Andy Richardson: Hold on to once in a lifetime memories of Super Sunday
There’s an embarrassment of riches to enjoy when tomorrow comes. Silkeborg IF are hosting AC Horsens in the Danish Superliga, Hull Kingston Rovers will welcome Huddersfield Giants in the Rugby Super League and Birmingham Bears will look to beat Leicester in the North Group of the T20 Blast.
Okay, so there are more exciting fixtures than that: Golf’s Open is at Portrush, England Women will be playing the mighty Australia Women in a Test at Taunton and the Muller Anniversary Games will bring some of the world’s best athletes to London’s Olympic Stadium.
But nothing will compare to the sports fest of Super Sunday. Lewis Hamilton raced to immortality with his sixth British Grand Prix win, Fed and Djok battled it out for Wimbledon supremacy at SW19 and England enjoyed cricket’s greatest ever victory as they lifted the World Cup after a Champagne Super Over. Six days on and sports fans are still drawing breath.
Choosing which sport to watch last weekend was a little like taking a fiancé to Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, handing over five credit cards with no upper limit and telling them to take a look and buy anything they liked. Spoiled for choice doesn’t come close.
Hamilton is a rarefied genius who has become one of F1’s true greats, though I steered clear of a sport that’s decided by engineers at a factory in Brackley. And as much as I love deliveries from the Fed Express, the tussle between Switzerland’s finest and the steely Djok was not for me. Both men are fighting to be considered the GOAT; or Greatest Of All Time. In a parallel university, I kinda like the idea that they’re actually battling to become a literal goat so that they could bite and butt to their hearts’ desire on some lush mountain. Everyone loves a little antler-on-antler action; sometimes, being stuck in a rut ain’t so bad.
The third choice, cricket’s World Cup, had it all; ebb and flow, great sportsmanship and agony and ecstasy. There was redemption too for the man who played the leading role. Ben Stokes was looking at the ruination of his career not so long ago after being videoed clocking a man outside a nightclub. Though versions of what led to the conflagration varied, the footage was damning.
Since being cleared in court of criminality, Stokes has kept a low profile; he’s been a shell of the swashbuckling, tour de force who smashed the fastest ever test score of 250+ in his historic 2016 demolition of South Africa. That innings, however, didn’t come close to matching his brilliance at Lord’s. Of the 22 brilliant men on the field, Stokes stood apart. He withstood every punch that the New Zealanders threw at him. At times towards the end of the match, he spent more time on his knees that he did upright; the New Zealand pace attack used him as a human skittle.
Stokes made his own luck, refused to yield and focusing on one goal: victory. He was the embodiment of Churchill’s oft-quoted maxim to never, never, never give up. Without his heroic efforts, England would have continued their 44-year wait to be crowned World Champions. And yet Stokes refused to budge. He didn’t know when the game was up. He refused to be beaten. And though the world’s most sporting and determined team – New Zealand are the acme of firm but fair – pounded the castle walls, Stokes endured.
He reminded us why so many millions love sport. Courage and valour, Boy’s Own derring-do, superhuman acts of resilience and skill; all featured during a pulsating evening at the world’s greatest cricket ground. A museum synonymous with grace and the passage of time was turned into the most exciting place on the planet. Stokes was indomitable.
Stokes was part of a bigger machine. The architect of England’s World Cup win was a now-bald administrator, Andrew Strauss, who bravely demanded change after England’s capitulation to Bangladesh four years earlier. With his trusty captain, Eoin Morgan, and coaching teach of Trevor Bayliss and Paul Farbrace, he overhauled the game. Fearlessness and positivity became the buzz words. And England underwent transformative change. And yet, for all of the support and vision provided by Strauss et al, it was up to the heroes to perform once on the pitch. Stokes – and 10 others – did precisely that. And for the next four years, England will be reigning World Champions.
Like I say, it’s been six days since our victory and I’m still breathless. It’ll be many years since we enjoy a Super Sunday of that nature. Such events come along once in a generation: England’s World Cup of ’66, Botham’s Ashes of ’81, the Rugby World Cup of ’03, the London Olympics Super Saturday of ’12. Mind you, Ural are playing Akhmat Grozny tomorrow in the Russian Premier League, so all’s not lost.