West Indies batsman Carlos Brathwaite went down in a blaze of glory in Manchester and his post-match despair was supported by a touching moment of sportsmanship from the Black Caps.
In a truly phenomenal innings, the West Indies No 6 batsman fell literally centimetres short of one of the great cricketing comebacks – caught on the boundary with five runs needed for victory.
At 164-7, chasing 292 for victory, Brathwaite – the man with an ODI top score of 50 before tonight – smashed 101 off 82 balls, booming five sixes, each more stunning than the last.
The equation had been reduced to six from seven balls, when a short-of-a-length delivery was slapped towards the long-on boundary.
A roar went up from the expectant crowd. Trent Boult lined it up, feet perilously close to the rope. Tiptoeing on the boundary, he hauled it in with inches to spare – sending Brathwaite to his knees, and the Black Caps into ecstasy.
A number of the New Zealand players – led by Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson and Jimmy Neesham - broke from their celebratory huddle to console him with genuine warmth.
Braithwaite appreciated the gesture.
"The New Zealanders are some of the best people in the world, and I've been fortunate to share a dressing room or play against and socialise with them in franchise tournaments," he said. "So I'm good friends with a few of the boys, and it didn't mean much at that point in time, because I had just seen Boult take a catch and us losing, but in hindsight, it's good sportsmanship on their behalf – and I appreciated the mutual respect the opposition had."
Taylor said he felt sorry for Braithwaite as the West Indies 'probably deserved to win'.
"He batted outstandingly well, took his team out of a very tough situation, and you've got to feel for him. From our team point of view, we were elated, but at the end of the day you're a human as well, and you've got to feel sorry for him, he did a fantastic job and we all just said 'congratulations on a great knock, and keep your head held high – you did yourself and your country very proud."
The scene was reminiscent of the semifinal in the 2015 World Cup when Black Cap hero Grant Elliott made a wonderful gesture after hitting his famous match-winning six to take his team through to the finals.
Requiring 12 off the final over, Elliott hit a six against Dale Steyn on the penultimate delivery to win it for his team. The entire South African team were on the ground, shedding tears. So was Steyn, when Elliott extended his hand to the fast bowler who was lying on the pitch in despair, to offer him commiserations and a few words of encouragement after the loss.
The Alternative Commentary Collective are podcasting their way through the World Cup. Known for their unconventional sports analysis and off-kilter banter, the ACC have come to ask the tough questions. Here's the latest episode of 'The Agenda':
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