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How ‘luck of the Irish’ and ‘Allah’ inspired England’s World Cup win

Posted at 6:28 AM, Jul 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-15 11:31:51-04

As the ball hit the stumps and the bails came hurtling down, they all set off in different directions.

There was pandemonium in the stands, with thousands jumping to their feet, while those in England blue ran across the field as if they were not fully in control of their own limbs.

The sight of England’s cricketers, seemingly each taking their own celebratory journey before coming together as a group, could scarcely be more apt.

At a time where the country remains divided amid political turmoil and racism remains very much in the headlines, this England side provided a welcome chance to allow a nation to join together and celebrate sporting success

Rarely does cricket have the opportunity to transcend sport, with the might of the Premier League and the Champions League often dominating the media narrative.

And yet, on a day where the British Grand Prix was taking place at Silverstone and Novak Djokovic was defying Roger Federer on Centre Court, it somehow found a way.

Key to that, was not just the dramatic way England won — just thinking about it leads to bouts of breathlessness — but also because of the way this English team had bridged divisions, how it appeals to so many different communities across the country.

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There’s Eoin Morgan, the England captain, born in Ireland to an English mother, who could scarcely have been prouder of his team as he shared an anecdote between himself and spin bowler Adil Rashid, one of the two British-born Muslim players in the squad.

“We had Allah with us,” Morgan told reporters with a wry smile after being asked whether he was blessed with the “luck of the Irish.”

“I spoke to Adil and he said Allah was definitely with us. I said we had the rub of the green,” added the England captain.

“It actually epitomizes our team. It has quite diverse backgrounds and cultures, guys growing up in different countries and are at the stage in their career where they actually find humor in the situation we were in at the time was pretty cool.”

Rashid and Moeen Ali, both of Pakistani heritage are at the very heart of this England squad. Nowhere is that better illustrated than the respect shown towards the pair by their teammates upon winning the World Cup.

Aware that both men are observant Muslims and do not drink alcohol, the squad celebrated without champagne before allowing the pair to walk away before the traditional uncorking ceremonial splash down.

Much of this England victory was owed to those born outside of the country who have made this their home.

Ben Stokes, born in New Zealand before moving to the UK as a 12-year-old, will no doubt go down in history for his performance in helping England snatch victory from all but certain defeat. Stokes’ Dad has even joked that he’s now the most hated father in New Zealand.

The 28-year-old Stokes’ unbeaten 84, which included that hugely controversial moment when a fielder’s throw hit his bat before racing to the boundary, will be played over and over again for years to come.

So too will the contribution of Jofra Archer, the 24-year-old fast bowler born in Barbados, now playing for his father’s country of birth. Archer, one of the most exciting exponents of fast bowling of the game, has the potential to be one of the best England has ever had.

He, like Stokes, is a player that makes you want to pick up a bat and ball, walk to the park, and pretend, at least for five minutes, that you can be a world beater too.

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Jason Roy, who will no doubt also inspire many a young child in the playground with his powerful batting at the top of the order, was born in Durban, South Africa, before moving to the UK as a child.

Like many workplaces, this England set up is a truly international one, reaching beyond the cultural divide. Led by an Australian coach in Trevor Bayliss, it arguably provides a reminder of the benefits of inclusion.

Though on Twitter, in the aftermath of England’s victory, Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative MP and leading Brexiteer, tweeted that the victory meant, “we clearly don’t need Europe to win.”

That tweet was widely criticized for misjudging the national mood.

Legacy

Before a ball had been bowled, before a bat had been raised, Morgan had been clear about what he hoped his team would achieve at the World Cup.

Yes, he wanted England to win. Of course, that was obvious. England had never in 44 years of the competition managed to win the Cricket World Cup. It had not reached a final for 27 years.

But Morgan, was also keen to stress that this was not just solely about winning. It was about inspiring the next generation.

Turn on the radio, open a newspaper or just scroll through social media, and it becomes instantly obvious that Morgan and his side has achieved just that.

Radio phone-ins were besieged with parents retelling stories of how their children, who had never watched cricket before, ran around the house in celebration while chanting the names of Stokes and Archer.

One caller to the BBC retold the story of how he watched the game unfold with his son and when England finally secured victory, his boy turned to him and said: “I want Ben Stokes to be my dad.”

Online, the demand for cricket was insatiable. According to the BBC, its live blog for the Cricket World Cup final received an astonishing 39.7 million views, the highest the website has received across news and sport this year.

In print, the coverage was as one would expect on such occasion.

The faces of the England players adorned the front and back pages. Special souvenir editions of pullouts were printed, wrap around front covers marking the moment Jos Buttler knocked the bails off to win the tie greeted readers of The Times on Monday morning.

In London’s Trafalgar Square, thousands gathered to watch events unfold in front of the big screen with the winning moment bringing pandemonium to the center of the city.

“The bigger picture for us is coming into the World Cup, though it’s very easy to say, was that cricket had a great opportunity to try and inspire a nation, grab new fans and have existing fans fall love in the game even more,” Buttler told the BBC Monday.

“With the game being free-to-air I hope so many people around the country watched it. And I’m sure people who had never even watched cricket before, when they heard something called a super over was going may have even switched on.”

Switched on and turned on at the prospect of an Ashes series, the great Test cricket rivalry between England and Australia to come next month, the British public will now expect more success.

For England, and for cricket, the time is now. Another legacy awaits. It will never have a better opportunity to inspire the next generation