World Cup 2019: When the Bat of God struck Lord’s

London: England Cricket World Cup hero Ben Stokes has revealed he apologised to gutted Kiwi captain Kane Williamson for the moment that has divided the cricket world and delivered England its breakthrough World Cup triumph. Having produced a match-saving innings to rescue England’s run chase before a second tie in the following super over, Stokes took time from England’s wild World Cup celebrations to commiserate with his opposition. To lose the World Cup despite never being vanquished in the knockout stage is heartbreaking. To compound it with the controversial circumstances under which England stretched in the dramatic final over to tie the game at 241 from their 50 overs is cruel. Plain and simple.

Stokes admitted after the game his instantly-famous “bat of god” slide is something that needed to be apologised for. But, having been the beneficiaries of the cruellest twist in World Cup history, the all-rounder’s words must have rung hollow in Williamson’s ears. “I said to Kane I’ll be apologising for that for the rest of my life,” Stokes said of the moment his desperate slide to reach his crease resulted in the four over-throws that ultimately cost New Zealand an outright victory. In the last over when the ball hit the bat and went for four it’s not exactly what you ask for. “I’ve apologised to Kane countless times about that. It’s not exactly how you want to do it,” Stokes said as reported by news.com.au.

The stage was set for a hero to cement his place in cricket history when Stokes faced Kiwi star Trent Boult, needing 15 runs from the final four deliveries. The cricketing world got its hero — but it also got a can of worms and a burning controversy that won’t burn out any time soon. After two dot balls, Stokes slogged a six over mid-wicket. Nine runs were needed off three balls. Stokes then smashed the next full toss out to Martin Guptill, who was fielding on the fence at deep mid-wicket, and set off to run two. As he sprinted back to the striker’s end, he dived and stretched his bat out in a desperate bid to reach the crease — only for the ball to strike Stokes’ bat and deflect all the way to the boundary edge in front of the famous pavilion at Lord’s.

Confusion reigned but England had just scored six runs — two ran, along with a four. Three required off two balls. Stokes never set off to try and steal a run from the over throw and he immediately stuck his hands in the air in a sign of apologetic helplessness — the fact that there was almost certainly no malice in Stokes’ act will not make it any easier for Kiwis to swallow. History will record Stokes’ greatness in the moments that followed as he bashed 84 not out in a famous knock. But it will also remember the outright cruelty under which New Zealand was robbed.

“That was a bit of a shame, wasn’t it?” Williamson said of Stokes’ slide after the tied super over which gifted England victory by virtue of a boundary count back. “That’s the game we play. You can’t nitpick, it just wasn’t meant to be. “Look, it certainly wasn’t for one extra run, there are so many parts in that match that could have gone either way. Congratulations to England, they had a fantastic campaign and deserve their victory.” He also admitted his side was “shattered”. “It’s devastating. Tough to swallow,” he said. Williamson admitted it was tougher to swallow the fact that his team lost the World Cup on the back of a double tie.

“What did they win it on, boundaries? While the emotions are raw it’s pretty hard to swallow when two teams work so hard to get to this moment in time,” he said. “We had two attempts to separate us and still couldn’t — it is what it is, the rules are there at the start and they probably never thought they would have to use them. “Gutted, obviously.”

Many cricket commentators around the world believe Williamson has every right to feel hard done by. Former Indian cricket great Aakash Chopra even described Stokes’ dive as a “bat of god” moment linking the controversy to the moment Diego Maradona scored his “Hand of God” goal against England in the 1986 FIFA World Cup. Kiwi great Scott Styris posted on social media that Williamson should feel more than a little aggrieved. The final fairly is being declared by many as the greatest cricketing contest the sport has ever known. But it leaves the “bat of god” as perhaps one of the greatest controversies the sport will ever see.

- Tyson Otto

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