Superb Ben Stokes leads England to victory over Pakistan in T20 World Cup final

All-rounder's brilliant half-century guides team to five-wicket win in Melbourne

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Of course, it was Ben Stokes who hit the winning runs. The ultimate big match player, on the course of the longest redemption arc in history, clipping the single to establish England as the undisputed kings of white-ball cricket.

They became the first team in history to hold both the T20 and one-day international versions of the World Cup, after beating Pakistan by five wickets in front of 80,462 in Melbourne.

Three years ago, he was player of the match as England clinched the 50-over World Cup at Lord’s. This time around, he saved his maiden half-century in T20 international cricket for a nervy run chase with the pressure on again. Which is just showing off.

He might, as ever, be the headline act on the biggest stage, but by no means was he the only hero of a thrilling final.

Quite how long the 12th over of Pakistan’s innings last in the memory remains to be seen. Will it linger so vividly as Wasim Akram’s one-two against Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis back in 1992? That remains indelible 30 years on.

The world – and the sport – has changed much in the time since. T20 is more disposable than its forebears. Even its brightest highlights are fleeting.

And yet Adil Rashid’s wicket-maiden deserves its little place in history. Has a better over ever been bowled in a T20 World Cup final?

It started with that rarest of achievements: he made Babar Azam look ungainly. A sharp turning googly deceived the great opener, who could only lob a return catch back to the bowler.

From the next five deliveries, Iftikhar Ahmed – a player who gets to net against the skill of Shadab Khan whenever he fancies – looked totally lost.

Rashid beat him on the outside edge twice. He did lay a bat on three, but that was as positive a description as it is fair to apply. Never did he look comfortable.

Rashid ended with the undeservedly prosaic figures of 2-22 from what had been a magnificent spell.

One player who did get what he was due was Sam Curran. The left-arm swing bowler started this competition with the remarkable analysis of five for 10 against Afghanistan.

His three for 12 in the final was some way more significant. His four overs included 15 dot balls and won him the player of the match award.

After signing for 137-8 from their 20 overs, Pakistan knew they needed a fast start. Luckily for them, they have the best in the business when it comes to first-over excellence.

On the last ball of his opening six, Shaheen Afridi curved a delivery back onto the stumps via Alex Hales’ pads. The player who razed India in the semi-final would have a negligible impact on the final against their rivals.

The opener Hales left behind, Jos Buttler, led some steady resistance for England in the powerplay, before Haris Rauf made his introduction to the final.

The MCG is a home from home for Rauf, having played BBL cricket there and excelled in T20 internationals, too. His love for the place will have been magnified in this game.

First, he encouraged Phil Salt – who was batting for the first time in the tournament after replacing the injury Dawid Malan – to scoop a catch to mid-wicket. Then, the big one, as he induced a regulation edge and had Buttler caught at the wicket by Rizwan.

Pakistan defence of their total was always going to be balanced on fine margins. With England on 89-4, with 49 required and 36 balls left, it felt like a pivotal moment had arrived.

A massive roar welcome the arrival of Rauf back into the attack. Simultaneously, Shaheen strode across the field after limping off minutes before, having apparently re-injured his right knee while taking the catch that removed Harry Brook.

And yet, he was done. He bowled one delivery, as England required 41 from 29, then limped from the field. Iftikhar’s five fill-in deliveries went for 13.

With Shaheen had gone Pakistan’s spirits. And Stokes ensured that, shortly after, so did their hopes of taking the trophy.

Updated: November 13, 2022, 12:33 PM
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