So it’s all over. The stadiums have emptied, the clear up has begun, and the trophy has been safely tucked away at Lord’s – until it’s stolen by rapscallions and subsequently found under a bush by a dog. It was a pretty memorable World Cup on the whole, and here are the ten things we liked most …
1. The Favourites Won – normally we’re an island that disdains favourites. After all, ‘favourites’ normally means Barcelona, Germany, Saracens, or (until recently) the Australian cricket team. This time, however, we’re grateful that the outcome was entirely predictable. Sod the underdog. We wanted the World Cup and we wanted it badly
2. Ben Stokes – Go on admit it. You thought he was overhyped; you thought the nation would never forgive him for Bristol-gate; you thought he couldn’t rotate the strike well enough; heck you probably thought he wouldn’t make it through the tournament without missing most matches through injury. You were wrong. I was wrong. Stokes was one of the real stars of the show. Maybe those IPL franchises who pay a fortune for his services know what they’re doing after all?
3. Jofra Archer – Nobody gives two hoots about team sprit when the new boy’s taking wickets for fun. The objections to young Jofra being shoehorned into the side were always ridiculous, and so it proved. Archer provided exactly what the attack had missed for four long years – a cutting edge. The fact that Mark Wood managed to keep himself fit for six weeks was also highly convenient, and suddenly England had one of the most feared attacks in the tournament. Nobody was crying for David Willey when Archer and Wood were knocking helmets off.
4. Jonny Bairstow – It should henceforth be written that Michael Vaughan, that most polarising of observers, should troll ginger Jonny mercilessly before every meaningful England game. What a response! Who cares if he’s tad touchy if it results in remarkable run gluts.
5. The Pakistan Versus Afghanistan Game – This was my favourite match of the tournament. It was tense, it was edgy, and it (almost) had a fairy-tale ending. What’s more, it had a load of players I’d never seen play before. And Rashid Khan lived up to the hype for once. I still can’t believe that Pakistan won. They looked deader than a day one UAE pitch.
6. Loryn’s Standby – Ok, so it wasn’t exactly World In Motion or Three Lions, but I thought it was really good for a generic tournament pop song. I loved her voice, I love the vocal riff, and I thought it was a catchy and memorable sonic backdrop when the commentators ran through statistics between innings. I also really liked the video of the young people coming together on that roof terrace, although it would’ve benefitted from a bit more cricket content.
7. Luck Finally Evening Itself Out – English sport has had no fortune whatsoever over the years. We’ve been perennial losers in the online casino of sporting theatre. I still can’t believe that we lost in Italia 90 or Euro 96. In fact, the thought of Gazza’s outstretched leg missing that cross in front of goal by less a millimetre still keeps me awake at night. So maybe I shouldn’t mourn too much for New Zealand when Guptill’s throw ricocheted off Stokes’s bat for four more runs? In hindsight it was the sporting Gods apologising for spitting in our eye for decades.
8. Those Cricket Bat Guitars – ok, I admit I was a bit conflicted about putting this one in the ‘like’ column, but I still loved the idea. It just got a little wearing after a while. Perhaps it was just the choice of riffs. Why play Lenny Kravitz, the Jimi Hendrix wannabe, ad nauseam when you can play Jimi Hendrix? Imagine Jason Roy walking out to bat with Voodoo Chile blasting across Lord’s. Or even better, Hey Joe when Root strides out to the middle: “Hey Rooooot, where you goin’ with that bat in your hand?”
9. The Semi Against Australia – Now look here Steve Smith and David Warner. I don’t like you. I’ve never liked you. And when I found out you’d been cheating I liked you even less. So do I really need to explain why England stuffing Australia in Birmingham felt so glorious? The crowd at Edgbaston are always brilliant and those legendary Brummies were in fine voice that day. England should play the first test of every Ashes series at Edgbaston just like the Aussies always play the first test at Brisbane. It just makes sense #FortressEdgbaston.
10. The Final Being On C4 – When cricket was on the BBC England were generally rubbish. We seemed to gradually improve when it moved to C4, and it obviously culminated in that famous 2005 Ashes series. Sunday therefore felt like English cricket had finally come home. And the fact that millions of people tuned in despite the clash with the Wimbledon final – one in the eye for the ECB stooges who claimed existing forms of cricket have no appeal – might yet make the authorities wake up, have faith in their existing product(s), and abandon their unpopular madcap Hundred concept.
What did you like most about the tournament?
Written in collaboration with Go Win