Sixteen kilometers was all that separated Roger Federer and the New Zealand Cricket Team in London yesterday. While the location and sport might have been different, the agony they went through was one and the same, and both would have wondered before going to bed last night, “what if?”
What if Martin Guptill repeated his heroics from Southampton in 2013 which saw him post 189* against England? What if Henry Nicholls carried over his 2018 Test form and converted his 55 into a hundred? What if the Lord’s pitch offered no seam movement for the English bowlers? What if Chris Woakes’ delivery hadn’t nipped back and trapped Guptill in front?
What if Kane Williamson had one final floury to end his glorious campaign? What if England never reviewed the Williamson caught behind decision that was eventually overturned? What if Nicholls’ thick inside-edge off Liam Plunkett went to the fence instead of shattering the stumps? What if the on-field umpire adjudged Ross Taylor not out? What if Guptill hadn’t wasted his review? What if Jimmy Neesham’s on-drive cleared the head of Joe Root at mid-on by an inch?
What if Colin de Grandhomme connected the hundreds of pull shots he was missing off the bowling of Archer? What if Tom Latham’s miscued chip fell short of James Vince at mid-off? What if Mitchell Santner had hit the free hit off Woakes for six? What if Matt Henry connected Jofra Archer’s full toss instead of missing it? What if Santer had collected a single off the last ball instead of ducking it?
What if Marais Erasmus ruled Jason Roy out LBW in the very first ball? What if hawk-eye showed three reds instead of umpire’s call? What if Matt Henry repeated his heroics from the semi-final and knocked over the top three for one run each? What if Boult trapped Root the same way Starc trapped him in the group stages? What if New Zealand opened with Santner and got Jonny Bairstow out in the first over, just like South Africa did? What if Bairstow hadn’t recovered from his ankle injury he sustained in the semi-final?
What if de Grandhomme had taken the return catch of Bairstow? What if Lockie Ferguson struck in his very first over like he did against Australia and Pakistan? What if Eoin Morgan’s glaring weakness against the short ball came back to haunt him and he got bounced out once again? What if the blow that Morgan took on his helmet rattled him? What if Latham had lept and caught Ferguson’s bouncer which resulted in five wides?
What if Ben Stokes succumbed to the pressure created by de Grandhomme? What if Guptill, fielding at backward point, had plucked Jos Buttler’s cut shot out of thin air? What if hawk-eye showed Matt Henry’s review of Buttler hitting the leg stump? What if Buttler fell prey to the incoming delivery just like he did against Sri Lanka? What if Boult knocked over Stokes with a vicious inswinger just like how Starc did?
What if Liam Plunkett’s swat off Ferguson went straight to the fielder? What if Stokes and Plunkett hadn’t crossed over when Plunkett skied it to long-off? What if Boult had not taken a step back after he took the catch? What if the ropes were an inch further as Boult put his foot back? What if Boult passed the ball to Guptill before he stepped on the ropes?
What if Stokes’ slog-sweep in the last over went straight to deep mid-wicket? What if Guptill’s throw hit the stumps and not the bat of Stokes? What if Stokes never dove as Guptill threw the ball? What if Guptill had thrown the ball to the non-strikers’ end? What if de Grandhomme prevented the ball from going to the boundary after the deflection? What if the umpires had signalled five runs instead of six, for the deflection? What if the rules stated that overthrows off deflection were not to be counted?
What if the Kiwis had run out Stokes instead of Adil Rashid on the penultimate ball? What if Boult nailed an inch-perfect yorker on the final delivery? What if New Zealand had the mid-on fielder up the circle? What if Mark Wood was run out while trying to take the first run and not the second? What if Stokes’ slash on the first ball of the super over hadn’t cleared the infield? What if his legs betrayed him and he hadn’t come back for a third? What if Ferguson’s desperate dive had stopped Stokes’ slog-sweep to cow corner from going to the boundary? What if Buttler found the fielder on the last delivery of Boult?
What if Neesham had connected Archer’s third ball just as clean as he connected the second one? What if he had not mistimed the short ball on the penultimate delivery of the Super Over? What if Guptill had hit his flick to either side of Roy? What if Guptill was hitting towards the longer boundary and not the shorter one? What if Guptill shanked the flick, and it had enabled him to buy an extra second to complete the second run? What if Roy’s throw was a poor one? What if Buttler failed to collect the ball cleanly before breaking the stumps? What if Guptill came up with a superhuman dive to reach the crease on time? What if the tie-breaker for the super over wasn’t the number of boundaries hit? What if the Kiwi batsmen ended up hitting more boundaries than England?
What if New Zealand had won the World Cup?