MELBOURNE: Ben Stokes and Sam Curran starred as England edged Pakistan by five wickets to win the Twenty20 World Cup on Sunday and become the sport’s first dual white-ball champions, holding both the 50 and 20-over titles.
Jos Buttler’s side held Pakistan to 137-8 in front of a partisan 80,462 fans at a heaving Melbourne Cricket Ground, with player-of-the-match and tournament Curran bagging 3-12 and Adil Rashid chipping with 2-22.
In reply, England slumped to 49-3 in the sixth over as they struggled to get any momentum against a fiery pace attack, with boundaries hard to come by.
But Stokes (52 not out) and Moeen Ali (19) used their experience and cool heads to guide England to 138-5 with six balls to spare, climaxing a riveting chasing, you probably forget all the hard work before that. To restrict them to 130, the bowlers have to take a lot of credit. Adil Rashid and Sam Curran won us the game,” said Stokes.
“Pretty good evening. Representing your country in World Cups is amazing, it has been a good one.”
Curran said Stokes should have been player of the match. “We all look up to him. People question him, but he’s incredible. He’s the man,” he said.
“The way I bowl, I go into the wicket with my slower balls and keep the batsmen guessing. World champions, how good,” he added.
“Congratulations to England, they deserve to be champions and fought well,” said Pakistan captain Babar Azam.
“I just told the boys to play our natural game, but we fell 20 runs short and the boys fought well with the ball. Our bowling is one of the best attacks in the world.”
The victory added to the 50-over title England won in 2019, building on the legacy of former captain Eoin Morgan, who retired this year after transforming the team into a white-ball juggernaut.
It was England’s second T20 crown after tasting success in 2010, joining the West Indies as the only two-time winners since the tournament’s inception in 2007.
The game was billed as a showdown between Pakistan’s attack and England’s top order, and Shaheen Afridi bowled danger man Alex Hales in the first over of the run chase. But that only fired up Buttler who smashed two boundaries off Naseem Shah.
Phil Salt, playing in place of the injured Dawid Malan, didn’t last, making just 10 before pulling Haris Rauf to Iftikhar Ahmed The ball was swinging and seaming and the menacing Rauf claimed the key wicket of Buttler just as he was getting in, edging to wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan on 26 off 17 balls.
The runs dried up as they reached 77-3 at the halfway point of the innings, compared to Pakistan’s 68-2. Harry Brook came undone on 20 against the spin of Shadab Khan, holing out to Afridi and came down to needing 41 runs off the final five overs.
Stokes relieved the pressure with a four and a six off Iftikhar Ahmed and there was no stopping them with the England all-rounder hitting the winning runs. With forecast rain staying away, England produced disciplined and economical bowling to stymie 2009 champions Pakistan, with Shan Masood’s 38 the top score.
Stokes was given the new ball after England won the toss and chose to field with Pakistan lucky to survive the over intact as opener Rizwan was almost run out going for a risky single.
Rizwan and Babar Azam shared a century partnership in their semi-final against New Zealand, but another big stand wasn’t to be, with Rizwan dragging a delivery from Curran on to his stumps on 15.
The introduction of Rashid soon after the six-over powerplay reaped an immediate reward with Mohammad Haris (8) attacking him on his first ball only to sky a simple catch to Stokes.
Shan Masood began swinging the bat in the second half of the innings, hitting a four and six off Liam Livingstone. But once again Rashid got the breakthrough, pulling off a diving catch from his own bowling to claim the vital wicket of Babar Azam, whose 32 came off 28 balls.
Iftikhar only lasted six balls before Masood and Shadab Khan (20) fell in the space of two runs as Curran and Chris Jordan kept the lid on any hope Pakistan had of a late flurry.
Meanwhile, batsman Shan Masood said Pakistan can take pride in getting to the World Cup final but now their young team must take the next step -- learning how to close out tight games.
Masood top-scored with 38 and said he took responsibility for not staying around longer to put together a bigger total. “There were stages especially with the bat that we could have finished things off really well,” he said.
“Personally, I take blame for it. We were aiming for 170 and having looked at the way the innings ended, we could have used a batsman staying in and getting us to at least 155-160, which would have been good on that pitch.”
“We could have done with his two overs at the end,” Shan Masood said about Shaheen Afridi. “I hope he is OK. It’s his knee. From what I am hearing all his ligament tests are clear.” Shan said the young team had a bright future, but needed to learn how to win the tight moments. “The games that we won, we won them quite comfortably,” he said.
“The good sign is that when we lost, we lost close games. So you realise that these things are in your own hands. “The three games we lost to India, Zimbabwe and now England there were opportunities where we could have closed out those games.
“I think the next step this young team has to take is finishing games, finishing out close moments. “But I just feel the way Babar is leading this team, the leadership group in Shadab (Khan) and (Mohammad) Rizwan, I’ve got no doubts that with future World Cups coming this side will be a constant threat and among the top teams.”
President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, meanwhile, praised the fighting spirit of Pakistan cricket team in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup final against England.
In their separate tweets, the president and prime minister observed that the national team played well despite posting a low score. They also congratulated the T20 World Champion England team.
“Congratulations England, good all-round performance to lift the cup. Well played Pakistan, you bowled good and tried your best despite a low score,” the president posted on his Twitter handle.
The prime minister, in a tweet, said that team Pakistan fought back hard and brave. “Great bowling performance. But England played better today. We are proud of our boys in green for making it to the final match of this mega tournament,” he posted a tweet.
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