For West Indies supporters, the inquest will continue for some time after Saturday’s drama-filled, five-run loss to New Zealand in a contest widely considered the best of the 2019 ICC World Cup so far.
The day/night game at Old Trafford had appeared to be meandering to a straightforward victory for New Zealand when West Indies were 164-7 in reply to 291-8.
But on a rare day of sunshine and fairly clear skies so far in this English summer it was transformed into a riveting spectacle as West Indies all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite launched a breathtaking assault that dragged his team within a whisker of completing an incredible comeback.
But with West Indies 286-9 it all came down to his final hit, a muscular heave to long on from a James Neesham delivery — a hit that would have won the match had it gone for six. Instead, it was caught on the fence by Boult as West Indies fell five runs short.
And there was still an over outstanding.
As New Zealand players celebrated the escape, Brathwaite crumpled to his knees and non-striker Oshane Thomas squatted in distress. The pain of defeat was no doubt compounded by the sinking feeling Brathwaite had gambled and lost.
The argument that he could have gone for the single down the ground, kept the strike, and then finished the match in the final over will never die.
“My thinking was to still watch the ball, still react, and if it’s not a ball to get a six off to try to get a single. But if it came in my area I’d try to finish the game with that ball,” Brathwaite told journalists afterwards during the mixed zone.
“I wasn’t sure [it would go for six]. I thought I had enough bat on it, but I was just willing it to go up and up and up, and unfortunately it didn’t. It is what it is — a game of margins — and one or two yards more and we’d have been victorious tonight,” he added.
West Indies skipper Jason Holder defended Brathwaite’s decision-making, asserting that had it not been for the skill and execution shown by the big all-rounder they would not have got that close to the 292-run target.