No one is probably going to get closer to winning the World Cup or losing it as us - Boult
What if it's July 14 again. What if England v New Zealand had gone another way. It's not just the fans who are wondering all that could have been
What if it's July 14 again. What if Lord's is still packed. And hushed. Trembling as one of the greatest ODI finishes of all time is still unfolding. Well, that's the reality for most of the New Zealand players right now. Even one of their best ever players could not help but look back and wonder.
Trent Boult was on the midwicket boundary when Ben Stokes launched Jimmy Neesham in his direction. A man renowned for taking outstanding boundary catches steadied himself under the ball, then leapt up and caught it with both hands and looked stunned, as if he knew, in that moment, the game had changed. England now needed 22 runs from eight balls. New Zealand were favourites to become world champions.
And then Boult stepped back. Right onto the boundary rope. It was just one of the many things the fast bowler continues to replay in his head.
"I suppose it's just natural to nitpick and pull apart a game like that," he said upon arriving in Auckland. "Firstly, to be involved in it was obviously very amazing. But you know, you just wonder those little kind of things that went your way, or didn't go your way or whatever, it could've been a totally different game. Yeah, of course, I'm living the last over throughout my mind a lot. Somehow we were hit for six along the ground which has never been happened before. And then, yeah, couple of run outs, to bowl them out and to see the scores level and to lose was a pretty unique situation."
Boult had more than made amends by bowling that 50th over and ensuring England didn't get past New Zealand's 241. Then in the Super Over, he kept them to 15 runs, even though both times he had to contend with Stokes hitting near yorkers to the boundary. And quite apart from taking the burden of the entire game - and his country's chance of winning a first World Cup - on his shoulders, he finished with 17 wickets from 10 matches, including a hat-trick against Australia. It was an immense performance.
But when asked about the final and if he would do anything differently, Boult said: "I'm sure you could appreciate it's a nerve-wracking scenario to be a part of. A lot of people over there interested. A lot of people watching on the TV. It was an amazing stage to be on. Obviously saw what it meant for the Englishmen to get across the line. It could have been us. Unfortunately it wasn't. No one is probably going to get closer to winning the World Cup or losing the World Cup as us.
"You see a lot of disappointment in cricketing fans around the world, not just Kiwis but a lot of supporters that wanted us to win. It's a shame to let everyone down really. It's hard sitting on a plane for 15 hours. A lot of Kiwis there were saying 'we felt for you' kinda thing. Yeah don't really know too much more to say really. Obviously we're all hurting and yeah sorry for letting everyone down."
And that brings us to the catch that wasn't. "Obviously the priority is on the ball itself," Boult said. "That's all I was really worried about. Silly of me obviously to not know where the rope was. Similar to the catch I got against the West Indies earlier in the tournament but they're quite quirky boundaries [in England]. They're not actually circles. They're kinda octagons and squares and all sorts of things. Obviously you can imagine my feeling when I felt my left shoe hit the cushion and it was too late for me to throw it to Marty [Guptill, who was waiting for the relay catch]."
The captain, and player of the tournament, Kane Williamson wouldn't allow a match so epic to boil down to just a few moments. Like that overthrow in the last over that bounced off Stokes' bat and into the third man boundary, turning two runs into six. Until then, New Zealand were working hard to make England feel the brunt of scoreboard pressure.
"If you pull it back to the last 10 overs," Boult said, "If you could keep pushing the run-rate up towards 7, 8, 9 an over, I thought Jos [Buttler] and Stokes did extremely well to be there and build a partnership and obviously given the chance to try and chase it down. But yeah, take it as deep as possible. Of course me standing on the rope in the 49th over probably didn't help either but yeah we wanted to leave them as many as possible in the end. But yeah, for a Super Over to eventuate, I don't know if you know there was going to be a Super Over in a World Cup final so there you go. And 15 apiece, it's pretty hard to swallow.
The final in 2015 was a no show in my opinion. We were outplayed from kinda the first couple of overs. Definitely didn't hurt as much as the other day did
"When I saw three off two, that's when the umpires said to us there would be a Super Over. Obviously we had a job to defend three of two balls and we did that and then Super Over it was. Yeah, just a crazy game to be part of."
New Zealand, ranked No. 2 by the ICC, have competed in eight World Cup semi-finals - a record - and two successive finals. Two very different finals.
"Obviously to have it in our backyard in 2015, in front of all our family and friends and the hype and everything that comes with a home tournament, we can't escape it," Boult said. "It was one of those things over there, different time zone, different part of the day. No offence but we didn't hear too much of what was going on back home unless you really scouted it off. But hey it was a great time to get there and obviously to be so close is the thing that hurts the most. Yeah, the final in 2015 was a no show in my opinion. We were outplayed from kinda the first couple of overs. Definitely didn't hurt as much as the other day did."
So how was he planning to cope? "Well, I'm gonna go home for the first time in about four months. Probably gonna walk my dog along the beach and try and put it aside. I'm sure he won't be too angry at me. And hey we've got a quick turnaround before we go to Sri Lanka in a couple of days time and back in the saddle. Like I said, it's not gonna be something that disappears in the next couple of days. It's probably something that's gonna be hard to swallow for the next couple of years."
There was one last question for Boult before he could go back to his family and try to come to terms with July 14.
"Do you feel cheated?"
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo