Hero Ben Stokes led history-making England to double glory as they beat Pakistan by five wickets with an over to spare in a nail-biting low-scoring thriller at the MCG in Sunday's Men's T20 World Cup final.
Jos Buttler’s sensational side became the first ever men's team to hold both the 50-over and 20-over World Cups at the same time as they added the short-format gong to their memorable 2019 triumph.
England’s phenomenal bowlers restricted Pakistan to 137 as the sublime Sam Curran impressed on the biggest stage with 3/12 whilst Adil Rashid and Chris Jordan took two wickets apiece.
Pakistan’s brilliant bowling attack reduced England to 45/3 inside the powerplay as semi-final heroes Buttler and Alex Hales were dismissed alongside Phil Salt.
But Stokes is a man built for the big occasions and he steered England to a first World T20 title since 2010 with his maiden T20i fifty.
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The Test captain has been at the forefront of England’s greatest moments in recent memory, famously leading them to World Cup glory in 2019.
And this was his redemption as he banished the agony of the 2016 final, when he got hit for four successive sixes in the final over, to land England another major title.
His ability to keep a cool head when the pressure is on is second to none. He single-handedly kept England in the event with his unbeaten 42 against Sri Lanka and he got his country over the line once again as he absorbed the game situation and finished with an unbeaten half-century.
When asked how it compares to 2019, Stokes said: “It’s been a good one.”
He added: “In finals, especially chasing you forget all the hard work that came first. To restrict them to 130, the bowlers have to take a lot of credit.
“With Ireland being so early in the competition we had to address it, we can’t carry baggage in tournaments. The best teams take it on the chin and move onto the next challenge. It’s been a pretty good evening.”
Player of the match Curran said: “I don’t think I should be getting this with the way Stokesy played. It’s a special occasion and we’re going to enjoy it.
“People question him, but there is no questioning him. He’s the man.”
This England limited-overs side have long been heralded as the best in the world and this is the icing on the cake after a seismic seven-year journey.
They overcame the heartache of losing to New Zealand in last year’s semi-finals and had to withstand many obstacles to be crowned deserved champions Down Under this time around.
Rain threatened to dampen English spirits in the final with the temperamental Melbourne weather set to play its part once again.
England almost had their hopes of qualifying for the knockouts washed away earlier in the showpiece event. A rain-reduced affair saw them stunned by inspired Ireland before the abandoned game against hosts Australia left their hopes precariously placed on a knife edge.
The pre-tournament injury to Reece Topley and Mark Wood and Dawid Malan going down mid-tournament have also been big blows to England’s title charge.
But it has been near-perfect cricket from Buttler’s boys as they hammered New Zealand, edged Sri Lanka thanks to a calm Stokes innings before their exquisite record-breaking semi-final chase against India.
The stage was set for a repeat of the 1992 50-over World Cup final. Memories of Wasim Akram and Mushtaq Ahmed running through England on this same ground were rife among the huge Pakistani contingent packed into the MCG.
England’s blueprint was clear. They got what they wanted at the toss as Buttler inserted Babar Azam’s outfit to bat.
Pakistan started brightly but slipped from 45/1 to 84/4 as England really took a stranglehold of the game. Rashid’s sharp return catch to dismiss captain Babar was a big moment.
Wickets continued to fall at regular intervals as Babar’s charges failed to get away. They eventually scraped a score towards 140. Curran and Rashid in particular were outstanding once again and their combined eight overs yielded 5/34 as England really kept the pressure on.
But special mention must go to Chris Jordan, who was jettisoned into the pressure cooker of the semi-finals and final after Mark Wood’s frustrating injury, and he stood up with 2/27. However, you can never discount Pakistan, who were also chasing a second T20 crown.
It was their superb bowlers who got them to this World Cup final as they regularly bailed out their faltering batting line-up. And the pressure was on them once again to pull off another stunning scalp.
Shaheen Afridi struck in the first over as he bowled Hales before the exceptional Haris Rauf regularly beat Buttler’s bat and eventually had him caught behind after already getting rid of Salt.
Stokes survived a review for caught behind before Shadab Khan picked up his 11th wicket of the tournament when he dismissed Harry Brook. That moment held greater significance though as opening bowler Shaheen, who still had two overs left to bowl, hobbled off injured. He returned to bowl one ball before leaving the field. Iftikhar Ahmed replaced him and Stokes hit him for 10 in the last two balls of the over to relieve the immense pressure.
Moeen Ali smashed the next two balls of Mohammad Wasim’s over for four as Pakistan’s challenge was eventually extinguished.
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