New Zealand gave everything in a game for the ages, bar the result

In the days and weeks after losing the last World Cup final in 2015, New Zealand’s players would have wondered whether they would ever get a chance to make amends for their loss to Australia at the MCG. That is the unknown that stalks all vanquished teams. What if they never got a chance to put it right? After all, there are few harder things to shake off than the sense of a missed opportunity. Particularly when that opportunity is a shot at immortality. Now, the days and weeks ahead will be filled with that same regret. That same despair. They did get another chance. They just couldn’t take it.
No doubt, this was New Zealand’s shot at redemption and not just because of that result against Australia in 2015. After all, there is no shame in defeat. However, the game four years ago did not show the best of them. They lost Brendon McCullum, their talisman, in the first over and never recovered. After a swashbuckling campaign, their final showing was a damp squib. They didn’t so much lose as meekly get swept aside. An opportunity to become their country’s first World Cup winners was surrendered.
Today was a chance to right that wrong. In the build-up, Kane Williamson talked a lot about performance. He didn’t want to think of the result. He just wanted his team to show their true colours, to show what they are about and how they can play. They didn’t do it in Melbourne. He wanted them to do so in London. If they did, he said, the result would take care of itself.
But Williamson was not to know what would transpire over nine captivating hours at Lord’s. His team delivered one of the best performances in World Cup final history. He got the display of skill and energy and tenacity he wanted and which they lacked at the MCG. They were not swept aside here. Like a heavyweight boxer, they took blows and gave them back with interest. And yet, despairingly, the result didn’t take care of itself. “It just wasn’t to be today,” Williamson said after the game.The desire not to waste another chance to win New Zealand’s first-ever World Cup was the fuel that drove them at Lord’s. You could see it in the desire to stop every possible run in the field. You could see it when their batsmen kept scrapping and scraping their way to a target which put them in the game. You could see it in the work of their bowlers who hurled themselves at England’s batsmen. You could see it in the relentless, aggressive captaincy of Williamson.New Zealand did not deserve to lose this match. But one team had to. And England were always going to take a lot of stopping. A champion team, at home, with a sense of destiny about things. Eoin Morgan’s men did just enough.
For New Zealand, a second consecutive World Cup final loss. One hurts like hell. Two cuts far, far deeper. They will come again. These are tough people. But this will take a long time to get over.
For those who were also in Melbourne, the pain will undoubtedly be more acute. There were five players in their team today who tasted defeat at the final hurdle for a second time. That they played their part in the greatest-ever men’s World Cup final will be no consolation now. Some of them, including Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill, will probably not get another chance. Others, such as the irrepressible Lockie Ferguson, might.They might not, of course. And that is the anguish this current squad will have to live with. It should motivate the younger members. Drive them on to further heights. But it will certainly eat away at all them. “Hopefully there’s a day or two over the next decade where I don’t think about that last half hour,” James Neesham tweeted after the game. Who knows when or if they might get back here again. Who knows when or if they might get back here again.If New Zealand get in the game, it’s hard to wrestle them out of it, particularly on pitches which offer their brilliant bowling attack something to work with. They are a team who love the squeeze. They squeezed India out of the competition at Old Trafford, defending a similar total to this one.