The moment that won England the 2019 World Cup
© Getty Images

I Was There

'We're gonna win. You're gonna win. We're gonna win': how New Zealand all but took the 2019 World Cup title

Ian Smith, Lockie Ferguson, Ross Taylor and Shane Jurgensen look back at probably the greatest ODI ever

Interviews by Alagappan Muthu and Deivarayan Muthu  |  

Ross Taylor, New Zealand batter and former captain: I can only imagine how many games of cricket I've played and I've never seen that happen.

Lockie Ferguson, New Zealand fast bowler: I forget how long we were out there, but it felt it was longer than the two-day semi-final.

Ian Smith, Former New Zealand wicketkeeper; commentator: There were things that happened that you would never have imagined. Maybe once or twice in your career, but all on the same day?

Shane Jurgensen, New Zealand assistant coach; former fast bowler: Thought I'd get over it, but you don't. It brings it all up once again and it's bubbling away.

The greatest ever game of one-day cricket took place in July 2019, when New Zealand met England in the World Cup final. These four men were there that day - the veteran, the rookie, the commentator and the coach. Let them tell you a story you had to see to believe.

Ross Taylor gets some practice in before the start of play in the final

Ross Taylor gets some practice in before the start of play in the final © IDI via Getty Images

Smith: I was optimistic, really, that New Zealand, because they had a lot of players involved in that final at the MCG, they could carry on, would've learned from that. They always say that to win a big final you have to have lost one first, and they did certainly do that in 2015.

The night before, I was pretty relaxed. I was with my great commentary mate Simon Doull. Brendon McCullum had flown all the way out to England because he had promised that if New Zealand made the final, having gone home, he'd come back. So we had a quiet little drink and a quiet little chat about it and we felt pretty good.

We always talk about 2015 with Brendon when he gets a bit chirpy. We always remind him of that first over from Mitchell Starc.

But moving on…

Smith: We felt like we had enough match-winners in our group to match what England had. You know, when you had the likes of a [Kane] Williamson and a Taylor and a [Trent] Boult, these important players who had been there and done that, it's quite an advantage. And, you know, England hadn't won either. So we started off on a pretty even keel.

A match like this means many things to many people. To some, it was a second chance. To others, it was a mark of how far they had come.

Ferguson: There were certainly a few times where we sort of pinched ourselves, and in fact, Jimmy Neesham was the one to say: "Hey, remember not too long ago, we were just playing for Auckland Grammar and trying our best to win games for Auckland Grammar, and here we are, playing together in a World Cup in front of sellout crowds?"

Stand up to be counted: New Zealand prided themselves on how all their players made contributions right through the tournament

Stand up to be counted: New Zealand prided themselves on how all their players made contributions right through the tournament © Getty Images

I know we had some success in the previous World Cup, which definitely paved the way for us as a team in terms of the culture we had. But to front up four years later once again and almost go one step further… To front up again and play in a country that's not our home country and perform just as well was very rewarding. I didn't even know if I was going to be starting. I was just happy to be in the squad.

July 14. The Home of Cricket. It's time.

Smith: Very busy, the morning of any cricket match. But a World Cup final is slightly different because there's every form of media from the world. Everyone wants a little slice of the action. I mean, you walk across the road from the hotel to Lord's and it's literally a five-minute walk to the commentary box, but they're saying you've got to get in two hours before the game starts and you go, "What?!" And they said, don't worry, there's plenty to do. And they were right because before I knew it, it was time for the toss and the game was about to start.

It's everyone doing everything and everyone, of course, wants to get it absolutely right. Because this isn't rehearsal. This is going to millions upon millions of people around the world and you don't want to get it wrong, and that's when you realise, even if you've been a commentator for as long as I have, that there's a special edge to this day. You're about to present the biggest show in town.

You notice it from producers. You notice it from fellow commentators. You can hear it in the director's voice. You can see the cameramen. Everyone wants to get that perfect shot and everyone wants to talk about it. It's the pinnacle from a commentary point of view. It's the best.

New Zealand make 241 for 8. At the time England had a habit of scoring about twice as many in 50 overs. They were going to walk it, except… you know those hallways in the movies that just keep going and going, with the end forever out of reach? As hard as both teams tried to get to that finish line, it kept eluding them.

Return of the Mack: Brendon McCullum joined his former team-mates at practice on the eve of the game

Return of the Mack: Brendon McCullum joined his former team-mates at practice on the eve of the game Dibyangshu Sarkar / © AFP/Getty Images

Taylor: I think we wanted 250 - that was the sort of total we wanted. Jofra Archer bowled very well, and we probably felt we were ten short. But with runs on the board in a World Cup final, we knew it meant something. We knew we didn't have enough in 2015 - 183 was never going to be enough, but 241 on a wicket that had a bit of tinge to it, and with clouds rolling in, we knew we had a chance.

Unlike in most other sports, the outcome of a cricket match is intricately woven into the conditions in which it is played. A few overs' sunshine at the start of the chase might have broken the contest. Instead, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow walked out to overcast skies and prepared to face perhaps the best left-arm swing bowler since Wasim Akram.

Ferguson: Boulty leads with his actions, with his bowling. He's obviously a character off the park. He laughs and jokes around, but with the ball in hand, he's all focus and he is clutch. So he's certainly a guy we take a lot of confidence from as a bowling unit, and someone we definitely listen to when it comes to making plans and understanding where we are at in a game. When we're trying to make a play, he gives us that confidence, and when it's not going right, he tells us to keep at it and keep building the pressure. So the invaluable experience that he brings is amazing.

Taylor: We knew we had to get off to a good start, and obviously Boulty trapped Roy first ball, but Marais [Erasmus] didn't put his finger up, and we reviewed it. It had some chunk of the ball hitting leg stump, but it wasn't to be.

That may well have been sliding-doors moment No. 1.

Jurgensen: I was sort of walking around the boundary and talking to some bowlers. Colin de Grandhomme came on and he really put the brakes on the England innings and got Joe Root out. The small New Zealand contingent in the crowd was really getting behind every dot ball and the atmosphere really started to take off.

Here comes the cavalry: Bairstow and Roy walk out for the chase

Here comes the cavalry: Bairstow and Roy walk out for the chase Gareth Copley / © ICC/Getty Images

England were 86 for 4. Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler put on a momentum-shifting 110 run partnership. New Zealand needed a wicket. Ferguson, during the course of a six-over spell at the death, provided two in three balls. When England were 203 for 6 in the 47th, dreams once far away for New Zealand began to take discernible shape.

Ferguson: It was nice to contribute and get that double bang and bring us back in it. You can look at plenty of individual moments, but I think as the whole, the team is the key. Every game, someone different was stepping up for us, coming in at the clutch and making a big-game play, and we weren't just reliant on one or two players. We pride ourselves on that, so even that final is a good example of almost no standout performances and everyone making a serious contribution. A lot to be proud of.

Sliding-doors moment No. 2. Boult treads on the boundary rope while taking a catch that would have dismissed Stokes and left England needing 22 runs from eight balls with only Nos. 9, 10 and 11 left.

And sliding-doors moment No. 3. Having survived that chance, Stokes hits a six, fourth ball of the 50th over, all along the ground, because a throw from Martin Guptill from deep midwicket pings off his bat and goes for four.

Jurgensen: The thing that I remember in the main game was, they needed 15 off four. Fifteen off four is a real trigger for me these days. Every time it's 15 off four, a friendly reminder: you're never out of it. And then 15 off four became three off two after the knock-on off Stokes' bat. That deflection actually came down our way in the dressing room. We were just going, "Oh no!"

Smith: I've seen it happen a number of times where it's deflected off batsmen running through. I've seen it hit the bat before, and in most of those situations, the runners don't take the extra run and say, "Okay, it's off me." I'd never seen one in that situation go all the way to the boundary. And this is going up the hill, you know. Lord's is uphill-downhill. So this is running up the hill and you're thinking, well, this is going to run out of gas, surely. It actually got away from Colin de Grandhomme as he was chasing. It was almost like it sped up. And you think to yourself, "This is just not gonna be our day, is it?" I mean, this is defying gravity here.

Trent Boult nearly had Jason Roy twice in his first three balls, hitting him in front the first ball and then nearly squeezing one under his bat

Trent Boult nearly had Jason Roy twice in his first three balls, hitting him in front the first ball and then nearly squeezing one under his bat © Getty Images

Taylor: I was behind the stumps, and for a split second you go, "This could hit him", and then it hits his bat and I can only imagine how many games of cricket I've played and I've never seen that happen. I've sort of seen it hit the bat and deflect, but someone normally stops it. This one seemed to just keep going to the boundary, and that just happened to be in a World Cup final and in the last over….

Smith: I looked at Ben Stokes' reactions because quite often you can tell by looking at players' reactions what's going on out in the middle, and I could see that he was none too happy about it. He was none too proud to take the run. So there was a reluctance there and there was a look of amazement among some of the New Zealanders because they hadn't seen it before either, let alone had it happen to them.

Ferguson: That has never happened to me in a game of cricket and it hasn't happened to me since. So for that to happen at that point in a final, probably it was more funny than anything else. What can you really say about it?

Stokesy wasn't looking to hit the ball with his bat. It was just unfortunate. I was also chasing after the ball with Dutchie [de Grandhomme] and I didn't know what would happen to the score either. Kane was obviously very good in the moment, being, "Okay, we've been dealt a bad card, but what do we do next?" There no point arguing or trying to change it, we can only focus on the next ball and try to do that better.

As a testament to Kane's leadership with the group - and he's always not super outspoken; he leads with his actions more than his words - but in those moments he stands up and pulls the group together, and he made sure that we focused on the next ball.

The age of beige: a New Zealand fan in vintage colours in the stands

The age of beige: a New Zealand fan in vintage colours in the stands © Getty Images

Williamson, at the Oxford Union in October 2019: Before the game, we sat down at the edge of the block at Lord's and we spoke about our previous experiences at the last World Cup and how we wanted to normalise the experience as much as we could.

We remembered that at the last World Cup, people were quite nervous, and in this one we thought we are going to make a conscious effort to make sure there's lots of banter on the bus and to make sure the guys at the back are playing cards and gambling away. It was a big effort to try and treat it in that way, despite everybody being fully aware that it wasn't just another game.

We wanted to remove the idea of playing the perfect game and just go, "Right, how we do get into the fight and how do we go through these different feelings? There's going to be times where we are under a bit of pressure and we're going to have to fight our way, and let's expect all these things, so when they happen, it's not a shock and we don't see the World Cup slipping away when we never had it in the first place."

And then when we come to the end of the game (laughs), it was kind of like: "What just happened?!" (scratching his head).

England had dedicated the last four years to winning the trophy. They were hopeless in 2015, dumped out with a group-stage game still remaining. Eoin Morgan then convinced everyone to sever ties with the old ways. He led the revolution against an unseen, all-powerful enemy: second thought.

McCullum has that same charisma. In 2015, he got all of New Zealand to come together, telling the team it was the greatest time of their lives. They got to the final by winning a game that, at the time, rivalled the best there had ever been. They were unstoppable. Even undeniable. But they were breakable. Australia broke them with one ball at the MCG in 2015. England, an umpiring error and cartoonishly bad luck couldn't at Lord's.

Video game: impossibly, the ball pinged off the back of Stokes' bat and went to the boundary in the last over

Video game: impossibly, the ball pinged off the back of Stokes' bat and went to the boundary in the last over Tom Jenkins / © Getty Images

Three off two. Stokes vs Boult. Yorker. Squeezed to long-off. They try to sneak two. Adil Rashid is run-out. Two off one. Stokes vs Boult again. Yorker again. Only, he overpitches. And Stokes - this is his genius - he doesn't slog. Even under that much pressure, he is clear-headed enough to realise that if he could just make contact and run like the wind…

The ball goes to long-on this time. Neesham is there. The throw comes in to Boult. He gathers it, breaks the stumps and runs Mark Wood out. It's a tie. After 12 editions, 444 matches and nearly half a century, the cricket World Cup has its first ever tied final

Jurgensen: It's embarrassing (laughs), but I actually thought for some reason that the result goes back to pool play. England beat us at Durham. I didn't know there would be a Super Over, and then Gary [Stead] was next to me and said it's a Super Over if there's a tie. That's why I was the assistant coach and not the head coach at the time. All those minor details. (laughs)

Smith: At the end, I was working with Nasser Hussain and Ian Bishop. Bish, of course, was neutral. We call him the Judge because he's always a considered option. And then you've got Nasser, who, you know, he's captained England. His heart and soul is in English cricket. I'm a Kiwi guy. Nasser's "This is so special for England. Special for New Zealand as well." "We're gonna win. You're gonna win. We're gonna win. You're gonna win." But then you miss the story.

And the commentary box was very full, right? It was a very big commentary box but people wanted to be there and it was the best view in town. You've got bosses coming in, you know. They're all in there. They want to be there at the spot when they see this unfold. So it was actually… I mean, you could have sold tickets and got a good price for them.

I've got Brendon McCullum just sitting on my right shoulder, just out of shot so you can't see him, and he is living and living this moment, having gone through 2015. He knows all these guys very well. He's just been playing with them, and all of a sudden I'm looking at him out of the side of my eye and he's going, "We've got this. We've got this. We've got this." I'm looking back saying, "I'm not sure. We haven't won one yet." And all this kind of banter is going on. And he's pushing Nasser, saying, "Hard luck, pal. Hard luck, pal."

Williamson addresses the troops before the start of the Super Over

Williamson addresses the troops before the start of the Super Over Michael Steele / © Getty Images

July 14. 7pm. The Home of Cricket All Things Bonkers. England are going out to bat again. Boult's been waiting for them.

Jurgensen: It was always going to him to bowl the Super Over. So there wasn't too much chat. Our job then was more about making sure you back the player, give him the confidence that he needs and just trust all the work he's done. I think that was probably the chat we had. It was about us trying to make him calm, as calm as he can be, and to have that clarity before he goes to do what he's going to do.

Sometimes in the Super Over, you sort of almost need to potentially have a visual of what the most likely shot the batsman is going to play is and try and at least limit those options. So we were trying to get Stokes, in particular, to hit through the off side. The end where Stokes was batting, he was looking to target that shorter leg side, but also the side that was downhill, which is a normal trend for batting at Lord's. I think just looking to apply pressure and make him hit through the off side.

Stokes and Buttler get runs off every single ball of a Super Over full of attempted yorkers, including two fours, a three and a two. New Zealand are up against it, again, and they refuse to panic, again.

Williamson: I was padded up. We were just weighing up the [batting] order and obviously when England got 15 or something. What was that - 15? Yeah, I know exactly what it was (laughs). When that happened, we knew it was a short boundary one side and we needed a left-hander and all these sorts of things, and so that was what was going through our mind. We still had so much belief in the camp to achieve it within that Super Over.

Neesham was actually infected with belief. The man had been close to giving up. And then these guys came with their kind words and understanding and camaraderie and yanked him out of the peace and quiet he had chosen for himself and shoved him back onto the biggest stage of all with history itself hanging in the balance.

Jimmy Neesham faced six of seven balls bowled in the Super Over and got 14 runs off them

Jimmy Neesham faced six of seven balls bowled in the Super Over and got 14 runs off them Glyn Kirk / © AFP/Getty Images

Neesham, on the Follow Through with LVB podcast in May 2020: I said to Martin Guptill before we went out [about how] we used to play club cricket together back at Auckland in 2008-09, 2010. From club cricket to Lord's Super Over: how good is life? We sort of had a laugh and went out and I didn't feel any pressure at all, to be fair. Obviously it's a big moment and there's a lot of people around - and a few million watching on TV - but I think that's one of the things I worked on so much during the off season - to be able to handle pressure and be able to handle those situations.

So it almost felt like this is the reason I did it all. I'd much rather be here than playing club cricket or working a normal job because all those hours that I'd put into mental conditioning and self-belief and all those sorts of things that people waffle on about. What better way to display those attributes than right now and right here?

Jofra Archer starts with a wide. And then gets smashed out of the ground.

Neesham: I remember hitting a six and sort of glove-punching Gup and walking back to my mark, and I think I smiled. I was smiling because I was looking around at the crowd and at the stadium and going: "How good is this?" Everyone is on their feet - 27,000 people or however many were there - everyone was screaming. I sort of took a moment to look around and go: this is the reason we play the game.

Archer's team-mates calm his nerves and that allows his class to shine through. He gives only five runs off the next three balls. New Zealand now need two off one. Guptill is on strike. He hasn't had a great tournament, but without him his team wouldn't be here.

Taylor: I just said "Good luck" to both batters. And Guptill was just getting some confidence after that Dhoni run out [in the semi-final]...

The last last ball: Guptill falls short, run-out by Buttler

The last last ball: Guptill falls short, run-out by Buttler Tom Jenkins / © Getty Images

Jurgensen: I was in the dressing room and couldn't get out on the balcony in the Super Over. Felt like there were 20 people there! So I was sitting close to one of the windows and I was sort of leaning over a couple of boys' shoulders, and the thing I remember to this day was when Guppy was on strike was everybody yelling: "Come on Gup! Come on Gup!" It actually haunts me to this day. I've never seen a whole group of people just come together for just one ball for one guy, wishing him all the best.

Everyone getting behind Guppy - I'd imagine that would be the case for all teams - but it was really a testament to the character of our guys.

Guptill squeezes the final delivery out to deep midwicket. Jason Roy hurtles in. The throw is to the keeper. Buttler KOs the stumps. It's all over. New Zealand 241 for 8 and 15 for 1. England 241 all out and 15 for 0. The tie-breaker is tied. Nothing can separate these teams. Well, almost nothing.

Taylor: Neesham batted very well, and for Guppy to be that man in the situation - I'd have backed him every day of the week. But, you know, Archer bowled very well and Roy did a good throw to Buttler. But at the same time, disappointed as a team, and disappointed for my team-mates and Guptill. But hopefully he's still proud of what he did in getting us there and doesn't put too much pressure on himself for that.

Jurgensen: Overall we had a fantastic tournament. That's what we have to look at in the end. You are part of something special in history, and it certainly reminds me, seeing all the footage today. I thought we'd gotten over it, but when we went there later to play the Lord's Test match, they started playing it on TV. All the guys were like: "Here we go again!"

The losers who weren't: Williamson, Boult and Co on the sidelines at the presentation ceremony

The losers who weren't: Williamson, Boult and Co on the sidelines at the presentation ceremony © Getty Images

The boundary-count rule wasn't sprung on New Zealand. It had always been there. Right from the start of the tournament. But it is telling, perhaps, that never again will a cricket match be decided by that rule. Now, if a tie follows a tie in a semi-final or final of an ICC tournament, they just keep playing until there's a clear winner.

Smith: It was a beautiful day in London. We could've played for another two hours to try and settle it. It was such a bizarre rule in the end that just feels a bit… cricket is a game of so many rules and so many little idiosyncrasies but it's hard to imagine that that was the fair result after what we'd witnessed all day, you know, and how a game of such magnitude and importance, when conditions were still perfect, could not have been won by the players as opposed to the rule book.

Williamson: It was obviously a shock, and I don't think any of the guys knew that [boundary count] was sort of a rule. And in fact, after regular time or after the normal game sort of finished, we were "What's happening now? Oh! It's a Super Over." There has never been a Super Over in one-day cricket, and okay, let's get stuck in, and so that was kind of the space that we were in. When that [boundary count] happened, you just had two choices really - laugh or cry - and I'm glad I didn't choose to cry!

Imagine if the shot from Luke's X wing hit a piece of debris and was spun off course. Or if Indy had to give up the Ark because he didn't get enough steps in. Imagine living with those stories ending that way.

Neesham: It's one of those things you wish you lost by 50, because if you lose by 50… Cricket is the sort of game where sometimes it doesn't go your way. You get to the World Cup final and you lose by 50 - it's sort of a respectable result and you sort of move on, but when it's so close and there are so many little moments where things could've gone either way, you sort of sit there after the game and go, "How did all seven of those 50-50 moments go against us on that day?"

Jurgensen: We were in the change room and there was just silence. All the doors were closed and guys were just sitting in their spots and the support staff were finding a chair. It would've been at least 20-30 minutes - or may not be that long - where people were actually going through the emotions, sitting in their spots in the dressing room and getting around the two guys that did their best in that Super Over.

Williamson's corner in the dressing room

Williamson's corner in the dressing room © Getty Images

Kane sort of came in post-media and he led the way and stood out and said: "That's cricket." I don't exactly remember what he said, but he surely led the way and just tried to give some perspective on how amazing that game of cricket was. I think later on, our family, fans, supporters came in, probably an hour after that.

England were the better side. They came into the World Cup with more wins. The only question mark there ever was about them was over their bowling, and that actually stood all the way up in the competition. They deserved to win. On the back of the work they put in in the lead-up, they deserved to win. On the day, though, this era-defining team faced a threat like no other and try as they might, they couldn't beat it.

New Zealand will get their hands on that trophy at some point. Maybe it'll happen as early as this November. Maybe it'll happen a little later. And when they do, it will belong to these guys too. To Guptill and Neesham and Taylor and Williamson and Boult and Smith and Ferguson and Jurgensen: 2015 inspired 2019; 2019 will inspire forever.

Ferguson: I remember in 2015, I was just a domestic player and I went to a few games. I actually went to the Aussie-New Zealand game at Eden Park, and I could see from the outside how much of an impact the Black Caps had on New Zealand as a nation. Many new fans and new kids wanted to play cricket, and so that was a pretty epic time for our country and cricket was growing quickly.

Fast-forward to 2019, when I came back [home], it was very similar. Going down to my club team, seeing how many kids were so excited to see the Black Caps and get their signatures and ask about the tournament and ask about the passion that was fed into our next generation. Even thinking back now, it gives you chills about how special that day was and how much of a big game that was for us. It was a perfect tournament, bar one run.

Alagappan and Deivarayan Muthu are sub-editors at ESPNcricinfo. Kane Williamson's and Jimmy Neesham's quotes are from previously published material and have been credited as such