Sunday's final began at 10 p.m. New Zealand time and ended, dramatically, about 6:30 a.m. Monday when many dejected fans had to drag themselves away from their TVs and head wearily to work. Some of those fans were still trying to work out how New Zealand lost. New Zealand scored 241-8 and bowled out England for 241. In almost any one-day international tournament that would be a New Zealand win.
But under World Cup final rules, the tied match went to a Super Over in which the best batsmen of one team try to score the most runs against a nominated bowler from the other. Both teams scored 15 runs in that over but England won on a countback of boundaries scored during the match.
It was the cruelest way for New Zealand's giant-killing run through the tournament to end. When it came to the last of the 50 overs, and England still needing 15 runs with only two wickets left, fans were growing confident of a New Zealand win.
But New Zealand-born allrounder Ben Stokes guided England to a tie, hitting a six, then taking another six runs in extraordinary circumstances when the ball accidentally ricocheted from his bat for four overthrows after he'd taken two runs.
Some supporters immediately vented anger at the rules which allowed a team which had been bowled out to bat again. One forlorn fan asked how a team could be beaten by zero runs. Former New Zealand allrounder Scott Styris was unhappy with the sport's governing body and tweeted "nice work @ICC ... you are a joke!!!"
Others took the defeat with more resignation. Actor Sam Neill, an ardent cricket fan, posted "great ambassadors. Couldn't be more proud. Gracious in the narrowest of defeats." The New Zealand All Blacks, who have won their last two Rugby World Cup finals, tweeted: "Thanks for the ride you have taken us on over the past six weeks, @BLACKCAPS. You have done New Zealand proud and can hold your heads high."
New Zealand Sports Minister Grant Robertson, who watched the match at Lord's, told Radio New Zealand: "I think that was probably the greatest game of one-day cricket ever played and for New Zealand to be part of it is something really special."
"Obviously, it didn't end the way we would all have wanted, but I'm incredibly proud of the way the team played," Robertson said. "They were so gutsy and they play cricket the way it should be played."
Robertson added: "They are loved by other fans all around the world because of the way they play the game." Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took pride in how the New Zealanders played and responded. "I feel nothing but pride in Kane and the team. It was an outstanding tournament but that final match will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the most memorable games," Ardern said in a statement. "And it was played by Black Caps who are just outstanding sportsmen, plain and simple. They absolutely deserve our admiration. They certainly have mine."
England match-winner Stokes was born in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, where his parents Gerard and Deb Stokes still live. Gerard Stokes, who played rugby league for New Zealand, told Radio New Zealand he was proud of his son's performance but also sad for New Zealand.
"I'm sad for every supporter of cricket in New Zealand but I don't think anyone could be too disappointed with that game," he said. He said the grit shown by his son in his match-winning innings of 84 not out "is part of his Kiwi make-up, so we can claim some part of it."
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