New Zealand’s crushing disappointment after the World Cup final against England on Sunday was mitigated by the knowledge that they had played a huge part in one of the most thrilling cricket matches of all time, according to Martin Guptill, the opening batsman whose ill-fortune came to epitomise his side’s cruel luck.
Not only was Guptill the man left sprawling for his crease in the Super Over, as Jos Buttler fielded the shy from midwicket that sealed the final in England’s favour, he was also the man whose own throw from the deep – in England’s final over of the original run-chase – inadvertently turned the course of the match on its head.
After gathering Ben Stokes’ clip to midwicket with nine runs needed from three balls, Guptill’s return to the keeper deflected off Stokes’ bat and away to the third man boundary for four overthrows, making a total of six runs for the incident. Stokes had already smashed the third ball of the over for another six, and managed to eke out two more singles from the final two balls of Trent Boult’s over to tie the scores.
“Up until the third ball we were right in the box seat,” Guptill told Sky Sports ahead of his debut for Worcestershire Rapids in the Vitality Blast. “And then it wasn’t to be, but that’s just the way cricket goes, as players. It was one hell of a final.”
Guptill admitted that “the thought crosses your mind” that New Zealand were simply fated to miss out, but he had no doubt about the moment that changed the game.
“I guess it was the throw that I threw in from the boundary and hit the back of Stokes’ bat, and trickled off for four,” he said. “You know when that sort of thing happens, from a throw from the boundary, it tends not to go your way.”
Chasing 16 runs to win the Super Over, Guptill was left needing two from the final ball of the match, but this time Jason Roy’s shy from midwicket was accurate enough to leave him well short as Buttler confirmed England’s first World Cup in 44 barren years.
“I didn’t really know where the ball was, I just put the head down and just started running,” Guptill said. “It was a good throw and I dived from about halfway, and just come up a little bit short.”
New Zealand received huge credit for the manner in which they accepted their defeat, in spite of having scored the same number of runs across the match, and Guptill said that the team had been quick to recognise quite what a massive part of sporting history they had played a part in.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “You know, the support that we had from back home and even around here, and what you see on social media, everyone just loved the game, whether they were cricket watchers or not. Everyone was all over the game and they loved it and it was just a shame for us about the result.
“We actually had quite a good party,” he added. “I mean, obviously it was quite a sombre mood for a while but then we realised we were part of one of the greatest games in cricket history, so we got over it fairly quickly. We had a good time together, because we’re not going to be together as a group like that for a while yet.”
Guptill’s World Cup had been a luckless affair for much of the campaign. Despite making a half-century to seal a ten-wicket win over Sri Lanka in New Zealand’s opening match, he didn’t pass 35 in his remaining 10 innings.
But a change of scene could be just the tonic, as he links up with Worcestershire, the defending T20 Blast champions.
“You need a bit of luck in the game as a batsman sometimes,” he said. “And T20 can be the place to find that luck. So who knows, hopefully tonight I can find a little bit and hopefully score a few runs.
“It’s a young team and I think there’s a lot of excitement around it,” he added of his Worcestershire team-mates. “The guys just have fun playing together. I think that’s a big part of cricket and something that we pride ourselves on as New Zealanders and the Black Caps. We just go out and have some fun with our mates.” (ESPNCricinfo)