Tiebreakers at work
Inseparable competitors dug deep into rules to win their respective prizes
Dazzling performances were on display in London yesterday as the best of competitive sports was played out. England took on New Zealand in the Men's ICC World Cup 2019 final while world number one Novak Djokovic locked horns with Swiss Maestro Roger Federer in the Men's Wimbledon Championship match. Both Lords and Centre court of Wimbledon saw nail-biting competitiveness flow down the hour as the sun neared the horizon. For the world, two major sporting events witnessed a grand final as the weekend culminated in a roller coaster of entertainment. But London, the host to both events, had a lasting taste of exquisiteness as curtains fell on the exhaustive month-and-a-half long World Cup campaign. Great Britain had finally conquered the cup that has eluded them since its inception 44 years ago at the very ground where it was born. One can imagine the level of ecstasy as the most dramatic world cup match was witnessed by the world with the odds shifting on either side like a pendulum, throwing prefixed bets in disarray and trumping predictions in short periods almost incessantly. Cricket encapsulated a highly-unexpected championship finish yesterday as the showdown between Federer and Djokovic also found its place in one of the memorable Wimbledon, or rather Grand Slam, finals. To say that the game could have been finished in straight sets would be disrespectful of either player. In essence, both finals had one glaring thing in common which amidst the excitement might not have been the most conspicuous fact. Both finals were played till the penultimate extent as no scope was left beyond the point of distinction to regulate the games any further. Wimbledon marathon as many perceived, Djokovic and Federer pulled the game till the tiebreaker of the final set while England and New Zealand played 102 overs of cricket. In essence, the two tennis players and the two cricket teams were inseparable and that is what the world must have realised on Sunday. However, these finals demanded a winner nevertheless and hence, Novak Djokovic and England Cricket Team had the last laugh as London went into a frenzy.
Since rain was not as much a threat looming over the final match, considering the sizeable impact it already had over the prestigious ICC tournament, all eyes were glued to the toss. England wickets had a slightly favourable outcome when batting first, as the result analysis of matches showed, but it still was as much competitive. New Zealand had the better start, winning the toss and setting up a modest total of 241-8 in 50 overs. It was a day when the batsmen could not produce outstanding cricket but team effort drifted to build a total of 241. Nicholls's 55 of 77 was the highest individual score from Black Caps as Woakes and Plunkett registered high-demanding performances with good figures of 3/37 and 3/42. New Zealand managed 17 boundaries which was a relevant fact only for post-match analysis. Little did anyone knew it would become perhaps the most decisive factor. England came out to bat and even they experienced the occasional swing being offered by the wicket as hitters Roy, Bairstow, Root and Morgan fell in front of Kiwi pacers. The scenario was not as alarming as it was for India who were 24/4 after 10 overs but not very optimistic at 86/4 after 20 overs. And similar to India's final batting partnership that took the pitch to carry a fractured Indian dream all the way, the Three Lions found Stokes and Buttler as their final hope of the dream world cup chase. 24 overs and 110 runs of partnership saw England reach almost the periphery of their target yet the job remained undone and Buttler succumbed. But Stokes didn't. He carried England till the final over, where a dramatic deviation of fielder's throw inadvertently by Stokes bat gave England four runs on top of their two. The match went down to the last ball and England ended up losing its final wicket in the run-out with scores reaching a dramatic tie. Super Over proceedings went underway but a crucial fact from England's innings lingered–England had hit 26 boundaries in their pursuit of the target of 242. Even the Super Over couldn't separate the sides and the winner had to be decided by ICC rules which awarded the Cup to England on grounds of scoring more boundaries than New Zealand. England's day was made as New Zealand's heart shattered but it was the moment when one of the greatest debate over who won would spark off–England or both? By rules, England but a grand consensus believes that the Cup should have been shared. Both teams were desperate for their maiden World Cup, having eliminated heavyweights like India and Australia, and both demonstrated highly-competitive and indistinguishable performances. For a host of ex-players, commentators as well as fans, it should have gone to both but for rules that favoured the Three Lions.
At the same time, in the south-west part of the city, at the Centre Court of Wimbledon, Djokovic and Federer offered a scintillating match for the viewers. Djokovic won the first set which went to a tiebreaker courtesy of nail-biting competition from Federer. But Serbian managed to pull off the tiebreaker 7-5. Second Set was all Federer show with 6-1 in his favour. In the third set, Djokovic was yet again pushed by Federer to a tiebreaker which Federer lost again 7-4. But Federer capitalised on the fourth set winning 6-4 to bring the match into the final set. The final set, as the match had proceeded, was pegged to be toe-to-toe and it indeed was. At 6 games each, the final set was inconclusive, so the match continued. Federer by his magic wrist turns procured a breakpoint in the 8th game leading Djokovic by 8-7. Though Federer ended up losing the championship point twice as Djokovic caught up, amassing 5 straight points to equalise and lead the next game. Beyond four hours, the match went on till the tiebreaker as per modern tennis rules at the end of 12 games each. What many feared as a pattern on Federer's side when it came to tiebreakers came true. Djokovic thrashed Federer in the tiebreaker 7-3 to lift his fifth Wimbledon title while a tired and distraught Federer saw his ninth title fly past him. All of Federer's aces, significantly more than those of Djokovic, could not help the Swiss Maestro edge past Djokovic as the Siberian registered a hard-earned finish past the Wimbledon Champion. Sunday was the third time that Novak defeated Federer in a Wimbledon final. The first-ever fifth set tiebreaker at Wimbledon saw Djokovic prove why he is a threat in tiebreakers as he moved to 16 Grand Slam titles nearing Nadal (18) and Federer (20).
Both events drew the audience to the edge of their seats as anticipation filled the venues. But even that was second to the level of unprecedented matches we got to witness which made headlines in dailies worldwide. Several hearts sunk as many more revelled upon the culmination of perhaps one of a kind July Sunday. Morally, people feel that both Federer and Djokovic deserved the trophy which is the same for England and New Zealand. For their performance, resilience, passion, sportsmanship and undying spirit, they already made it to the hearts of billions and what remains are written down results for records. In a sense, the Wimbledon and the World Cup got to taste one of the most memorable finals ever to be played and London had every right to celebrate as the host to them, and also as the winner of their maiden Cricket World Cup!