. This was Sri Lanka in 1996.
But it wasn’t to be.
Fate saw a fairy tale unfolding and decided to stomp an indelible footprint on the dreams, hopes, and memories of the Kiwis.
So where does New Zealand go from here?
Every single member of New Zealand’s XI that took the field during the knockouts will be 31 or older by the time the next world cup comes around.
Although younger players such as Will Young, Tim Seifert, and Blair Tickner are coming through the system, the Black Caps have a lot of work to do between now and 2023.
Captain Kane—the man of the tournament in more ways than one—will have to shepherd the world’s favorite team through a period of transition, uncertainty, and heart-breaking, earth-shattering loss.
However, his brilliance may not be enough. There’s too much to do, too much to overcome, and this could be the last time in a while that we see the Kiwis mount a challenge at a global tournament.
Dear New Zealand,
I’m sorry. I’m sorry about the overthrows. I’m sorry about the boundary rule tiebreaker. I’m sorry you’re not holding the trophy aloft, giggling away with your prime minister for a staged photograph.
You deserve the trophy. You were gracious in the cruelest, most unjust defeat. You were brave and you were bloody brilliant.
Every last one of you.
I love you, New Zealand.
We all do.