Choice of the game
The 2019 World Cup final. When I bought these tickets a year ago, I had hoped to see India lift the trophy at Lord's. As I flew in for the match, though, I had just about come to terms with India's exit and, having overcome the idea of reselling these to fellow fans at a fair price (thou shan't be a ticket scalper), I just wanted to see a good game. This match made up for the disappointment of a final sans India.
New Zealand. I wasn't as much supporting New Zealand as I was opposing England. My reason? Obnoxious fans. Being one myself, I recognise my kind. And whoever coined that idiom about birds of the same feather, had clearly never met obnoxious fans. We now have four years of seeing how very right I am.
The match ebbed and flowed in either direction and there were a few turning points, but two moments stood out. One was the introduction of Colin de Grandhomme, and the three consecutive maiden overs from him and Matt Henry. It simply silenced the crowd ball by ball, as the chase entered a rather sedate phase. It would be some time before everyone found their voices again. And obviously, THOSE six runs. They brought England back in the game, and eventually proved to be decisive.
There were quite a few India supporters. You would have been forgiven for thinking India were in the final (spoiler: they weren't). The chants of "India! India!" did break the monopoly of "Come on, England!" and "Go Kiwis!". As the tension mounted, these chants drew out a few chuckles and more than a few deserved snickers: the two finalists were putting up a show for their supporters, while these others had a hard time letting go.
Nevertheless, towards the end of the second innings, the crowd neatly segregated into New Zealand and England supporters, evidenced by the oohs and aahs. By the end of the 102nd over, not one bum adorned the seats!
For the last half hour or so, the speakers behind us were alternating between Under Pressure and We Will Rock You. It was fun to hear the crowd sing along to these songs. Quite fitting, if you ask me!
Player of the match
Even the England supporters sitting beside me agreed that de Grandhomme, he of the wobbly medium pace, had injected new life into the final. Stokes and his rub of the green (unfair to a few, or long overdue, as the gentleman beside me gleefully pointed out) notwithstanding, de Grandhomme was our player of the match.
Shot of the day: That Stokes six off the third ball of the 50th over. Wasn't that a shot straight from the MS Dhoni playbook of chasing?
There wasn't much banter between the two sets of supporters, with the New Zealand fans being the nice guys. However, there was some light show-boating by both sides whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Watching from the stands, the crowds become one with the game, as both disappointment and delirium emerged at the same time. As a neutral fan looking in, this is a surreal experience. And it is something that cannot be felt sitting in your living room. I experienced it for the first time as a neutral fan when I attended that semi-final in Auckland in 2015, and I didn't think any other game could match that experience. Clearly, I was wrong. Here's to hoping I am wrong again, and again. And again.
Marks out of 10:
10. Duh! A neutral fan like me couldn't have asked for more. The match went into the Super Over and the teams could only be separated by the number of boundaries. We all know the odds of this happening in a World Cup final are "Ha ha, are you kidding me?". So, yeah, I would have given a 1000 out of 10, if I could.
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