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LAWRENCE BOOTH: 'The Greatest Game' can provide England added belief

LAWRENCE BOOTH: England were told ‘you win the semi-final, and you think you’ve won it’ by ex-coach Bayliss before World Cup success in new ‘The Greatest Game’ documentary… they could gain extra motivation watching it ahead of T20 showdown

  • Newly released film documents England’s beating of New Zealand in 2019 
  • Titled ‘The Greatest Game’ it documents the rise of each player to that moment
  • Increasingly the white ball side is shorn of those who played in the 2019 victory 
  • Messages within it remain ever-pertinent and it would provide some motivation

If England’s cricketers need extra motivation as they seek to become the first team to hold the one-day and T20 World Cups at the same time, they could do worse than watch The Greatest Game, a superb Sky Sports documentary about their unforgettable win over New Zealand in 2019.

With Mark Wood struggling for fitness, only four players from that impossibly tense day at Lord’s are likely to line up in Sunday’s T20 showdown with Pakistan in Melbourne: Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid and Chris Woakes.

But the film – the brainchild of the broadcaster and former Middlesex seamer Simon Hughes, and directed by Ashley Gething – will chime with everyone. It may even move them to tears.

Were Jos Buttler’s side to need any motivation for Sunday they’d be well placed to watch ‘The Greatest Game’ documentary

Central to the story are the sacrifices made by the players’ parents and childhood coaches. It’s almost enough to persuade you that all roads really did lead to one afternoon.

Jody Morgan, standing beside his son, Eoin, near their Dublin home, struggles to control his emotions as he reflects on life in a family ‘demented’ by cricket. ‘We’re proud beyond belief,’ he says, as his iceman offspring momentarily thaws.

In Barbados, Joelle Waithe – mother of Jofra Archer – admits she was ‘almost in tears’ when New Zealand’s Jimmy Neesham lifted her son for six in the super over. Soon after, she and Jofra pose joyfully with the trophy.

The documentary follows the players and their families on a day English cricket is unlikely to forget

Jason Roy speaks of being removed from his surfer’s upbringing in Durban because his parents wanted a fresh start in England. Rashid calls his commitment to Islam a ‘turning point in my life’. After that, ‘the cricket took care of itself’.

The film’s emphasis on diversity will doubtless infuriate some, but Morgan explains how he drew on it to ease tension as England took the field before the super over. When Buttler wondered if he had any spare shamrocks, Morgan turned to Rashid and asked: ‘Allah’s with us, isn’t he?’

The 2022 vintage retains its international flavour. Stokes was born in New Zealand, and Chris Jordan in Barbados, where the Welsh-born Phil Salt was raised. Both Rashid and his great friend Moeen Ali have Pakistani heritage. Though born in Northampton, Sam Curran grew up on the family farm in Zimbabwe.

Eoin Morgan – the now-departed captain – asked Buttler whether Allah was with them, in reference to Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali, two devout Muslims, being on the side

Morgan’s mantra from three years ago – ‘courage, unity, respect’ – remains pertinent.

So do the words of then coach Trevor Bayliss as England celebrated their semi-final win over his native Australia at Edgbaston. ‘I’ll tell you now why Australians think England don’t win finals,’ he tells a hushed dressing-room. ‘You win the semi-final, and you think you’ve won it.’

The film cuts to Stokes: ‘S***, yeah, good point.’ There’ll be no harm in reminding the players before they enter the MCG.

The Greatest Game is on Sky Sport’s cricket channel on Saturday and is also available on catch-up.

The film charts the importance of diversity to the 2019 side and how it aided their victory




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