The Boundaries Scored Controversy: The Greatest Game, But Not The Greatest Rules

James Wilson, New Zealand supporter and author of Court and Bowled: Tales of Cricket and the Law, is back. Here’s his take on that controversial 2019 Cricket World Cup final in which boundaries scored decided the outcome. 

Twenty years ago, Australia and South Africa played what was then widely acclaimed as the greatest one day international of all time, when they tied in the semi-final of the 1999 World Cup. There were several reasons for the match being given that accolade: the importance of the fixture, the closeness of the play throughout, and the absurdly bathetic ending. Both sides contained a number of genuine greats – Donald, Pollock and Kallis of South Africa, Gilchrist, Warne, both Waughs and McGrath of Australia – and they almost entirely cancelled each other out. Donald and Pollock strangled the Australian batting as though they were evil and capricious lawmen oppressing a small Wild West town, before Warne burst into the saloon like a gun-toting Clint Eastwood and mercilessly cut a swathe through the South African posse. It all ended in a Tarantinoesque finale with Klusener slugging it out in a bloodbath of boundaries and wickets with the Australian bowlers in the last frantic overs before joining with Donald to make an awful hash of the would-be winning run. Although the match finished with the scores level, Australia went through to the final thanks to the rather dubious factor of their superior net run rate in the tournament to that point.

More than 2,700 one day matches have been played since that June 1999 epic, but it is only now that we have a ‘new greatest match’. In the final of the 2019 World Cup, England and New Zealand played a game instantly declared to be superior even to 1999. The reasons were that the 2019 match was one better in terms of importance, given it was the actual final, one better in terms of ties – since there were two, first the match itself and then in the ‘super over’ – and several better in terms of controversy, pathos and bathos, since there were multiple ‘how could that have happened’ moments with the match being decided on a boundaries scored rule so bizarre it made net run rate seem the height of fairness by comparison.

In the 1999 match, the key moments included Warne bending the laws of physics (his dismissal of Gibbs was a close blood relation, if not an out-and-out clone, of the Gatting ball); Reifell helping a thunderous Klusener hit over the boundary when he could have won the match by holding on to the catch; and of course the hapless runout to finish it all.

Earlier in the game, there had been at least one dubious umpiring moment, when the later-to-become-notorious South African captain Hanse Cronje was wrongly given out. Importantly, however, no-one felt any injustice had been done, nor did anyone much complain about the net run rate rule being used. The reason was that everyone knew South Africa could and should have won the match in spite of everything if only Donald and Klusener had communicated properly instead of the former staying in his ground before dropping his bat. South Africa were deemed to have been the authors of their own misfortune and earned themselves years of taunting as ‘chokers’ accordingly.

Not so New Zealand in 2019. They might not have had anything approaching the number of greats in their side that the 1999 Australians and South Africans mustered (although Kane Williamson surely deserves that accolade), but in the style of so many Kiwi underdog sides before, they used intelligence, teamwork, unflagging dedication and coolness under pressure to compete with a more fancied side. If the dictionary were to offer an antonym for ‘chokers’ (digesters? swallowers?), ‘New Zealand cricketers’ would be the first example given under the definition. The Kiwi batsmen correctly reasoned that a decent total on a difficult pitch would be a better objective in the circumstances than trying to break records, so they cautiously accumulated a total very similar to the one India had failed to reach in their semi-final. Then their bowlers and fielders executed careful plans to prevent any of the predicted English pyrotechnics. Their game plan was therefore an astute one, and nobody could have predicted that it would end up being punished by the random boundaries scored rule.

England, for their part, bowled and fielded equally well, while Buttler and Stokes with the bat kept their heads just as the better Kiwi players had. There was also no mistake by the English fielders on the final ball of the super over and so the spirit of Donald and Klusener remained dormant.

The pressure of the game on all concerned could be measured by the fact that even the extremely fit Stokes was visibly shattered by the end, though he still somehow found the wherewithal to clout an incredible six in the last over, and would not be denied his role in the super over. All told, his efforts and those of his teammates were just enough to get England home.

Except they weren’t. England did not score any more runs than New Zealand. Nor did they take any more wickets – in fact, they took fewer. In no proper cricketing sense, therefore, did New Zealand lose the match. Instead, England was declared champions of the world on the basis of having scored more boundaries in the final – a statistic that I doubt a single person out of the millions watching would have been able to recite with confidence at the end of the match, because it is not a statistic with any cricketing significance. It felt to me as though the inventors of that boundaries scored rule never seriously thought it would actually be needed. And that justifies a closer look at some of the other rules in play in the match. It is unfortunate to have to rake over umpiring decisions and tournament rules after an all-time classic match, but we have to do so if only to ensure there is no repeat in future tournaments.

The first problem came with the very first ball of England’s innings, when Jason Roy should have been dismissed lbw by Trent Boult. The umpire signalled ‘not out’ and New Zealand reviewed. Even though DRS review showed the ball hitting the stumps, it was close enough for ‘umpire’s call’ to stand. I have never understood the concept of ‘umpire’s call’. To be sure, benefit of the doubt should always be given to the batsman – an age-old cricket rule – but isn’t the whole point of technology that there isn’t any ‘doubt’?

The next piece of controversy came at the end of the innings, when a return throw from New Zealand hit the bat of a diving Ben Stokes and carried on for four. Added to the two runs completed by the batsmen, England had six more to their total and – equally importantly – Stokes on strike. No-one blamed Stokes, either at the time or since – he wasn’t looking at the ball and all the video evidence showed he would not have had the faintest idea where it was. Even so, he immediately signalled an apology to the New Zealanders and to the spectators. Convention dictates that the batsmen do not run to take conscious advantage of their own good fortune in circumstances such as those. But if the ball runs into the boundary – as it did on this occasion – then the runs are awarded to the batting side. That seems unfair enough, though as I argued in Court and Bowled, there is no shortage of other examples of inconsistencies in cricketing conventions. Life – especially cricket – has to allow for a bit of illogicality where history, tradition and convention are concerned.

Yet there was a second problem with that incident – England should have been awarded five, not six runs. The relevant law is 19.8 ‘Overthrow or wilful act of fielder’, which provides:

If the boundary results from an overthrow or from the wilful 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. (Emphasis added).

The key point is ‘if they had already crossed at the instant of the throw or act’. Video evidence showed they had not at the time of the throw. The word ‘act’ clearly refers to the ‘act of a fielder’ as in the first time the word is used in the sentence, not the ‘act’ of Stokes. What Stokes did was not an ‘act’ but an accident; had he done it deliberately he would have been dismissed for obstructing the field. England should only have been awarded five and Stokes should have been sent to the non-striker’s end.

Having said that, I would class the extra run as the result of an umpiring error on the field, and it is a defining principle of sports law – not just in cricket – that officials may not reverse errors made during the match, even in the face of unequivocal video evidence. Is that inconsistent with my objection to the ‘umpire’s call? I would argue no, for two reasons: first, the ‘umpire’s call’ comes during the course of play, not after the match; and second, there is no point allowing a set number of video reviews but having some arbitrary circumstances where they are not enforced. I would not wish the umpire’s role to be wholly eviscerated, so would not increase the number of reviews allowed at the moment, but I would scrap the ‘umpire’s call’ exception which normally causes confusion and aggrievement for spectators in equal measure.

It is anyone’s guess as to what would have happened if Roy had been given out. Nor can we say for certain what would have happened if five rather than six runs had been awarded to Stokes, although since he would have been stranded at the non-strikers’ end it would have almost certainly been fatal to England. Both incidents, however, can be dismissed as the rub of the game, like any number of umpiring errors in games past. Certainly, Kane Williamson was keen afterwards not to blame the outcome on either event. But that brings us to what did decide the result of the match: the super over followed by the ludicrous boundaries scored rule.

The first question is whether a tiebreak should have been required at all. Under some rules in one day matches past, the side losing the fewest wickets would be declared the winner. In the early 1980s, in one of the rather drawn out Benson & Hedges World Series tournaments played in Australia, West Indies celebrated what they thought was a win in those circumstances, only to be told that wickets lost did not count and they had to play another match. Anyone could see which television magnate would have been backing that rule for commercial reasons. At the least, wickets are at the very heart of winning or losing cricket, and such a rule would thus resonate with cricketing traditionalists. I doubt many would have complained if the 2019 final had been decided accordingly rather than on a random boundaries scored basis.

Cricket today, however, is not run by traditionalists, but by those in thrall to media sorts such as the late Mr Packer, and so there is no question the super over was invented to ensure extra ratings for extra time. Someone probably had one eye on football penalty shootouts as well. I cannot imagine that many footballing traditionalists (I am not one myself) enjoy seeing major events such as the 1994 World Cup final being decided on penalties, but on the other hand the penalty shootout has been around for a very long time and can be said to form part of footballing tradition, whatever suffering it might have inflicted upon English supporters over the years. There is also no understating the drama of the shootout as well.

It was therefore fair enough cricket to try something similar, at least in the form of fifty over cricket, which has always been about football-style razzamatazz and instant gratification first and cricketing purity some way back. But was boundaries scored really the best way of doing this?

I also find no fault in the batting side facing the first super over, which was a factor annoying one or two other commentators. I actually thought it gave the advantage to New Zealand, all of whose players were on the pitch concentrating intently at the end of the match, while all Englishmen apart from the two at the crease at the end would have assumed – some for several hours – that their match was over. It must have been quite something for Buttler and Archer to be given ten minutes to get ready. (Incidentally, I felt that Williamson’s only mistake of the match was in failing to come out himself for New Zealand; as their captain and best batsman he should have shouldered the burden). No one had complained about the rule beforehand either, which of course applied equally to both sides – and it was New Zealand who won the toss.

Nevertheless, I cannot accept what happened next. After the tie in the super over, England was declared the winner for the number of boundaries scored – something that is never relevant in any other determination of any other cricket match. In no sense does boundaries scored signify a superior performance – many a masterful innings of quick running and fine judgement has surpassed in quality a few biffs and lucky edges by a lower order slogger. As I said earlier, I wonder if a single person watching the game would have been aware of the number of boundaries hit, nor would they have cared.

So what should have happened? Perhaps nothing at all – it has been argued that the cup could have been shared (an opinion also held by the rather conflicted Kiwi father of Ben Stokes). No one could have called that an injustice, but then again I cannot think of any other world championship – team or individual sport – where that would be possible, and I doubt enough fans or officials would buy it. So we need to choose a winner.

The aforementioned ‘fewer wickets’ method would have been better than the boundary count, if not entirely satisfactory because cricket is otherwise always won by runs scored not wickets taken. New Zealand would then have been the winner.

As a second alternative, the win could have been awarded to whichever side won the head-to-head during the first round, which on this occasion was England.

Thirdly, it could be whoever finished top of the table, reflecting the fact that the match formed part of a World Cup tournament, not a one-off. Again, that would have handed the trophy to England.

Fourthly, we could go back to net run rate, which did for South Africa all those years ago, and would have done for New Zealand this time around.

But I think there is a fifth – and better – idea. If cricket is going to follow football, it might as well go the whole way and do the same as in a penalty shootout, which is to keep going until there is a winner on the field. Another super over should therefore have been bowled, and more after that if necessary. Perhaps cricket might ape football still further and require new batsmen and bowlers for each super over, thus raising the amusing prospect of a very part time bowler getting to send down the deciding over to a tail end batsman. That way, at least, an unambiguously cricketing result would be achieved.

Either way, on my five alternative scenarios, England would have won three, New Zealand one, with one completely imponderable (playing further super overs). Does that suggest England were worthy winners? I have to concede it does. If New Zealand did not deserve to lose, neither did England. There really was nothing between the sides on the day. England had the better tournament overall. Not many neutral supporters would have been exhibiting sympathy had it been Australia losing the final through a succession of errors and technicalities. But because New Zealand have played in such an exemplary fashion over the past few eras – the McCullum captaincy in particular earned many accolades, especially in England – there was much commiserating by English and neutral supporters alike.

Furthermore, good fortune did not win England the World Cup, any more than Shane Warne’s drop at the Oval lost Australia the Ashes in 2005. Instead, a brilliant reinvention of their entire limited overs philosophy after the 2015 World Cup embarrassment led England first to be pre-tournament favourites and ultimately winner of the tournament. And thus the good New Zealand sportsmanship must continue and extend to congratulating England as worthy winners – even if the boundaries scored rule was ultimately an unfortunate way to rubber stamp their fantastic achievement.

I wish I could leave it there. But two final complaints have to be made, not at players but officialdom. I have just mentioned the 2005 Ashes, still the greatest cricketing achievement in English history (test matches must always exist on a substantially higher plane of importance). It was also the last significant cricket event to be broadcast on free to air television until the 2019 final, both shown on Channel 4. If anyone in the ECB thinks there is a sound defence of that state of affairs, they have yet to tell us what it might be.

Secondly, as much as the whole day made for compelling viewing – I for one saw nearly every ball – it would have been nice to have seen the very good event that was the British Grand Prix and the genuinely great one that was the Wimbledon men’s singles final, the latter event rivalling even the cricket for drama and historical importance. Which genius put all three events on the same day?

© James Wilson 2019

*Since this article was written the ICC have abolished the boundaries scored rule. Future games with a tied super over will now be decided by further super overs until a winner emerges – just as James suggests. (Editor). 


  • Nice article, James. I have every sympathy for NZ (my favourite opponents, by a long way). I agree with almost everything you say. Particularly either share the trophy or continue super overs until a clear winner is established. I was also very surprised that Williamson didn’t come out for the super over.
    I don’t agree on the “umpire’s call” rule, though. There is an inherent possible inaccuracy on the ball-tracking – maybe a few centimetres either way – so to overturn a “clipping” decision based on that could be unfair, in either direction.

    • Yes! I don’t really get the problem with umpire’s call either. It is quite simply the statistical calculation of the error in the ball tracking which therefore means that it cannot calculate the absolute certainty of hitting or missing, thus the default is back to the judgement of the on field umpire. I have no idea how many SD’s are used in calculating the probability but I am sure it is as tight as feasible,

      I think the graphics for TV confuse people inasmuch as it shows a picture of a ball hitting the stump. What it is supposed to represent is that there is uncertainty if it would have or have not hit.the stump.

      • I agree with you about the rule for umpire’s call. It reflects the uncertainty in the projected path of the ball. I also agree that interpreting this uncertainty as a certain fraction of the ball actually hitting the stump is bound to mislead people. There should be further thought about how to show the probability distribution as some sort of blur, with (say) less than half of the blur (rather wider than the ball) being inside the outside edge of the wicket. An alternative, which I remember suggesting years ago, would be to increase the size of the graphical wicket, to include the zone of uncertainty. Then it would be out if any part of the ball touched the graphical representation of the wicket. Either would be better for understanding than the idea that clipping the stumps is not out. Generally, when the bowler clipped my stumps, even with the merest edge of the ball, I was 100% out.

  • Great Article. I agree with you re the wickets deciding the match in the event of a tie but I don’t follow the logic that that would automatically have made New Zealand winners. England knew they could lose wickets (up to 10) without it affecting the outcome before the match started. If the wickets down rule had been in place, they would not have had the kamikaze run out. Of course that would mean they needed more runs off the deliveries remaining but it is still a bit of an imponderable. But definitely would favour New Zealand.

    I think dead ball should be the call re the “6” and England should have been awarded 2 runs but the rules are the rules. If the ball had hit the stumps with Stokes home and had then gone to the boundary, it would have been 6 as well and there is no suggestion of anything deliberate by Stokes.

    All in all, a disappointing way to decide a grat match and I really don’t see the problem with sharing the cup in these circumstances. As a POM, I should have happily shared it with New Zealand as long as you give us half of the rugby union version for getting out of the group stages…

    • I don’t think it would have affected England’s strategy much if at all. The runs outs happened because they wanted Stokes on strike. They would’ve run anyway. The risk of a tailender new to the crease getting stuck on strike would’ve outweighed worries about wickets lost in the unlikely event of a tie imho.

      • I agree that this was the most likely scenario but some of the absolute certainty in some of the comments strikes me as a bit odd – hence my use of the word “automatically”. Same with the 5 instead of 6. Yes, Rashid would have been on strike needing 4 off 2 but then they would have been forced to go for a boundary as opposed to take it in “run” runs. Rashid is no slouch with the bat but the odds on NZ winning would have increased significantly. Whatever, I hate the way it ended.

  • Trophy should have been shared.

    Whilst cricket was the winner in terms of both performances and free to air, it lost out on a meaningless and arbitrary rule.

    There is no way that the Enzedders lost that match.

  • I am an elated England fan to have won but I can understand the heartbreak of a defeat. The Kiwis have been utterly graceful in ‘defeat’. As an Englishman who was actually there, I am just grateful we got the rub of the green.

  • Thanks to all for the kind remarks and thoughtful suggestions. About 15 years after the 1999 semifinal a South African friend said he had come around to the view it was the best result for cricket because it immortalised the match, so ask me again in 2034 …

    I’m still undecided about a few things about the match, so the only definite response I can give to the comments above is a polite rejection of the offer to swap half the cup for half the rugby union one. The nice kiwi image is for the cricketing sorts, we don’t do charity with the oval ball; instead, we prefer to field gigantic wingers who use their English counterparts as welcome mats:

  • Personally, it’s getting more sour as time goes on. Forget what happened in 50 overs – absolutely anything can (and has) happened in cricket. I don’t think any other sport comes close to the amount of comically crucial moments being decided by events people who have grown up watching their whole lives for 70+ years have never seen before.

    BUT In the immediate aftermath of the over, the feeling of victory quickly disappeared for me as the stupidity of how they’ve decided to pick the winner sunk in. More boundaries in the 50 overs? REALLY?? The problem with this is you have to consider that a committee sat down and discussed this event. What happens if in a single super over both teams get the same result? “Pfft, I dunno, most boundaries, look I’ve got places to go let’s be done with it”

    It is inexcusable that the biggest game in the game can be decided by a ruling that absolutely nobody in the ground was even thinking was reality right up until the beginning of the super over. Who cares who hits the more boundaries? Jayawardene was one of my favourite batsman to watch because of this amazing ability he had to be routinely 80/90* and I don’t even remember him smashing it out the ground. Technically it was a wonder to watch how he maneuvered the ball into areas that gave him 2 or 3 more runs – what this ruling says is that this isn’t as good as smashing it for 4. Nonsense!

    In football, you do not go into a penalty shootout with one team starting 1-0 up because they had more shots on target. You have sudden death, why oh why couldn’t anyone have thought “OK, New Zealand have their pads on, now do another over with another bowler UNTIL and swap again we get a result” This is the biggest game in the game, nonsense like most boundaries is for the pointless tri series stuff.

    Why do I feel so strongly? Because New Zealand did not deserve to lose, and in any metric that the game is normally measured, they didn’t lose. Nothing separates the two teams and yet England are world champions. What’s done is done, but quite frankly the governing bodies have messed up big time here and it is only the sheer drama of it all that people aren’t talking about it more

      • Thanks Gav. Yes you get the impression that after working out the super over rules they figured they’d done enough work for the afternoon, so asked some random for their view and left it at that. I simply can’t believe they actually considered it whilst sober.

  • The umpiring wasn’t spot on always. And over the tournament there were gains and losses,
    However it is surely time for cricket fans to get their heads around DRS!!!!
    I cannot quite believe I am reading this statement: “Even though the DRS Review showed the ball hitting the stumps…..” regarding the Roy LBW shout.
    No the ball is not hitting the stumps! It hit the pad and rolled away somewhere. What the machine and the umpire have to do is to make an intelligent guess what the ball pathway would have been if the leg wasn’t there.
    We are all familiar with human error but machine error seems beyond some fans. DRS is preloaded with certain information about the pitch conditions etc so that a simulation is as accurate as possible. But there is a margin of error which is quantifiable. If the ball is shown to be in the grey area then the umpire’s decision becomes the umpire’s call which can uphold or deny an Appeal. If however the ball is not in the grey area which we could call the error zone the DRS simulation stands as reliable and overrides the Umpire.
    When there are fine margins it could go either way because it is conjecture. Sadly I have heard commentators state that the ball has hit the stumps as if DRS had the powers to film the ball from the pad. It doesn’t – it has to fill in the gap with the best judgement possible.
    As for Roy the simulation showed the ball in the error zone which meant Umpire’s Call was upheld.
    As for the rest of the article you cannot rewrite the flow of time. If one less run had been awarded off the overthrow we have no idea what would have transpired next. Stokes got two more runs. Rashid who is a decent bat might have got a single to get Ben back on strike. Ben would have gone for the boundary with 3 to get to win or got 2 for the tie. Or Rashid might have got runs either 2 3 or 4? It’s in the alternative universe.
    As for wickets. These were thrown away at the end. If wickets were the decider then we would have taken more care to hang onto them,
    The boundaries were the tiebreaker in the competition. Everyone knew and no one objected. Competition rules are the same for everyone. Why raise them after they haven’t gone in your favour? Rules don’t have favourites or feelings.
    I find it nit picking to selectively chose moments when there are a myriad such moments when the ball bounced the wrong way etc. Just because it happens earlier doesn’t make the chance the less. The only really freak chance was the ball hitting the bat which gave it the impetus to get to the boundary. An odd one because it wasn’t the momentum of the overthrow which caused the boundary. Maybe it needs a special law to Itself?

  • A few things – while basically in agreement with you (sympathetic to the idea of sharing, but if we need a winner, and we probably do, England were more deserving on most of the reasonable “whole tournament” measures you mention).

    You ignore the inferior use of DRS – Gupthil wasted your review, which cost Taylor his wicket, England didn’t, which meant they got Williamson (a saint, but not a walker ;) ).

    You ignore Boult stepping on the boundary, so failing to catch Stokes.

    The DRS – well, Roy was out to any cricketer, but you have to apply the rule consistently, don’t you?

    NZ only qualified for the finals because of NRR – arguably Pakistan were more deserving. If you strip out the big Pakistan loss to WI, and the big NZ SL win, the 2nd and 3rd games of the tourny, PAk’s NRR was superior. But it’s not a great way of doing it… HTH, and results against the strongest teams is, to me, less arbitrary.

    One last thought, DRS related. In England we always have to put up with “neutral” umpires, when ours are still the best. DRS would now catch any imagined bias very quickly, and destroy an umps career. Both Umpires in this match are a long way from being the best – Dharmaseena has ruined matches at Lord’s before with bad decisions where he was ignorant of the Playing Conditions (Stokes, obstructing the field, is not something he could pass off to the 3rd umpire), and Erasmus – well, Jason Roy. So lets have the biggest games done by the best umpires, irrespective of nationality.

    But as I said, broad agreement. And bad luck – anyone would have hated to lose under those conditions.

    • Can’t agree with the ‘our umpires are the best’ comment and not sure what the comment is about Erasmus, who I think is possibly the best going around. If you’re talking about the semi final decision against Roy, that was given out by Dharmasena as Erasmus was at square leg, and in fact it was Erasmus that calmed the situation down – probably because he has the respect of the players.

      I would say Aleem Dar, Erasmus, Gaffaney, Oxenford and Tucker are as good umpires as any English ones – haven’t seen enough of Ravi to make a judgement.

      I also think you’re wrong about the Stokes obstructing the field referral – in playing conditions, the umpire has been able to refer that to the 3rd umpire since at least 2012. However, I do agree that Dharmasena is a long way from the best.

      • Are you sure about your “since 2012” comment? I recall reading the PC’s in the aftermath of the decision, and they were explicit that only matters of fact could be referred. As OTF is solely about the opinion of the umpire as to intention, it wasn’t right to refer it to someone else, imo. Happy to be corrected if there’s a reason for me to retract – but at least we agree on Dharmaseena.

    • “You ignore Boult stepping on the boundary, so failing to catch Stokes”. – So many have.

      This was the greatest and most decisive slice of ‘luck’ in all of the drama. Boult literally had the World Cup in his hands and blew it. Overthrows / Wickets Lost etc. would have been irrelevant England would not have made 241.

      The narrative, rather fortunately for Mr Boult moved on to the overthrow runs and NZ being robbed of victory by Lady Luck.

      • As far as I can see, the overthrows have been accorded such prominence mainly because they were so near the end. That’s different from being decisive!

        There’s no evidence to show that the overthrows were any more decisive than Boult’s catch, Roy surviving the LBW shout or anything else.

  • Great piece, but we are still arguing the ifs and buts. Cricket is full of them and ebbs and falls like the tide which makes it such a great game. You can rarely say that this or that would have happened if such and such. It just does not happen like that. Wickets were not the decider so they didn’t bother to hang on to them so its a silly analogy. But did the players actually know it could be decided on boundaries? I doubt it. But to me a tie is a tie. Both sides are effectively winners so you share the prize. Not desirable but the suggestion of playing a stupid super over again and again is barmy. And come on some people, if you honestly think a slogathon final on a road with 8 hours of sixes is preferable to this you should be sentenced to watch every game of the 100 and T20 for the next 10 years.
    A great game and its done and dusted, but the daftness of the result process needs sorting out before the 2023 event.
    Suggest we move on now.

    • The ‘stupid super over’ is why we’re talking in such animated tones about this final. Take that away and there’s nothing much there to raise the profile of the game. A low scoring affair on a stodgy pitch that happened to produce a tie. If England weren’t involved in the game it would be a footnote. A tie maybe unusual but they do happen on all types of surfaces.
      Using boundaries as a criteria is as good as any. You need something that happens naturally during the game and boundaries indicate the side that’s playing in the spirit the organisers want to encourage, where they are a key symbol of attacking intent? I never liked the wickets solution as it didn’t take into account the state of the game at the end of each innings, which was invariably different.
      Would like to see this translated to footie’s penalty shootouts, where after the first 5 each it’s the side who won most corners in the game, as this is their equivalent of attacking intent, rather than going on interminably with penalties and dragging the occasion out till some poor sap, who never wanted to take one in the first place, misses and takes the can for defeat in such artificial circumstances.

  • Nice article. There are many England supporters who share your sentiments, and those expressed by the other James yesterday. We know we were jammy, but after all the rotten luck in football tournaments over the years, we were sure as hell due a few breaks. One other thought though: why don’t non-strikers having to run for their lives take off their helmets? (e.g. Wood for the last ball of the main match and Neesham for the last ball of the super over). If the rules permit (and perhaps some clever-clogs can tell me if they do) then maybe they should take their pads off, too. The latter might be considered slightly “bad form”, but the former would certainly be acceptable.

  • I think the fact we’re all having such heated discussions (still) indicates exactly why I felt so hollow at the end. I’ve always desperately wanted England to win the World Cup. But not like this. Not in a way that’s so controversial; not in a way that was so lucky; not in a way that half the world doesn’t recognise. I wanted us to be undisputed champions that everyone unanimously recognised and appreciates. Instead it’s somewhat ruined.

    And the fact it’s happened at a time when our pitiful board is ruining domestic cricket makes it even worse – because it gives casual onlookers the impression that English cricket is in rude health and the people running the game are doing a good job. Yuk. Harrison etc are really lording it. And it couldn’t be less deserved.

    • I get no impression that ‘half the world’ doesn’t recognise our right to be champions. I’ve spoken to plenty since it happened including a number of Asians and precious none have shown any interest in the ‘Stokes’ incident except as a slice of good fortune. It’s not our fault. I certainly haven’t heard any public moaning from the game’s players or administrators to that effect. Maybe I missed something.
      There’s so much controversy in International sport these days that almost every match has something leaving a bad taste for someone. This is largely to do with the advent of technology into the decision making processes. Even the sky commentators, including top ex international players failed to point out the error at the time, as did the New Zealander’s. If the match had gone the other way I believe we would have accepted defeat with the same good grace. There’s certainly no evidence to the contrary I’ve come accross.

      • Whether it’s “half the world” maybe depends on how many comments from aggressive Indian supporters on Twitter feeds you’ve read. There’s a mighty number of those!

  • Whilst it’s unfortunate that a misunderstanding about an obscure rule may have influenced the result, you can’t have a trophy shared in a high profile tournament like this. It’s totally unsatisfactory. There will always be other factors you can go back to as a second string to produce a winner. As long as both sides understand this beforehand, whatever criteria is chosen and accepted will be fair. The boundaries idea makes more sense than going back to stats prior to the final, like who beat who in the round robin stages, as white ball cricket organisers are clearly trying to promote them as a key symbol of the game, giving away 4 and 6 cards beforehand for people to wave when boundaries happen. There’s almost as much cheering when a boundary gets scored as you get when a wicket falls. The white ball game has always been about batsmen, with any restrictions applying to the fielding side. The side scoring more boundaries is the side likely to be playing more to the desired spirit of the game. New Zealand have major problems here, being something of a one man team, Williamson scoring almost one third of their total runs in this tournament. Without his contribution they wouldn’t have sniffed the semi’s, so ‘deserving to win’ the tournament, even if you accept this notion as a symptom of unfairness, is at best a dubious premiss.
    Feeling sorry for New Zealand is easier after you’ve won, which on the balance of play I believe we deserved, having the worse of the pitch to bat on and playing as overwhelming favourites on our home turf, involving a lot more pressure to contend with than New Zealand. We had been the best team in the tournament, playing the most entertaining cricket and having the most match winners to call on. What other side here could have won under those conditions having lost their top 4 for 80? Only India, with Jadega and Dhoni together might have come close, as they did under similar circumstances in the semi final, but on an easier pitch to hit boundaries.
    The other point I’d like to make is the idea that the match was the greatest ODI ever played. I can’t accept this as we had to sit through hours of pretty turgid batting to get to the great finale, as a result of a bowler friendly wicket, allowing a medium pacer to bowl 10 overs for 25 runs against world class white ball batsmen. A showpiece white ball occasion like this needs at least a wicket with true bounce, so strokemakers, the lifeblood of this format, have a chance, otherwise it becomes a lottery with bowlers only having to turn their arm over to get results. This doesn’t celebrate great sport it sabotages it.
    There are a number of games from this tournament that were clearly more entertaining throughout than the final, an example being South Africa v Australia. This was a match little depended on but it produced over 600 runs and a last over finish that was just as competitive with a lot more incident leading up to the last few overs. With the final only the last hour or so of over 8 was truly memorable, though I agree this last hour was worth the admission alone and the most dramatic sporting occasion I can ever remember. However to say the pitch was responsible for this is ludicrous as finishes like this could happen on any surface.
    Lastly the problem of technology being some sort of panacea for officials errors is a modern trend in sport, epitomised by VAR in footie, which as it cannot measure intent so is creating as much controversy as there was beforehand. It’s disrupting the spirit of the game as we wait on some geek in front of a monitor to celebrate. We never moaned like this when decisions were left to officials to interpret and players to be honest in real time without recourse to an unending series of camera angles in slow motion played out on big screens in front of partisan crowds, that are often still inconclusive, ‘Umpires call’ being one of them and for me the worst, only being allowed to challenge a certain amount of decisions. How is this designed to be fair? You are either allowed to challenge everything or nothing. In between is a lottery, but it certainly increases the drama, which is I suppose, what entertainment is about for the match organisers.

  • I have some sympathy with New Zealand. But there is no point in picking at isolated incidents with a run here and there. If anything archer probably shouldn’t have been called a wide which would have meant England won anyway without the need for tiebreakers. The lucky bounce which defeated buttler handed NZ 4 runs. So lets not pretend England had all the luck just the more obvious bits of it.

    The fact is the rules were clear and meant New Zealand had to score 16 to win. England prevented that so deserved to win. End of story.

  • My main issue with umpire’s call is that the ‘margin of error’ only works in favour of the batsman, i.e. if a batsman is given not out and ball tracking shows that the ball would be clipping by up to half a ball (out), then the decision remains not out. Surely, to be fair, the bowler should get the same margin i.e.if the on-field decision is out and the ball is shown to be missing by less than half a ball, then the decision should remain out? The argument is not about benefit of doubt to the batsman, but benefit of doubt to the umpire. Umpire’s Call says that if the decision is marginal, we trust the onfield decision rather than the technology.

    • I think in white ball cricket most of the rules favour the batsmen as their contribution is regarded as the more important by the administrators. It’s always been a batsmen’s game and for me no worse for that, hence the emphasis on boundaries over wickets lost in determining who wins in the advent of a tie.
      Most punters would be drawn more to an England game by the likes of Roy, Bairstow, Butler and Stokes than Woakes, Plunkett, Archer and Wood, whose contributions are restricted anyway. Unless a bowler is really special, like a Warne, he rarely gets the same profile as a top batsman. A lot of this is to do with the fact that individual batsmen generally spend more time batting than individual bowlers do bowling.
      It’s a bit like footie, where the benefit of any doubt went to the attacking side, pre VAR, for the sake of promoting attacking football, which is what fans want to see. Bowlers are considered spoilers, as they disrupt the flow of runs, the lifeblood of cricket, which has a negative connotation, yet only they win the matches by taking the wickets. It’s all part of life’s rich pageant in the sporting world.

  • One small thing: in 1999 Australia did not qualify for the final by virtue of net run rate, but because they had beaten South Africa in the ‘Super Six’ game earlier in the tournament.

    The head to head result would have been a superior way to decide the final on Sunday. I don’t say that because I’m English: anyone familiar with my comments on here in 2014-15 will know I don’t support the England team any more thanks to the ECB, and not even Sunday managed to change that. But the number of boundaries rule is deeply unsatisfactory, ill thought out, has no inherent natural justice whatsoever and even manages to be inconsistent with the tiebreaks being used by the ICC earlier in their own tournament.

    • I think it’s better to find something in the game itself, as that has more relevance to any result. After all it’s should be about what happens on the day, not whose been better beforehand, when any number of unrelated factors could have produced that result. Boundaries seem a decent idea to decide white ball games as this is what the fans come to see and what the organisers are keen to promote. Hence the 4 and 6 cards given to the fans to wave. Natural justice has never decided sporting contests. The team that deserves to win means nothing, as we see every week in footie, where managers, with their chairmen looking on at interviews, blame anything and everything for a defeat in a game they either deserved to win or at least get something out of.

      • I’m unconvinced. That seems to be confusing entertainment with who was best–and while of course it’s good to have an entertaining match, if we’re going to do that then we might as well have a text-in where fans award the World Cup on the basis of entertainment, a bit like Big Brother.

        Of course, while boundaries do show some things about who was better, they also don’t show other things. For example, by definition a side that scores the same number of runs with more boundaries is also going to be facing more dot balls, avoidance of which is a key one-day skill.

        I take your point about “something in the game”, but I would extend this further. If the condition of the pitch (or the weather) has changed so that batting is easier in one half of the game than the other–and it’s been a frequent comment in this World Cup–then you’re not comparing like with like. The thing about, say, a Super Over or penalties is that they happen at the same time and under the same conditions for both teams.

        I can’t see why they don’t do what they do in football–just have another Super Over until there’s a winner. The numbers are such that it’s virtually impossible that you’ll add more than two or three overs per side onto the game.

        • Cricket, especially white ball, is primarily about creating as much drama and entertainment as possible, though the organisers are clearly of the view that it’s a batsmans game, encouraging groundsmen to produce pitches with even bounce and a bit of pace as the ideal ODI wicket. The toss will always have an impact on a cricket match and I think it’s fair to say that Williamson read the pitch better then Morgan, who would have bowled first anyway.
          Good point about the dot balls, but boundaries are clearly a symbol of the white ball game.
          I see your point about the Super Over, but both sides were aware of the conditions before the Over started and accepted them, so applying those conditions cannot really be criticised.
          If you call it Super Overs do different players take part in each Over? Your’e creating a bit of a can of worlms here as far as artificiality goes. The longer it goes on the less impact it makes. You need a short sharp solution that everyone understands to sustain that tension and drama.

    • Hi Arron – on the point of the 1999 match, Wisden says “The tie meant that South Africa, for the third World Cup in a row, failed to reach the final despite making much of the early running. The crucial fact was that Australia finished higher than them in the Super Six table, and that was determined by the obscurity of net run-rate. Many spectators were left baffled.”


      • Wisden is wrong on this occasion. Arron is right.

        Wisden is correct in saying that the immediate cause of Australia going through to the final was the postion in the Super Six table…but THAT was determined by the head-to-head result, not by NRR.

        It’s clear from the playing conditions that NRR was the determinant only if the head-to-head match had also been a tie–and then it wouldn’t have included the NRR acquired during the head-to-head, so the NRR table from the Super Six stage doesn’t show anything at all in relation to this.

  • I have only 2 comments to make on this excellent unbiased article. I wonder if any of the NZ players on the field were aware of this arcane and virtually never used law (I am aware that if a player deliberately kicks or throws the ball to the boundary hoping the umpire will give a “4”.to keep the batsman either off strike or at the end of an over, on strike) but in 75 years of playing or watching cricket I have never encountered it) had appealed to the umpire whether like a stumping, the umpires would have referred it to the TV umpire? In the final over of the England 1st innings, does anyone seriously thinks that Stokes would have tamely patted the full toss he received to long off? I think they would have still been searching for the ball!

  • What/If’s are part and parcel of winning competitions. What if NZ v India wasn’t rained off, NZ lost and Pakistan made the Semi’s? Pakistan also won their head to head against NZ. (NZ also lost heavily to England and Australia in the group stages). How far do you want to take it?

    I agree, wicket’s lost SHOULD decide the outcome if the scores are tied but these weren’t the rules and had this been the case the English batters would have approached the latter half of the chase wholly differently.

    England had more than their fair share of ‘luck’ yes but there had to be a winning line and England crossed it by the tightest of margins.

    Could we have a blog post praising each squad member for their individual contribution throughout the competition, credit where it’s due I say!

      • But the general tennet of the post was England have been lucky and didn’t really deserve their win. We can’t celebrate it properly as it’s been devalued by an official’s error.
        The fact remains that New Zealand accepted the Super Over without complaint and knew exactly what they had to do to win and couldn’t quite do it.

        • that doesn’t make it any less total nonsense to decide the world cup final by virtue of whoever hits the most boundaries

          • Every participant knew the rules beforehand and accepted them, so applying those rules cannot be nonsense. Boundaries are a key symbol of the game that the organisers are clearly trying to promote, supplying 4 and 6 cards for fans to wave, so why not use this. It’s clearly in the spirit of the game the organisers want. White ball is a batsmen’s game, no one supplies wicket cards. The likes of Roy, Bairstow, Butler and Stokes are bigger draws than Archer, Woakes, Wood and Plunkett.

  • I think it’s a modern trend in the world of social media* where everything and everyone are over analysed. It is simpler to critique than to praise.

    *Thankfully. We of course benefit from this by having this wonderful open forum to chew over the bits and bobs :)

    For that reason 2005 hasn’t had the same scrutiny.

    Does anyone still remember the famous 2nd test at Edgbaston when Kasprowicz gloved behind with Aus only needing 3 runs?Except his glove was off the handle, if this was reviewed, Aus would 2-0 up and Ashes over, no bus parade and hero Freddie Flintoff. This is disregarding the fact the worlds best bowler and match winner in the first test was injured on the morning of the test (and we were inexplicably sent in).

    …Or Pietersen’s famous 158 at the Oval, securing the draw and the Ashes. He was dropped 3 times. Twitter wasn’t around to replay and retweet the drops a million times and so Pietersen had his maiden century and his Aussie conquering legend was born.

    Hopefully, England’s WC win will be remembered in the same way; for the character and skill of our players, the contest and the wonderful drama of the final

  • Some super challenges here about the interpretation of rules.

    I agree that the concept of “Umpire’s Call” is deeply flawed, If you take the use of technology at Wimbledon, if it establishes that the ball is a tiny fraction on the line then it is deemed in, irrespective of the original line judge’s ruling. If we assume the ball tracking technology is no less reliable in cricket, then if it shows the ball clipping the balis the decision should be “out” every time.

    The determination that boundaries would count in the unlikely event that the super-over was tied is equally bizarre. Using football as the analogy here, if the game goes to a penalty shoot out and the scores are tied after the first five have been taken, it goes to sudden death until the tie is broken. They certainly don’t stop the shoot-out after the initial five and determine the winner based on which team had more corners during the match.

    The Ben Stokes incident is difficult to legislate against. There is a school of thought that you can’t do so, and that it was nothing more or less than a huge slice of luck. I disagree. No-one wants to see four crucial runs awarded under such circumstances. The easiest way to deal with it is simply that the rules should determine it a “dead ball” as soon as the ball strikes the bat when the batsman is striving to make his ground. Similarly, it should be a dead ball if the ball breaks the stumps, irrespective of where it may cannon off too after that.

    • What this shows is that when the ball doesn’t hit the stumps full on, according to the predicted trajectory, there isn’t enough confidence in the accuracy of this technology to give a definite decision. Another example of the confused approach to our worship of technology to ‘correct’ human fallibilities.
      Agree about your ‘dead ball’ ruling for the Stokes affair. Hopefully this rule will now be reviewed to bring it in line with overthrows after a throw hits the stumps. It was clearly an unfortunate incident, but none of the commentators, most of whom are ex players, picked up on it at the time and neither did New Zealand.
      I’m ok with the boundaries criteria as long as it’s made clear to everyone beforehand, as boundaries are a symbol of the white ball game the organisers are looking to promote, giving out 4 and 6 cards for fans to wave, so it does give an indication which side is playing in the desired spirit of the game.
      The problem of Super Overs is you’re creating more and more artificiality as the game goes on and the initial drama and tension starts to dissipate. You see this in long penalty shoot outs. Your idea about corners is a good one in my view, asits an indication of attacking intent, which is what the game is trying to encourage. You should write to the authorities about it.

  • Good to see some comments about Umpires Call, which is a load of old bollox. I thought the standard of umpiring was poor at times throughout the tournament, especially where D********** was involved. A trip to Specsavers for him. Actually I have problems with the whole Decision Referral System and would not be unhappy if it were scrapped.

    • I agree. I think it’s affecting umpiring standards, as officials cover their backsides by referring all sorts of decisions, especially run outs, that are often clear and obvious in real time. It means their instincts are being eroded and this impacts on their general decision making.
      It’s the challenging of their decisions that bothers me, brought on by technology. How can it be fair to arbitrarily restrict this. It means good bowlers, who create more appeals, are being penalised, and it also encourage bowlers to appeal for everything. I would rather see no challenges allowed than the present system. The umpires decision is now merely a starting point for debate, which undermines their purpose.
      It’s like VAR in footie where marginal decisions are creating as much controversy as ever, as the original ‘clear and obvious’ proviso is being abused. Extra time, due to referrals, is alteady becoming a joke.

  • A few thoughts/round up having read through all of the generous and thought-provoking comments:

    – I would repeat, I’m not objecting to England being World Champions. At all. They won the game by the rules of the day, misses/nearly misses/controversies are all part of the game. The question is whether any of the rules should be changed for future games – that isn’t nitpicking about the last game, it is considering the best rules for the next one.

    – The only rule I strongly object to is the ‘more boundaries’ one. It is ludicrous. Something, anything would be better. I think either split the cup or keep playing super overs is the best answer, because that way the result would be determined on the field.

    Otherwise, wins and losses over the whole tournament, and if that’s equal, the head-head when the two teams met. If still equal after that, either split the cup or suffer the indignity of net runrate. That rule at least has the justification of (a) having been used historically, and (b) encouraging teams to give their all in matches otherwise dead for at least one of the teams.

    • There is a problem, particularly in this country, with using wins, which I agree in a round robin tournament would be the ideal if you’re going to reward the most successful team, rather than who’s best on the day, That problem was illustrated during June where games were washed out, not to be replayed. It would be a shame if this was allowed to influence winning the tournament even further.
      You have to have a winner of a high profile tournament like this. 7 weeks and almost 50 matches only to end in a draw is unsatisfactory. At least boundaries are a declaration of attacking intent, which is how the promoters want to encourage teams to play white ball, which is definitely a batsmens game. Wickets lost has always been unsatisfactory as the side batting first would never consider this whilst playing their innings, the chances of a tie being so remote.
      To keep playing Super Overs I believe would reduce the drama and increase the artificiality, rather like the prolonged penalty shootouts in footie, which just get boring and further removed from the match itself.

  • At least both sides knew before a ball was bowled in the Super Over that however bizarre the criteria which side had the benefit of only needing to tie with the other team to win the game. Unlike England in the last Rugby World Cup who were clueless that they only needed to draw against Wales to go through to the next round. A kick at goal if successful would have saved us from the ignominy of being the only Home Team to fail to make it to the quarter finals. It was by far the better option as If unsuccessful, Wales would have had to take a drop out and given England another chance to score, possibly a repeat of a drop goal!

  • An interesting interview with Strauss after the final as he explained the reasons for prioritising the white ball game over the red over the last 4 years. He came from an era when test players were shoed into ODI’s and expected to adapt, but realised this was not happening and we were falling behind the rest at a rate of knots. With the next World Cup in this country he lobbied for a policy change so our one day team would be able to give a decent account of themselves and even have a realistic chance of winning the tournament.
    He had played through an era when we had won 2 Ashes series at home, but the profile of the game was not significantly raised through any restructuring. This obviously frustrated him and he was determined not to let this happen again with a golden opportunity like the World Cup. He is totally unrepentant of the appointment of Bayliss for both formats to give continuity of opportunity for the so far largely excluded one day specialists. He uses Pieterson as a classic example of how a one day mentality can be successful at test level and was obviously keen to carry on with that experiment, which has allowed the likes of Butler, Stokes, Bairstow and now Roy and Archer to graduate to test status and Root to become an important cog in the ODI wheel. It is interesting that all the leading countries now have accumulators central to their ODI success. Williamson, Smith, Kholi and Hope being the prime movers along with Root.
    His appointment of Morgan to put his ideas into practice on the field has proved a master stroke, yet I still feel his contribution to raising the profile of the game is viewed with suspicion as red ball takes a back seat.
    It will be interesting to see how Ashes success or failure alters his reputation.

    • How exactly has it raised the profile of the game ?? Statistics show less and less people playing after all.. viewing figures dropping year on year..

      Sure a few kids are being sent to kiddies cheap baby sitting but again, are dropping like life’s at the usual ages

      • It hasn’t raised the general profile of the game yet, that’s the point Strauss made, despite all our recent Ashes success. It’s what happens now, as we capitalise on World Cup success that is key, which, as it’s only days after the event, has yet to be seen.
        At least we appear to have someone at the helm who understands the nature of the problem, whether he can inspire any lasting progress is yet to be decided, but at least his strategy has resulted in giving us the opportunity. This side has undoubtedly raised the profile of the white ball game in recent years, but that has to be just the start as far as Strauss is concerned.
        I think you’ll find the major problem is less people are playing sport in general. This is largely due to the ludicrous PC school system that doesn’t encourage competitive sport, as losing can damage a child’s confidence, so they end up playing a casual example of the real thing, just to get a bit of excercise. It’s also much more difficult to find teachers willing to take on the running of school teams and schools having to cope with the minefiled of insurance for any out of school activities.
        It is also noticeable that longer and more unsocial working hours are eating into a lot of people’s leisure time, so clubs are finding it more difficult to find people willing to devote regular weekend time to leisure activities that involve disrupting family life. Dads spending the weekend playing cricket is becoming a comparative rarity, whereas in my day it was commonplace.
        These are just some of the cultural problems Strauss will have to deal with getting the next generation involved to a decent enough level to make an impact on the professional game.

        • Oh yes, and before I forget, the viewing figures issue. It’s called Sky. Most people don’t have it and fewer major sporting events are getting terrestrial coverage. We’ve just witnessed with the women’s World Cup footie what happens when this is reversed.

  • Its amazing that the over throw rule was not known by any official at the ground considering it is supposed to be the home of cricket, and lord only knows how Dharmasena managed to be given a world cup final to stand in.


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