You cannot have a proud and chivalrous spirit if your conduct is mean and paltry; for whatever a man’s actions are, such must be his spirit. – Demosthenes
As a race, human beings long for the transcendental experience, lofty beyond common or ordinary perception. For some, that event unfolds during the worship of God, or in the reflection of His attributes on the earth and the cosmos. The transcendental epiphany I witnessed on Sunday, 14 July while watching England battle New Zealand at Lord’s in the 2019 cricket World Cup final was as powerful and illuminating a metaphor as any from history and humanity’s wisdom traditions.
Within a day, in a span of eight hours, we stood blessed witnesses to a revelation of the mastery of sport and heroic performances, to the highest levels of leadership, courage and bravery, and to extraordinary selflessness and team spirit from both the teams and their captains. It was a master class in competition and ethical sportsmanship as New Zealand, led by the stoic and professorial Kane Williamson, faced England, steered by an Irishman of seemingly deep mystical roots, Eoin Morgan.
Over the preceding five weeks, both leaders had battled the natural elements of chance, rain and poor form along with the array of mighty and skilful opposition – not to mention the overarching shadow of their own self-doubt, and the ebb and flow of this game of glorious uncertainties.
On Sunday Bloody Sunday, at the hallowed Lord’s, at the nail-biting end of more than a hundred overs of one match followed by the two of a mini second one, both teams arrived at an equal number of runs scored, a total of 256. New Zealand took 10 wickets while England took eight. The resulting tied match was decided by the ICC’s ‘Harry Houdini/Ringling Brothers’ rules, which hand the Cup to the team that has notched up the most boundaries during play. So finally, England lifted the coveted trophy for the first time in 44 years, after being runners-up in ‘79, ’87 and ‘92.
Eoin Morgan’s side played the most positive and attractive cricket during the roller-coaster weeks of the tournament. They were also the most diverse side in the championship. From the Caribbean-born, 24-year-old Jofra Archer to Pakistani-British Immigrants Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali, England’s victory was a triumph of all colours bleeding into one. Brexit be damned!
Heroes were a plenty. From Ben Stokes – the man of the match – to Jos Buttler, Plunkett, Roy and Bairstow, Woakes and Wood, the captain and his entire team fought until the last ball to achieve a result that was against all odds, but infinitely just.
On the New Zealand side, Kane Williamson – the man of the series for his grace under pressure coupled with calm, decisive leadership – appeared as a mystical, prophet-like presence throughout the World Cup. Even after losing three straight games to Pakistan, Australia and England, Williamson rallied his never-say-die spirit and those of his believing teammates. And they, in turn, resurrected themselves to shock and awe the Indian behemoth in the semi-finals.
The Kiwis forced England to dig deep down into their physical, emotional and mental reserves to stop New Zealand’s 44-year-long caterpillar-to-butterfly metamorphoses at the home of cricket.
If sport is the touchstone to test stamina, skill, courage and desire for excellence, then this cricket match will live on in the minds and memories of all who saw it as a ray of light. A radiant beam that greatly illuminated the innate purity of cricket, that game of glorious uncertainties and infinite virtue.
God save Cricket – long may it reign over our hearts.