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Abandoning Bairstow for Beyonce - Watching the World Cup final

'I was there' - at least, some were. Well-known personalities recount their memories of that famous match

Wisden Almanack
Ben Stokes was in jofra Archer's ear during the Super Over, and all over him afterwards, England v New Zealand, World Cup 2019 final, Lord's, July 14, 2019

Ben Stokes was in jofra Archer's ear during the Super Over, and all over him afterwards  •  Getty Images

Miles Jupp

I wasn't even looking for a ticket, but two days before the final I got an email from a friend saying he just happened to have a spare, and would I possibly be interested in shelling out the cost of 29 1/2 hours of childcare? Until then, I had followed the tournament only in print and on the radio. It would be the first match I had actually seen.
I got to Lord's early in the hope of soaking up an excited atmosphere, but everything felt nervily restrained. A sense of gloomy realism seemed to have settled on the crowds of English fans walking up Wellington Road. Our seats were in the Warner Stand, four rows back. There was a deluge of corporate entertainment, and then we were off.
From the first ball, there was the sense that England were behind; nearly 100 overs later, they were still behind. And there was constant confusion. Trent Boult stood on the rope just yards in front of us, but I didn't realise it had happened: I was watching his hands. As England's 50th over began, the lady to my left suddenly said: "I don't want to be here." I didn't realise the ball had ricocheted off Stokes's bat: I was watching the line.
When the scores were level after 50 overs, I couldn't have told you where our last 15 runs had come from, and I didn't know what a super over was. All I knew was that my heart was racing, and that the lyrics of "Sweet Caroline" came to me with surprising ease. And then we had won. We didn't quite deserve to, but we had. In the words of Max Boyce: "I was there."
Miles Jupp is an actor and writer.

Mishal Husain

Sunday tends to be a working day for me in the BBC newsroom, and so it was that afternoon. I left the family huddled on the sofa, watching the match, and headed to New Broadcasting House, wondering idly if we'd have a result in time for the early-evening news bulletin on BBC One.
Almost everyone in the newsroom had at least one eye on sport - either Lord's or Wimbledon, where Novak Djokovic was locked in battle with Roger Federer in what turned out to be the longest singles final in the tournament's history. Our bulletin was due to follow the tennis and, as the match went on and on, the main preoccupation was practical: how delayed would we be, and how much might our airtime be cut in the scramble to get the channel back on track?
Simultaneously, the action at Lord's began to reach fever pitch. From an earlier assumption that England wouldn't win, and the World Cup was therefore unlikely to be our top story, everything started to feel different.
Perhaps this was our lead, depending on where the game had reached by the time we finally got on air. We'll know any minute, I thought, as I watched Ben Stokes edge closer to the New Zealand total - and I can get on with writing the headlines.
Then came the tie, and the super over. All over the newsroom, producers were standing up and scratching their heads: "How does this work?"… "Can anyone explain a super over?"… "What on earth is going on?" And I still didn't know what to put in the headlines. Meanwhile, at Wimbledon, they were also in the endgame. The efficiency of the All England Club meant the prizegiving would be set up in a jiffy, the tennis coverage would wrap up, and it would be over to us. Even the short time it takes to move from my desk in the newsroom to the presenter's seat in the studio, getting earpiece and microphone set up along the way, would be a crucial period unplugged from the live action.
The gods smiled on us. With minutes to spare before the on-air time we were finally given by BBC One, we had a result. The newsroom erupted alongside the country - and I had my headlines. No fancy turn of phrase, no play on words. Just the simplest of sentences, and a tale to make the heart sing: "England have won the World Cup."
Mishal Husain presents BBC One news bulletins, and the Today programme on Radio 4.

Tim Rice

I left Lord's as England began their reply to New Zealand's useful, but not overpowering, 241. I had no wish to depart, but on the other hand I had no reason to suppose that the remainder of the day's play would be anything out of the ordinary; the previous World Cup final at Lord's, in 1999, when Australia waltzed to victory over Pakistan, had not been a gripper. But I had to attend the European premiere of the Lion King movie, Disney's latest blockbuster, a remake of the 1994 cartoon version, for which I had co-written the songs with Sir Elton John.
So I abandoned Bairstow for Beyonce, Morgan for Mufasa.Thus unravelled the greatest sporting disappointment of my cricketing life as a spectator - I have had far too many as a player. By five o'clock, I was standing in my dinner jacket in a line of A-listers (and lesser mortals) in an increasingly warm cinema foyer in Leicester Square, wishing I had attended the Los Angeles world premiere a week earlier instead. My brother, Jonathan, was updating me with the score as Harry and Meghan were introduced to the team behind the film. It was becoming annoyingly clear this was no rerun of 1999.
By the time HRH got to me, he was glad to be informed that Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler were going strong. As we took our seats, it was apparent we were heading for one of the tightest finishes since W. G. Grace was a lad.The lights dimmed, and as Lebo M's immortal opening chant to "Circle of Life" took flight, England needed 24 from two overs. At this point, an alert usher - quite correctly - ordered me to switch off my phone. Nearly two hours later, I learned what I had missed.
Tim Rice is a lyricist and a former president of MCC.

Howard Jacobson

I had decided, well in advance, that I wouldn't be watching. England weren't going to reach the final anyway and, while India v Australia would be enthralling, I am too sore a loser to take pleasure in the skills of teams we should have beaten. Alternatively, we'd make the final, only to go down ignominiously to one or other of those teams. Either way, there could be only pain. So, a couple of weeks before, I invited friends round to watch Wimbledon, making my wife a solemn promise that, whatever transpired, I wouldn't keep switching channels to get the cricket score.
On the day, I made the same promise to myself. Playing New Zealand doesn't fill me with the unease that playing Australia does. I can bear to see us lose to New Zealand. I like their game. They keep their humour. But I still knew I couldn't watch. I have necromantic powers over cricket matches. I go to the ground and an English wicket falls. I turn on the television and two English wickets fall. I owed it to my country to stay away, and cheer on Federer against Djokovic, neither of whom I warm to, though I warm to Djokovic less. From which it should be clear that I implicate myself in sport in ways that are unhealthy. I keep forgetting it is not about me.
Federer wouldn't have thanked me for my support. He lost. Already despondent, I asked my friends if they minded my quickly changing channels, and when I did I was just in time to catch the now infamous overthrow off Stokes's bat. "That's lucky," opined a tactless friend. "Everything's lucky or unlucky," was my answer. But I wondered. Six weeks later, watching Lyon's fumbling the run-out at Headingley, I was wondering again: have we actually won anything? I'm not just a sore loser. I'm a sore winner.
Howard Jacobson's latest novel, Live a Little, is published by Jonathan Cape.

Sebastian Faulks

I had been lucky enough to get a ticket to the semi-final at Edgbaston on the Thursday, where I sat among the Barmy Army in the Eric Hollies Stand, and got showered with beer. I hoped something might turn up for Sunday, but it didn't. So by ten o'clock, I was installed on the sofa with the dog at home in west London.
I didn't think any of our bowlers did as well in their first spells as they had at Birmingham, but the wickets came with a comforting regularity. To me, it seemed as though New Zealand were always a little behind. My feeling (quite wrong) was that 260-270 was where the action would be. The dog and I took lunch with cautious optimism and a small glass of wine.
It was not until New Zealand bowled that it became clear what a difficult pitch it was - not an ideal track for an ODI, to be honest, because so many great strokemakers were unable to time the ball (though England had struggled throughout the tournament to come to terms with English conditions). How well New Zealand bowled and fielded. But what impiety had they shown towards the gods of cricket that they should so spit on them? England were finished when Buttler was out, surely. We lacked the impetus that one big over would have given. We were always tantalisingly short, until that insane ricochet…
Then, as Neesham swiped Archer for six in the super over, we were dead again. Shouldn't we have bowled Woakes or Plunkett? And then redemption for Jason Roy, so deserved, with that fizzing flat throw… Buttler's safe hands, and heartbreak, so undeserved, for the Kiwis. It was a tie. Two winners. Believe me: I wasn't there. I was dancing with the dog.
Sebastian Faulks's most recent novel, Paris Echo, is published by Vintage.

Sam Mendes

I have a memory of a late summer day, some time in the 1970s: Middlesex against Worcestershire at Lord's. I was there on my own, having climbed over the locked iron gates behind the old red-brick Grand Stand and found my way into a hospitality box. I sat there, watching an untroubled Glenn Turner. It remains my most vivid memory of Lord's, despite many visits since, and I occasionally wonder how the scene might have looked as a reverse shot: the stand empty, except for a solitary small boy - a tiny smudge - as the shadows lengthened across the grass.
During the World Cup final, I was sitting in almost exactly the same spot and, although nearly everything had changed, I was surrounded by the past. Either side were two England captains from my boyhood, Brearley and Gatting, bantering about whose World Cup final defeat had been more avoidable: 1979 or 1987? (A clue: the loser was polishing off a pork pie.) A few seats away was Theresa May, in her last days in office - a sad, haunted figure. Behind me, John Major chatted with Ashley Giles.We had come to see England win, and we saw probably the greatest one-day match of all time. Well, at least they did.
Some months before, I had agreed to do a small event in Cheltenham for my lovely wife, the classical trumpeter Alison Balsom. She was running the music festival, and I wanted to show my support. For some reason, I had chosen that Sunday. Despite having been a member of the World Cup's directorial board, and having crafted the shooting schedule for my movie 1917 with half an eye on the fixture list, I had contrived a situation where I had to leave Lord's at five o'clock.
And so I did, just as Ben Stokes came out to bat. I listened in a car on the M40, and arrived at Cheltenham Town Hall just as Jofra Archer began his super over. Had you been in Cheltenham Imperial Gardens that day, you might have seen a solitary figure punching the air and happily shedding a tear, as the shadows lengthened across the grass.
Sam Mendes is a film and theatre director.