en Stokes and the great occasion. The human bottle knows no bounds.
The 2019 hero of Lord’s and Headingley won England again, this time in Melbourne, where Jos Buttler’s side beat Pakistan by five wickets to win the T20 World Cup for the second time.
In the process, England became the first men’s team to hold both the 50-over and T20 world titles, with Stokes’ unbeaten 52 from 49 guiding them home with an over to spare after bowling performances. sensational matches by Sam Curran, who was named Player of the Tournament, and Adil Rashid had limited Pakistan to 137 for eight.
For Buttler, it was a special triumph, his first as captain having played such a big role in the 50-year-old’s 2019 success in the ranks under Eoin Morgan. He and new head coach Matthew Mott – who added a men’s world title to his plethora of world medals with the Australian women – got off to a shaky start in a summer of transition but turned the form around the England, helped by returning alongside the Test skipper. Stokes.
Stokes’ half-century was, remarkably, his first in international T20 cricket and came after England faltered, losing prime wickets and slowing their pursuit on what was a tricky surface at the MCG.
Nearing a tense end, the game turned in the 16th, which England started the 97 for four, still needing 41 balls from 30.
It became 97 for five when Harry Brook dropped the first ball, brilliantly pocketed deep by Shaheen Shah Afridi, but the wicket came at a cost, the quick big hit hurting his knee as he slid to take the catch. Pakistan were counting on the setter for two more overs to the death – he would only manage one more ball.
Iftikhar Ahmed was given the unenviable task of taking over and Stokes sensed an opening, driving for four then lifting six longer to suddenly put England in charge.
Moeen Ali, who played a crucial 19-of-12 cameo, took three limits on the next course and the game was as good as it gets. Fittingly, Stokes picked up the game-winning runs, six years after Carlos Brathwaite threw 24 for the West Indies from his bowling in Kolkata.
That there was a game at all was something of a surprise. the girl plagued this tournament but, as for the incredible group stage clash between India and Pakistan, the forecast proved wrong as the weather gods smiled on Melbourne.
England won the coin toss and, unsurprisingly given the threat of rain, opted to go bowling. Stokes started nervously with a no-ball but England made steady breakthroughs, with star fly-half Mohammad Rizwan becoming the first of three Curran victims as he cut for 15.
Curran finished with magnificent numbers of 3-12, capping a first international tournament that started with five against Afghanistan and ended with 13 wickets.
Rashid, who had a quiet start to the tournament before producing phenomenal spells in the semi-final and must-see group game against Sri Lanka, repeated the trick, taking 2-22, including Babar’s key scalp Azam.
Chris Jordan, who kept his place with Mark Wood not fit to return, again played well at the death alongside Curran and finished with his two wickets.
As with Wood, Dawid Malan lost his run to prove his fitness, meaning a place in the World Cup final for Phil Salt, who hadn’t even had a chance to beat in the ten-wicket demolition of India on Thursday.
Salt was early here as an Afridi beauty cleared Alex Hales late in the first round but didn’t last long, pummeling Haris Rauf straight into the middle of the wicket, while Buttler – who looked the smoothest hitter on either side – made a smooth 26 of 17 before getting behind the same bowler.
And so, as always seems to be the case, it fell on Stokes. He never found much of a rhythm and sometimes lived an enchanted life against the excellent and unlucky Naseem Shah, but was always determined to be there in the end.
When it is, there is usually only one result.