Henry Nicholls gets unexpected reminder of World Cup pain ahead of Lord’s return

New Zealand batsman Henry Nicholls could barely believe his eyes when he flicked on his television at the start of a 72-hour quarantine in England only to be greeted by a rerun of the 2019 World Cup final.

The excruciating drama of that match, which ended with scores tied and was only settled by boundary countback after a super over, is fondly remembered in England but makes tougher viewing for those who were famously beaten by the barest of margins.

Nicholls, who top-scored for the Black Caps with 55 on the day, had been looking for some light entertainment as he wiled away his isolation period at the Ageas Bowl, but instead found himself taken back to events at Lord’s almost two years ago.

“I actually hadn’t really thought about that game for a while and then the first day we arrived here I turned on the cricket channel and there was a replay on,” he told the PA news agency.

England celebrate their World Cup final win over New Zealand at Lord's
England celebrate their World Cup final win over New Zealand at Lord’s (Nick Potts/PA).

“I don’t know if that was staged or if it was psychological warfare, but I’m sure we’d have been doing the same!

“It’s a funny one to think about. You always think where you could have scored an extra run or saved a run in the field. But as a group we did everything we could do and we’re proud. It was a two-month journey, we went so close but we didn’t win.

“What a game of cricket that was and for it to be the World Cup final was just incredible. It’s certainly an easy conversation starter with anyone I meet around the world for the rest of my life.”

Shortly after their heart-breaking loss, New Zealand rallied themselves with the goal of exorcising their demons by winning the inaugural World Test Championship back at the home of cricket.

They did their part of the bargain, finishing second in the points table to set up a meeting with India, but Lord’s was replaced as host by the Ageas Bowl due to Covid-19 and the need for a fully secure bubble.

Instead, New Zealand will play the first of two Tests against England at the historic venue from June 2.

“For different guys I’m sure there will be different levels of emotion about going back,” he said.

“It was spoken about just after the World Cup when we found ourselves playing a series in Sri Lanka. There was that knowledge that the Test championship final was going to be Lord’s and of how nice it could be in two years to go back there and win a title.

“Obviously that isn’t going to happen at Lord’s, but the fact we get to play a Test match there against England is really exciting. As a young cricketer growing up it has that mystique about it. It will be nice to come and play there again,, but it’s a completely different format and a completely different team. There is significance going back there for us, but we know it’s a lot different to righting any wrongs we had there last time.”

Nicholls arrived in England with a rich vein of red-ball form, hitting a career-best 174 against the West Indies in December followed by 157 versus Pakistan to usher in the new year.

Another three-figure effort in his next attempt would see him earn a place on the illustrious Lord’s honours board and give him some happier memories of the place.

“That would be awesome. It’s really cool to go there, look at the names and see a few Kiwis up there,” he said.

“You think how special it would be to have your own name up there.”