As Jimmy Neesham was desperately trying to hit his side to victory in the extraordinary late scenes during the World Cup final, his childhood coach died.
David Gordon passed away in hospital on Monday, moments after Neesham hit a booming six during the thrilling super over that couldn’t separate the Kiwis and England.
Gordon's daughters Leonie and Kimberley told the NZ Herald on Thursday that they thought their seriously-ill dad was hanging on just to see if the Kiwis could claim their first World Cup crown.
"Then Jimmy hit that big six in the Super Over and Dad just stopped breathing," Leonie said.
Neesham took to social media on Thursday with a tribute to Gordon, who served as his school teacher, coach and friend.
"Your love of this game was infectious, especially for those of us lucky enough to play under you," Neesham said.
Dave Gordon, my High School teacher, coach and friend. Your love of this game was infectious, especially for those of us lucky enough to play under you. How appropriate you held on until just after such a match. Hope you were proud. Thanks for everything. RIP— Jimmy Neesham (@JimmyNeesh) July 17, 2019
Thanks Jimmy, my sister and I were with Dad at the end, cheering for you and the team. He was so proud of you!— Leonie Gordon (@Leonie_Gordon) July 17, 2019
Gordon had coached Neesham and fellow NZ star Lockie Ferguson during a 25-year career at Auckland Grammar as a teacher and cricket and hockey coach.
He reportedly became seriously ill just five weeks ago, suffering from heart failure.
"He didn't see us not win - because we don't like to call it losing - but he would have been have been so proud of those boys," Leonie said.
Neesham said it was appropriate that Gordon held on until the match.
"Hope you were proud. Thanks for everything. RIP."
Jimmy Neesham's high school cricket coach died during World Cup Super Over https://t.co/t2iKP5aVw9— Saleem Khaliq (@saleemkhaliq) July 18, 2019
Very sad day. I had Mr Gordon as an English teacher back in 4th form (2014). He used to always say how proud of you he is and said one day you will be in the World Cup Final playing for your country. Rip Mr Gordon— James Lawrence (@jameslawrence53) July 17, 2019
He must have been proud of that six you hit and the way you have bounced back in life mate . To your friend ! .May he rest in peace— Yash Arora (@iamyarora) July 17, 2019
Sad to read this. After I moved to London I stayed in touch with him and used to catch up on occasional visits back. I will always remember Mr. Gordon for his generosity but also for sitting on his deckchair at squareleg somehow avoiding balls flying his way. Always w/ a smile.— Akshay Reddy (@Akshay_Reddy1) July 17, 2019
What a beautiful tribute. RIP.— Milo the 😼 (@Milo_Fluff) July 17, 2019
Sombre scenes as Kiwis return home
A group of rueful New Zealand players touched down on home soil on Thursday, still coming to terms with the gut-wrenching defeat.
Pace bowler Trent Boult was among six Black Caps players making a low-key homecoming at Auckland airport, soaking up commiserations from a few fans and well-wishers.
The left-armer was still haunted by the deflection off Ben Stokes's bat in the 50th over that raced to the boundary and helped send the final into a Super Over before England claimed the win on the total boundaries scored.
"It's natural to nitpick, to wonder about all those little things and how it could have been a totally different game," he told reporters at the airport.
"I've been living that last over in my mind a lot - somehow I got hit for six along the ground which has never happened before.
"To see the scores level (after the Super Over) and still lose, yeah, that was a pretty unique situation."
England's maiden World Cup title denied New Zealand their first but the class shown by Black Caps captain Kane Williamson and his players in defeat generated global acclaim.
NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she wanted to put on a home-coming celebration for the team but their different schedules and commitments put the idea on ice for the time being.
Boult said he was overwhelmed by the messages of support from the public.
"We've just been on a plane 15 hours and there were a lot of Kiwis saying 'we felt for you'," he said.
"I didn't really know what to say. Obviously, we're all hurting and we're sorry for letting everyone down.
"I just want to get home, walk my dog along the beach and try to forget about it but it's gonna be a hard one to swallow for the next couple of years."