4 of the most closely contested sports finals

The nail-biting end of the World Cup 2019 is one of many memorable tie-breakers in sporting events. Photo: AFP

Words and expressions and sentences to describe the 2019 Cricket World Final do not exist. You really would have to see it to believe what happened on July 14, 2019 at Lord’s.

We can only say that there were gaffes, drama, more drama, some more drama, then ecstasy and heartbreak but with a tinge of injustice.

It is being widely hailed as the greatest and even the most closely contested final ever played in any sport. While “greatest” is a subjective concept, “closely contested” can be worked out with logical reasoning.

To find out if Sunday’s final was indeed the most fiercely fought final, we decided to scour other sports for contenders.

Roddick-Federer Wimbledon final in 2009

The Swiss maestro Roger Federer breaks the tie to claim the 2009 title. Photo: AFP

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s 2008 meeting in Wimbledon final is widely considered tennis’ greatest final. But the final next year between Federer and Andy Roddick was even more closely fought. The match was tied two sets apiece at 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6. That’s 45 games over four sets. But the historic fifth set alone went on for 30 games with neither player in the mood to surrender. The break finally arrived for the Swiss maestro who edged the final set 16-14.

Warriors-Cavaliers Game 7 of NBA Finals in 2016

The one and a half  minute changed the Cavaliers fate. Photo: AFP

If a basketball monster had a face, it would be the Golden State Warriors’ 2016 team. Those who do not follow the NBA can understand the extent of the Warriors’ strength by this: their regular season record was 73-9 — better than even the legendary Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls’.

The Warriors took a 3-1 lead in the seven game series. No team had ever come back from 3-1 in any play-off series. LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers had other ideas. They erased the two-game deficit, levelled the series 3-3 before heading into the enemy’s own backyard for winner-takes-all Game 7.

Over the 48 minutes of the final, there were 20 lead changes and 11 tied scores. With just 1:50 left on the clock and scores level yet again, Kyrie Irving drilled one of the greatest three-pointers and put the Cavs ahead. Some clutch defending saw Steph Curry, the greatest shooter ever, miss a three-point shot as the Cavs hung on.

Liverpool-Milan Champions League final in 2005

The Reds seal their win after scoring on all penalties. Photo: AFP 

On one side were Cafu, Stam, Nesta, Maldini, Kaka, Pirlo, Shevchenko — the who’s who of greatest-evers. The other side’s starting left-back was Djimi Traore, which is all you need to know about the difference in the strength of the opponents.

Milan scored in the opening minute, scored two more to take a 3-0 lead into half-time. Game was over. The END.

No it wasn’t.

Traore and company took a 360-degree turn and staged an incredible comeback in the second half. To date we are convinced that Traore’s contribution of not screwing up anything was greater than whatever Steven Gerrard did. Long story short, the Reds scored thrice in seven minutes, leveled the tie at 3-3 before winning it all on penalties.

England-Australia Rugby World Cup final in 2003

The final minute of extra time saw the English to victory. Photo: AFP

Australia were the two-time champions, while England hadn’t won anything despite inventing the sport (where have we heard that before?). The game was being played on the enemy’s turf in Sydney. It was tied neck and neck, and need of the hour was an inspirational play to find the winner. It eventually came in the final minute of extra time off of the foot of England’s Jonny Wilkinson. The visitors broke the home team’s hearts and triumphed 17-20. 


The four candidates make a great case but the masterclass on Sunday tops it all. The sports world has never seen a final as closely fought and probably even as greatest as Cricket World Cup 2019's.