After Eoin Morgan recently announced his retirement from international cricket, we delve into story of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, and how the hosts completed a journey that was four years in the making.

Eoin Morgan was named captain of England’s men’s One-Day International side a mere two months before the start of the 2015 Cricket World Cup – a tournament which saw England subsequently suffer a disappointing group-stage exit.

2015 Men’s CWC – Pool A (Group Stage):

 New Zealand660002.5612
 Sri Lanka642000.378

England failed to progress from Pool A alongside Afghanistan and Scotland, and the side drew criticism at the time for its outdated approach to limited-overs cricket. The disappointment felt by the England set-up marked the beginning of a remarkable revolution in the side’s style, a four-year process which culminated in a stunning boundary count victory over New Zealand at Lord’s.

Men’s ODIs between CWC 2015 & 2019:

TeamMatches*WonLostTiedWin %
South Africa734726064%
New Zealand734330059%
West Indies631942230%
Sri Lanka802455130%

*completed matches only

During the intervening years between Cricket World Cup 2015 and 2019, England underwent a complete shift in mentality under the stewardship of former England captain Andrew Strauss. Drafted into the newly created role of Director of Cricket, Strauss set about an overhaul that saw him appoint Australia’s Trevor Bayliss as coach, and place greater emphasis on white-ball cricket and playing without fear.

Positive results would follow. Of the 10 teams represented at ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019, England comfortably had the highest win rate (71%) for matches between 2015 and 2019. They would also set a new record for the highest innings total in a men’s ODI by scoring 444/3 against Pakistan in 2016 before swotting their own record aside two years later. Their effort of 481/6 against Australia at the same venue (Trent Bridge) still stands comfortably at the top of the all-time list.

Going into the 2019 Cricket World Cup, England were second-favourites with the bookmakers. To sit as second-favourites after a dismal showing at the previous edition of the World Cup was quite the turnaround and testament to the work put in during those wilderness years. England were also hosting an ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup tournament for the first time in 20 years. The last time it was played in the country (1999), the hosts crashed out at the group stage. Given the preparation, surely, they wouldn’t suffer the same fate?

2019 Men’s Cricket World Cup – Group Stage:

1 India9711150.81
2 Australia9720140.87
3 England9630121.15
4 New Zealand9531110.18
5 Pakistan953111-0.43
6 Sri Lanka93428-0.92
7 South Africa93517-0.03
8 Bangladesh93517-0.41
9 West Indies92615-0.23
10 Afghanistan90900-1.32

Despite suffering defeats against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia, England would progress from the group stage alongside India, Australia and New Zealand. It would be the last side in that list who would meet the hosts in the final.

England and New Zealand came into this iteration of the competition having appeared in the most ICC Cricket World Cup tournaments without winning it; both featuring in 11 previous editions. That is arguably where the parallels end between the two outfits. The Black Caps had an experienced squad containing a number of the same players who featured in the World Cup four years prior, where they reached the final. A far cry from the journey England had endured.

In a more recent context, New Zealand had a completely different experience to their opponents during the 2019 group stage. Kane Williamson’s men failed to score 300 in any of their group matches and only Afghanistan (who tasted defeat in every game) registered fewer runs per over during that period. Morgan’s men, whilst not as destructive with the bat as they had been prior to the tournament, had registered six scores of at least 300 during the 2019 group stage, the most instances of any team, and the same was true for the hosts in the runs per over category (6.39). However, it is worth adding that New Zealand were not always afforded the opportunity to go out and score big runs – they had to chase low targets in six of their eight innings during the group stage.

Cricket World Cup 2019 Batting in the group stage
Cricket World Cup 2019 Group Stage RPO

New Zealand Innings – CWC 2019 Group Stage:

DateOpponentNZ ScoreOversInningsVenueResult
June 1, 2019Sri Lanka137/016.12CardiffW
June 5, 2019Bangladesh248/847.12The OvalW
June 8, 2019Afghanistan173/332.12TauntonW
June 19, 2019South Africa245/648.32BirminghamW
June 22, 2019West Indies291/8501ManchesterW
June 26, 2019Pakistan237/6501BirminghamL
June 29, 2019Australia15743.42Lord'sL
July 3, 2019England186452Chester-le-StreetL

The Black Caps batsmen may have missed out on opportunities to stamp their authority, but the bowlers made the most of it in their absence. The Kiwis were the only team to have an economy rate of below five and comfortably had the highest share of dot balls.

CWC 2019 Economy Rate Group Stage
CWC 2019 Dot Ball Rate Group Stage

After seeing off the top two finishers in the group stages (India and Australia), the date was set for England and New Zealand to face off at Lord’s on July 14, 2019. From an England perspective, it was by no means their first rodeo. The men’s side had appeared in plenty of major ICC finals, but their record was a disappointing one, losing six of their seven finals. It felt like it was now or never for Eoin’s entertainers.

England Men’s ICC Finals Record:

ICC TournamentDateOpponentVenueResultMargin
Cricket World Cup1979-06-23West IndiesLord'sL92 runs
Cricket World Cup1987-11-08AustraliaKolkataL7 runs
Cricket World Cup1992-03-25PakistanMelbourneL22 runs
Champions Trophy2004-09-25West IndiesThe OvalL2 wickets
T20 World Cup2010-05-16AustraliaBridgetownW7 wickets
Champions Trophy2013-06-23IndiaBirminghamL5 runs
T20 World Cup2016-04-03West IndiesKolkataL4 wickets

England and New Zealand had met twice before in men’s ODIs at Lord’s with the Black Caps winning on both occasions (2008 and 2013). What’s more, prior to England’s triumph over New Zealand earlier in the tournament they hadn’t beaten the Black Caps in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup since 1983, suffering a string of five consecutive defeats against them in the competition in that time.

The New Zealand innings saw opener Henry Nicholls post his maiden half-century of the tournament, after recording just 28 runs across his three 2019 World Cup knocks beforehand. Nicholls would register 55 off 77 balls and despite it not being the slowest rate, it was fairly chanceless, posting a defence rate of 26% during his innings: the highest share of any batsman on that day.

The England bowlers unsurprisingly followed a similar strategy to the one they’d employed all tournament: plenty of short stuff. Four of the five players that day to have the highest short ball rates were in sky blue. England had a tournament short ball percentage of 11%, easily the highest share of any unit, with Jofra Archer and Mark Wood topping the list for most deliveries pitching on that length.

CWC 2019 Final Short Ball %

A knock worth 30 runs from skipper Williamson followed by a 56-ball 47 from wicket-keeper batsman Tom Latham saw the Black Caps finish on 241/8. There have only been three instances of teams scoring fewer runs in a Men’s Cricket World Cup final first innings.

England got off to a troubled start, and when skipper Morgan fell his team was struggling at 86/4 in response. That was the second-fewest runs they had mustered at four-down across the entirety of the competition – their 53/4 at the very same venue against Australia being the only example of them racking up fewer runs at that point of an innings. Let’s not forget that against Australia, England suffered a comprehensive 64-run defeat.

Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler then put on 110 together (a duo that would be reacquainted later in the day). When we look at the Stokes’ run tempo during that stage of the game specifically, we can see he was very much biding his time. The loss of the England wicket-keeper spurred Stokes into life as he went from 51 from 81 balls (strike rate of 63) to launching 33 runs off just 17 deliveries (strike rate of 194), as he pulled England back to the brink of victory in ‘regular time’. This knock exemplified why he was awarded The Wisden Cricketer of the Year Award for 2019.

Ben Stokes Tempo

Of course, analysing his innings as merely a conservative one for the two-thirds of the time before exploding at the end, fails to acknowledge the now-famous incidents that occurred during that iconic knock. Who can forget the off-the-bat overthrows, for example? There was undoubtedly a generous portion of luck that accompanied his endeavour with the bat.

Two key moments towards the finale of the England first innings involved Black Cap Trent Boult. The seamer would tread on the boundary rope when presented with an easy chance to dismiss Stokes. Curiously, Boult was no stranger to fielding transgressions. Only two men dropped more easy catches at the 2019 Cricket World Cup leading into the final than the Kiwi (two). Stokes, who by this point had done his bit with the ball, by logging the most deliveries without being struck for a six of any bowler across the tournament (305), was now fully locked-in with the willow. The Durham all-rounder was so in the moment that his slog-sweep six in the final over against Boult was the very first time he’d attempted that stroke in any format when facing a seamer. Stokes would later recant that he didn’t know what was going through his head at the time, as he knew it was something just completely alien to him.

Despite the heroics of Ben Stokes, England did not reach the target set for them – it was the first tied game in the history of major men’s ICC finals (Cricket World Cup & Champions Trophy).

A Super Over – where both teams play a single additional over of six balls to determine the winner – would decide the fate of the two sides.

The two bowlers selected for the Super Over picked themselves – Jofra Archer (371) and Trent Boult (351) were by this point at the top of the dot ball table. There was a debate about who would step up for England with the bat, however, and ultimately Stokes and Buttler would pick up where they left off earlier in the afternoon. They would post an imposing 15 runs from their six balls.

Nothing had separated the sides that afternoon, and still they could not be split: New Zealand matched England’s score of 15. After an incredibly rare tied game in ‘regular time’, we witnessed a drawn Super Over.

Boundary Count would be the difference between the sides – is there an argument that the Kiwi approach would go against them at the crucial time? Just West Indies had a lower share of their runs coming from singles than England across the 2019 Men’s Cricket World Cup. New Zealand? Well, they were right up there with South Africa when it came to dependence on picking up 1s.

The big-hitting, fast-paced style embraced by England helped seal the deal and they were duly crowned as World Champions. It was the men’s sides first taste of success in the tournament, becoming the sixth different team to lift the trophy.

Kane Williamson may have picked up Player of the Tournament after clocking up 578 runs across the six weeks, the most by any New Zealand batsman at a Cricket World Cup but it genuinely didn’t matter to him. The Black Caps were understandably crushed, as Ian Smith famously said at the time, “by the barest of margins”. It really was scant consolation, especially after missing out in 2015. England players and fans will never forget the dramatic conclusion of a hard, four-year long process to win the pinnacle trophy of men’s limited-overs cricket. Eoin Morgan was there at one of English cricket’s lowest ebbs in Australia and New Zealand, and he will no doubt take enormous pleasure when he looks back and remembers the day it all came together.

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