Eoin Morgan on 2019 World Cup final: 'For a split second I thought we were dead and buried'

“For a minute I thought, ‘That’s it, it’s over, Ben’s out, we still need 15 an over’ – that’s when I thought we were dead and buried” 

Much has changed about cricket, and the world in general, since this time last year. But for Eoin Morgan, one of the benefits of lockdown is that he has at last been able to sit down and watch back the 2019 World Cup final in all its harum-scarum grandeur – including the moment when he thought the game was lost.

England’s World Cup win, a four-year project overseen from start to finish by Morgan, was the crowning achievement during a summer that promised to rejuvenate the game in the UK. The final was screened simultaneously on Sky and Channel 4 – the first time cricket had been free-to-air since 2005 – with more than 8 million viewers tuning in as England prevailed, by the barest of margins, in a dramatic Super Over finish against New Zealand.

Morgan has subsequently had to get used an increased level of recognition in the street, posing for selfies and being regaled with individual anecdotes about watching the game. And while the ECB’s hopes of building on that success this summer have been severely impacted by the ongoing the coronavirus pandemic, England’s limited-overs captain remains convinced that legacy of that July day at Lord’s can “do wonders for the sport” in this country.

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“I think that the profile of the game has lifted quite substantially,” Morgan said. “Just going off the back of people coming up to me in the street or in a pub or a cafe. It is not just at home. When we go on holiday there will be someone who flicked over during the tennis or the Grand Prix or who heard someone shouting next door and wondered what they were watching. It was just a celebration of sport and people obviously love it when they win trophies. Cricket has certainly become higher profile and with that that’s how my life has changed. People recognise me more.

“I think in life when you have to work harder for anything regardless of whether it’s a World Cup or a forward defensive, the harder you work the better it feels after. That’s human nature and that’s how I feel. But the dramatic nature of the day really does do wonders for sport. The final is actually, it’s bigger than cricket, and it’s actually propelled up as one of the highlights of a sporting day ever in British history That will be around for a very long time so it was probably more satisfying that it will continue to be like that.”

Having become a father in March, Morgan could be forgiven for not having much spare time on his hands – but admitted he had had multiple opportunities to relive the final during cricket’s enforced shutdown. Despite calmly marshalling his team through one of the most fraught days in the history of the English game, Morgan admitted there was one point when he briefly considered they were “dead and buried” as Ben Stokes attempted to drag New Zealand’s target within reach.

“Obviously the last four months has been a bit of a challenge but that’s actually allowed me to watch the World Cup final – I’ve watched it three times now. And that’s allowed me time to sit back and actually enjoy it for the first time. I suppose I haven’t had it on DVD or computer from start to finish, full production, but now I have it I’ve watched it three times and it’s been an incredible day to sit back and watch. It’s still tense throughout the whole day every time I watch it back, the ebbs and flow of the game, is a privilege.

“There’s only one [moment of doubt] for me and it probably came to me the second time I watched it. Jimmy Neesham’s bowling to Ben, he bowls a slower ball, Ben hits it down to long-on and I remember the ball being in the air and you can see the trajectory of the ball – and you full well know when you hit it up the hill you have to absolutely smoke it to hit it for six. And it’s gone high and not quite as long as he’d liked and for a minute I just thought ‘That’s it, it’s over, Ben’s out, we still need 15 an over’ – that’s when I thought for a split second we were dead and buried.”

Fortunately for England, Trent Boult stepped on the boundary rope, before Stokes scrambled his side to a tie and Jofra Archer completed the resurrection from the final ball of an epic contest.

Although Morgan subsequently took some time to consider his future, he opted to stay on in charge of England’s white-ball teams ahead of back-to-back T20 World Cups. The future of this year’s competition, still scheduled to be held in Australia in October and November, remains in doubt due to Covid-19 restrictions, but Morgan will return to action later this month in three ODIs against Ireland, followed by a T20I series against Pakistan later in the summer.

With his 2019 winner’s medal now parked “on a shelf” at home, Morgan’s focus is on attaining another peak with England – though he admitted topping the country’s maiden 50-over World Cup win would be difficult.

“There hasn’t been a team who have held T20 and 50-over World Cups so that would be a nice challenge,” he said. “But, realistically, probably out of the next two World Cups, winning one of them would be unbelievable. To win two would be a bigger achievement than winning the 50-over World Cup. Just because both of them are away from home and would favour Australia in Australia and India in India, so you would have to win both of them to top the 50-overs win.”

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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