‘You are looking for a run’ – Gutted New Zealand try to make sense of the unbelievable

New Zealand

“Did I sleep at all?

Hmm. I did sleep. I did.”

Kane Williamson talks in the dry, wry, inimitable tone of his. We are standing at arm’s length. I am trying hard to find an emotion in the man’s face. This is no ordinary man. This man, this leader of men, lost the World Cup in the cruelest way possible.

No, wait.

This man saw the World Cup being snatched from New Zealand’s grip by the combined might of cricket’s Laws and the thing that human nature can neither be prepared for nor prevail: fate. If you want to rub it in a bit more, this man had to swallow defeat in a World Cup final for the second successive time, after Brendon McCullum’s New Zealand had lost to Australia.

So you ask Kane Williamson: did you sleep?

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Williamson did. But after a lot of time trying to understand what had happened. After a lot of time chatting with his team-mates in the away dressing room at Lord’s, hours after the World Cup was over. After hours of reflection.

That reflection, by his own admission, Williamson says, will not end. Not for some time. It will haunt him and his men. At least for a while. I ask him to try and explain his emotions from the moment cricket was over. “I reckon I sort of explained that to a few people,” Williamson says, nodding his head. “It hits in you in waves. For ten minutes you forget about it, and you make little jokes. And then it comes back to you and you go: ‘Did that just happen? Did it just happen? Is that real or is that just I woke up wondering whether it was a bad dream? It wasn’t. Was it.’ “

You want him to cry. He has not, he assures. “Not me.”


Williamson might have managed to keep his emotions in check but a few of the New Zealand players could not hide theirs. Jimmy Neesham, who was in the middle when Jos Buttler ran out his partner Martin Guptill to deny New Zealand the two runs off the final ball of the Super Over and the World Cup, went down on his knees and might have shed a tear or two. Later Neesham, one of the most intelligent wordsmiths in cricket, summed up his feelings on Twitter succinctly: “Kids, don’t take up sport. Take up baking or something. Die at 60 really fat and happy,” he said in his first post. In a follow-up post, he explained: “That hurts. Hopefully there’s a day or two over the next decade where I don’t think about that last half hour.”

Tim Southee, who played the 2015 final, but took a spectacular catch in the deep as a 12th man on Sunday, observed: “What is there to say?”

A lot was said and not said on Sunday evening. In the away dressing room at Lord’s. Hours after the match was over. As the sun set in London and Lord’s dazzled in moonlight Williamson and his men reflected on what had happened. It was important to not leave the venue without having bared a few feelings.

The chats were more to comprehend what happened. How could New Zealand lose without having lost? How could England get away when they needed 15 runs in the final over from Trent Boult? Two dot balls and then Ben Stokes hit a six. And then ran two, but that became six owing to that overthrow. England were granted six runs after New Zealand accepted the on-field umpires had interpreted the Law correctly even though soon it would transpire they had actually not. Still Boult managed to deny England victory. And then that traumatic Super Over.

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Former New Zealand batsman Craig McMillan, who finished his tenure as the batting coach with the World Cup, points out his mindset overnight. “There wasn’t a lot of sleep last night. You are looking for a run. You can find a dozen runs quite easily, not one when you actually needed it. So that is going to be the nature of it for a little while.”

McMillan says the emotions the players are feeling right now are “very hard” to put into words. “A lot of things were thrown at them, but they kept fighting, kept coming back at England, trying to find a way to win. Also hugely proud the way they conducted themselves off the field in pretty trying circumstances at the end of the match. Overriding emotions along with huge sense of disappointment that we couldn’t quite do we what we came to this tournament to do.”

According to Williamson all these events were talked about before New Zealand left the ground. “There were sort of tears [from team-mates], but it is a game of cricket, isn’t it? Guys were gutted, truly gutted. Naturally you reflect on a game like that. Even if it was a World Cup final, but, yeah, you add into the mix, you just look at the small margins throughout the whole match, not just this one or that one. Everybody is thinking about their role and what maybe could have been different. But when you get to that stage it is almost outside of your control. The guys put on such a huge effort in both games [regulation time and Super Over] in that final and it wasn’t quite enough for one reason or another.”

It was surreal. While Williamson and his men were trying to pick themselves, in walked Eoin Morgan. The England captain, who is mates with Williamson, had come in to share a drink. Also his disbelief. “He was lost for words, didn’t really know what to say. That is fair, especially after two months of getting to the final stage and to have a tie he said that there was nothing that separated the sides. I guess it is an odd feeling to in some ways not have a loser of the match but have a Cup winner,” Williamson says.


Monday morning, London was overcast. Grey. Nippy. As one New Zealand television journalist said, it was a funeral-like atmosphere, yet no one had died. But a dream did die.

Sometime on Monday morning New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, posted a personal message in support of Williamson’s team. Ardern said New Zealand, the nation, had “aged” while watching the Super Over.

That might not be the case with Williamson. Standing up close, you can see a few crease lines across the broad forehead. Those dark blue eyes retain a twinkle. He does not mind even cracking a joke or two. The man is even apologetic to you, saying he can crack jokes.

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Yet, there is no one sadder, more disappointed, more gutted than Williamson. But he will not show. You want the dam to burst. But, good luck. As New Zealand head coach Gary Stead is talking about whether sharing the World Cup would have been the ideal finish to the World Cup final, Williamson walks in the background with his partner to have some breakfast outside of the team hotel. Under an hour later Williamson walks back with cups of coffee, you assume, in his hand for the family.

Boult walks out of the team hotel with his partner and child in a pram as they head for the morning breakfast and possibly a walk along Hyde Park. Lockie Ferguson has his laundry bag slung on his back as he gets ready for a day without cricket on his mind.

According to Stead the New Zealand players are bound to “hit the wall” for a week or so as they replay the events of Sunday in their mind. “At the start there was lot of dejection and I guess bewilderment around how did it happen, why has it happened this way,” Stead says. “Everyone will react to it over time, I imagine most of the guys will hit the wall for a week and feel down about things, but they shouldn’t. We should be proud of what we’ve achieved.”

At some point, a middle-aged Indian gentleman walks up to where the media is standing and unprompted tells a New Zealand journalist that he really respects Williamson’s team. Only because they are true gentlemen, are down-to-earth. He says he and his family travelled from Los Angeles to watch three knockout matches of the World Cup including the final thinking India would feature. Although he was depressed for hours after India’s exit in the semi-final, he did not curse New Zealand. “We lost against good people,” he says.


For youngsters like Ferguson, who was one of the fastest bowlers in the World Cup and who finished in the ICC’s team of the tournament, the final result is difficult to “swallow.” He admits that the ethos of Williamson’s team is not to focus on the outcome although “this outcome is particularly hurting”.

“Probably a bit of an understatement that it was emotional,” Ferguson says. “Yeah, it’s definitely for me been one of the most emotional nights in terms of cricket and to come so close and not get across the line, for whatever reason – it wasn’t meant to be. As I said, the lads are getting around each other and patting each other on the backs on what was a great competition. Unfortunately we didn’t quite get over the last hurdle but we were happy and hopefully inspire the next generation of Black Caps to come through and win a World Cup.”

There is a whole gamut of emotions that New Zealand would have experienced, and will continue to, for a while. But as Williamson and his men leave England, the one overriding emotion is bound to be pride. Williamson agrees. “In time there will be a lot of reflection. Hopefully we will view at it in a bit of a rational way. Once again we do look at the campaign as a bigger picture and really proud of all the guys. It could be tricky. We talk about not being too caught up in results. I know that can be a really difficult especially when you have a World Cup final on the line, but if you do remove that, a little bit, and you look at the cricket that we played, the way the guys went about their business, we should be really proud.”

And if they need any further proof that they did their job well, they should just listen to what McMillan says. “At the end, it was one of those games where you just shake your head and you are lost for words. I don’t think I have ever been as gutted or as proud after a game of cricket. Gutted because we didn’t get the result we wanted. I truly felt that we deserved to win yesterday at different times.

“And proud the way the guys handled themselves, kept coming back from difficult challenges, kept fighting and they nearly got there. It was a day of mixed emotions. There is a lot of raw emotion that will still be there today, you know. Four or six hours of sleep hasn’t really changed that. There’s a going to be a bit of time for the guys to get over it. We will. And there will be a time when we will look back at the game very fondly because there were some incredible performances yesterday.”

Yes, New Zealand should be proud that they played a massive hand in making the 2019 World Cup final one of the greatest matches in cricket’s history. London was painted with “We believed” banners to celebrate England’s triumph. But New Zealand were equal winners.

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