MELBOURNE — Left-arm pacer Sam Curran and leg-spinner Adil Rashid bowled brilliant spells to restrict Pakistan to 137/8 before an unbeaten fifty from Ben Stokes helped England crown themselves as winners of Men’s T20 World Cup with a five-wicket victory achieved with an over to spare in front of 80,462 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.
Electing to bowl first in overcast conditions, Curran (3/12) was impressive upfront and in death overs, while Rashid (2/22) was stunning in the middle overs as England’s meticulous planning and tactics, especially in the second half of the innings, meant they never let Pakistan get away at any stage to restrict them to a below-par score.
Chasing the modest total, England lost three wickets, including that of captain Jos Buttler, in the Power-play. But Stokes showed calmness and poise in his typical gritty style to slam an unbeaten 52 off 49 balls — incidentally his first T20I fifty — to take England over the line.
Six years after Stokes was left heartbroken in the 2016 final at Kolkata when West Indies’ Carlos Brathwaite hit him for four consecutive sixes in the final over, the all-rounder finally found redemption by rising to the occasion at the MCG, and sealing England’s second T20 World Cup trophy.
This was the second time that Stokes played a pivotal role for England in the final of a global tournament after his Player of the Match efforts in the 2019 ODI World Cup final victory at the Lord’s. The win also makes England the first team in the history of men’s international cricket to hold both 50-over and 20-over World Cups at the same time.
Despite a low score, Pakistan fought well with the ball till the very end though Shaheen Shah Afridi went off the field after bowling the first ball of the 16th over due to issues with his right knee, which resurfaced after taking a catch of Harry Brook in the 13th over, tilted the match in England’s favour.
As Shaheen Afridi left the field after bowling just one ball, Stokes took advantage of it by hitting a four wide of cover and lofted just over long-off for six off part-time offie Iftikhar Ahmed. Moeen Ali continued the tempo by taking back-to-back fours through cover and square-leg off Mohammad Wasim Jr. on the first two balls of the 17th over.
Ali then ended the over with a top-edge on a hard swipe over the keeper’s head. Though Ali was clean bowled by a brilliant yorker from Wasim Jr. in the 19th over, Stokes reached his fifty in 47 balls with a controlled drive past deep cover. He fittingly finished off the chase with a single through the on-side to secure England’s win.
Chasing 138, England lost Alex Hales as Shaheen Afridi took out his middle stump. In the fourth over, Phil Salt was cramped on the pull by Haris Rauf and was caught at mid-wicket. Naseem then beat Jos Buttler five times in the fifth over, though he conceded five wides and was scooped by the right-hander for a six over fine leg. But in the sixth over, Rauf found a little bit of nip and found the outside edge of Buttler caught by the keeper.
Stokes and Harry Brook did the rebuilding job for England with a 39-run stand for the fourth wicket. The duo relied on strike-rotation while hitting boundaries in between. But Brook struggled badly for timing and holed out to wide long-off off Shadab in the 13th over, as Afridi jarred his knee while taking the catch.
In the next over, Stokes escaped a run-out when a direct hit from mid-on missed the stumps by a whisker, which proved to be a blessing for England to get the trophy with Ali by his side.
Earlier, Stokes kick-started the final by bowling England’s first no-ball of the tournament. He then bowled a wide down the leg side and ended up conceding eight runs in the opening over. After no boundaries in the first three overs, Rizwan got Pakistan going with a six, slog-swept over deep backward square leg off Chris Woakes.
Rizwan shaped for a drive off Curran but chopped onto his stumps. Babar Azam and Mohammad Haris took a four each off Woakes in the final over of Power-play. But England had the upper hand at the end of the Power-play, bowling 18 dot balls to keep Pakistan at 39/1.
Rashid made an immediate impact as he deceived Mohammad Haris with flight and got him holing out to long-on. Azam and Shan Masood hit some boundaries off Jordan and Livingstone.
But England made a comeback as Azam’s slice on a googly went back to Rashid for a low catch to his right in a wicket-maiden over. In the next over, Stokes got some away movement and extra bounce to find the outer edge of Iftikhar Ahmed.
Masood and Shadab tried to resurrect with a 36-run partnership. But England fought back as Masood and Shadab fell to Curran and Jordan respectively while going for the big shots. Curran picked his third wicket of the match as Mohammad Nawaz chipped straight to deep mid-wicket while Wasim Jr. holed out to the deep off Jordan in the final over as England picked four wickets while conceding only 31 runs in the last five overs.
Brief scores: Pakistan 137/8 in 20 overs (Shan Masood 38, Babar Azam 32; Sam Curran 3/12, Adil Rashid 2/22) lost to England 138/5 in 19 overs (Ben Stokes 52 not out, Jos Buttler 26; Haris Rauf 2/23, Shaheen Shah Afridi 1/13) by five wickets. — (IANS)