England’s Ben Stokes redeems himself six years after West Indies nightmare

England’s Ben Stokes redeems himself six years after West Indies nightmare
Ben Stokes of England celebrates the win during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup final match between Pakistan and England at Melbourne Cricket Ground on 13 November 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo: Isuru Sameera / Gallo Images)

Ben Stokes inspired England to the 2022 T20 World Cup title in a tense battle against Pakistan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

England 138/5 (19) Pakistan 137/8 (20)

Ben Stokes earned redemption six years after his horror show at the 2016 World Cup final with an unbeaten half-century that secured England’s second global title in T20 with victory over Pakistan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday. 

While famous for his heroics at the 50-over World Cup final against New Zealand in 2019, Stokes’s previous T20 decider ended in ignominy as Carlos Brathwaite smashed him for four successive sixes in a final over onslaught to fire West Indies to victory. 

While not “eaten up” by the memory, Stokes spoke of using it as motivation in the lead-up to this World Cup. And he duly delivered on Sunday as he scored 52 not out, a personal best in T20Is, to guide England to victory with six balls to spare. 

It was neither the 31-year-old all-rounder’s fastest knock nor his most fluent as batting partners fell away, and he had to grind his way through some testing fast bowling. 

But at the end of the night, Stokes shifted up the gears and smashed a string of boundaries in tandem with Moeen Ali (19) to ensure England would chase down a modest target of 138. 

Stokes had already carved his place in English cricket folklore three years ago with his unbeaten 84 at Lord’s in the nerve-jangling final win over New Zealand at the 2019 World Cup. 

If not the greatest English player of all-time, Stokes showed again on Sunday that he is certainly among them, his captain Jos Buttler said. 

“He always stands up in the biggest moments,” Buttler told reporters. 

“He can take a lot of pressure on his shoulders and perform. Absolutely with him in the middle, you know you have a good chance. [I’m] just so proud of him. 

“He’s been on an amazing journey.” 

Ben Stokes (left) and Liam Livingstone of England celebrates the win during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup final match between Pakistan and England at Melbourne Cricket Ground on 13 November 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo: Isuru Sameera / Gallo Images)

Hard work 

While England teammate Sam Curran was Player of the Match, taking three for 12 with brilliant death bowling, Stokes also chipped in a wicket when he bowled the dangerous Iftikhar Ahmed for a duck. 

Yet Stokes was quick to deflect the praise on to his bowling teammates for setting up the win by restricting Pakistan to 137 for eight. 

“In finals, especially chasing, you forgot all the hard work that came first,” he said. “To restrict them to 130, the bowlers have to take a lot of credit.” 

A few months after former captain Eoin Morgan’s retirement, England have become the first nation to hold both global white ball trophies and stake their claim as one of the great teams in limited overs cricket. 

“There’s a huge amount of talent there,” said Buttler. 

“I think the perception of our team has changed a lot. Over the last few years we’ve certainly not played it safe. 

‘We’ve always tried to push the boundaries to try to get ahead of the rest of the world and be braver than anyone else and we’ll take what comes from that.” 

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Nervous moments

The heavy rain forecast never hit the MCG as England endured some nervous moments before Stokes struck a single off Mohammad Washim to seal victory with six balls to spare. 

Leg-spinner Adil Rashid did the early damage for England with two wickets, including the key scalp of captain Babar Azam for 32, before Pakistan crumbled in the final overs, losing four for 10. 

Pakistan will wonder what might have been, with talismanic paceman Shaheen Afridi breaking down with injury and leaving the field after catching Harry Brook for 20 in the deep. 

He returned to bowl one dot ball but could not go on, and it proved a turning point as Stokes and Moeen pushed England well ahead of the required run rate in an attack on the bowlers. 

“Our bowling is one of the best in the world. But for the unfortunate injury to Shaheen Afridi, it could have been a different result,” said Pakistan captain Babar. 

Earlier, it was Curran setting the tone for England as he had opener Rizwan chopping onto his stumps for 15, breaking a 29-run opening partnership with Babar. 

Rashid struck with his first ball when Mohammad Haris (8) slogged for the long-on fence but was caught by Stokes. 

Rashid then made a brilliant caught-and-bowled dismissal of Babar for 32 in a wicket-maiden over. 

Stokes had Iftikhar Ahmed caught behind for a duck, leaving Pakistan in trouble at 85 for four. 

Though Shan Masood and Shadab Khan combined for 36 runs, Masood holed out for 38 with a miscued slog as Curran swung the momentum back for England at the death. 

Masood’s dismissal triggered a collapse as Curran and Chris Jordan shared the last wickets. 

Rocky start

England’s chase got off to a rocky start, with Afridi bowling Alex Hales for one run and Buttler lost another partner when Phil Salt pulled Haris Rauf straight to Iftikhar Ahmed at midwicket to be caught for 10. 

A fired-up Rauf then had Buttler nick behind for 26 as Pakistan fought back to three for 45. 

England were soon shackled by quality pace, with Stokes and Brook slowing to a crawl. 

With Afridi injured, Iftikhar had to bowl out his over and conceded 13 runs, with Stokes smashing a four and a six in consecutive balls to put England back in command. 

Stokes and Moeen then combined to carry England to victory, with Liam Livingstone adding one run after Moeen was bowled out in the 19th over, as Buttler’s team again staked their claim as the pre-eminent superpower of white ball cricket. 

“I’m immensely proud. A long journey and a few changes, but we’re reaping the rewards,” said Buttler. 

“He [Stokes] is the ultimate competitor. In anything he does, a hell of a lot of experience to bank on. He timed it perfectly – the impetus he and Moeen had took it away from Pakistan.” Reuters/DM


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