How the impossible is becoming the norm in this glorious sporting year

Stunning win: Europe's Suzann Pettersen celebrates after winning her singles match against USA's Michelle Wie with a putt on the 18th to clinch the Solheim Cup.
Stunning win: Europe's Suzann Pettersen celebrates after winning her singles match against USA's Michelle Wie with a putt on the 18th to clinch the Solheim Cup.
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The clocks will have changed but will it be one of those ‘where were you’ moments on the morning of Saturday 
November 2?

That’s a date for your diary, six weeks from now, for it is rugby union’s World Cup final in Japan.

After an epic 2019 to date, featuring some unbelievable sporting finales, who would bet against Eddie Jones’s team lifting the Webb Ellis Cup at the International Stadium in Yokohama?

Now before you think I have been imbibing on the sake – yes, England’s 2003 triumph thanks to Jonny Wilkinson’s boot was the exception in a sport dominated by the Southern Hemisphere giants of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia – if the last few months have taught us anything, it is to expect the impossible.

Who would have predicted Tottenham and Liverpool – not even the best teams in England, after Manchester City won the Premier League title – would compete in the Champions League final?

Then there were two standout moments of the cricketing summer which will live long in the memory.

England went into this summer’s World Cup as hosts, but after being knocked out four years earlier at the group stages by Bangladesh, few had real confidence in Eoin Morgan’s team. Chasing New Zealand’s 241-8, England slumped to 86-4 in the final at Lord’s.

But Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler steadied the ship, although the Kiwis looked favourites until two breathtaking pieces of fortune went England’s way.

Who will forget how Trent Boult lost his bearings and stood on the boundary rope after catching Stokes deep in the field?

Then another boundary after a throw to the stumps rebounded off Stokes and headed for the rope.

That helped tie the contest, and not even a Super Over could divide the two teams, England crowned world champions due to having scored more boundaries.

If that was unexpected, then anybody at Headingley last month for the Ashes Test would admit England’s win to level the series at 1-1 was one of cricket’s greatest victories. It was that man Stokes who was the leading man once again.

Chasing an unlikely 359 to beat Australia, the game looked up when Stokes was joined by last man Jack Leach still 73 runs shy.

But the Durham star was not to be denied, his unbeaten 135 capturing the hearts of Headingley in scenes reminiscent of Botham and Willis in the Eighties.

Numbers though tell only half the story.

With 17 still needed, Stokes was somehow dropped by Marcus Harris, and Nathan Lyon incredibly fumbled the ball with Leach stranded down the wicket.

Stokes would also have been dismissed lbw, but the Aussies had already wasted their reviews, meaning Leach wrote himself into cricketing folklore with his now-famous single contribution.

In England, we are used to glorious failure, having waited for football ‘to come home’ ever since lifting the World Cup in 1966. You only have to go back to the last rugby union World Cup, when England earned the unwanted accolade of being the first solo host country to fail to reach the knockout stages after defeats to Wales and Australia.

But that cricketing double-header was a real jolt to our sporting compass.

The nation seemed to be split, between those waking up to the possibility that sporting glory was attainable, and the other camp just waiting for the next let-down.

So when the USA seemed set for a third Solheim Cup win against the best of Europe’s women golfers earlier this month, those in the latter group boasted smug ‘I told you so’ looks.

Leading 13.5 to 11.5, only needing half a point from the final three matches to reach the magic number of 14, the Americans were in confident mood.

But Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and England’s Bronte Law secured European wins, before a stunning comeback triumph from wild card Suzann Pettersen on the 18th hole completed a glorious home win, pictured.

Afterwards, Pettersen – the 38-year-old Swede who had played very little competitive golf since having a baby in 2017 – announced she was retiring.

We all understood that feeling. It was one of those glorious sporting moments when you realise, sport just simply does not get any better.

We have all experienced them. Wilkinson’s World Cup winner, Jess Ennis’s golden moment at the 2012 Olympics, or on a personal note, John Sheridan’s League Cup winner for Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley in 1991. I remember exactly where I was, just as I do when that magical moment came at Lord’s, Headingley and Gleneagles.

That is why I will be keeping my Saturday morning free on November 2, just hoping that 2019 really is the year of great sporting comebacks.