England have won the 2022 T20 World Cup. They beat Pakistan by five wickets with an over to spare at the MCG in Melbourne.
In doing so, not only have they joined the West Indies as the only nation to have won it twice, they have also become the first country to hold both versions of the World Cup at the same time.
And much as they did when they won the longer over version against New Zealand at Lord’s in 2019, the man they have to thank above all others is Ben Stokes. With his side under extreme pressure due to fast, hostile and accurate Pakistan bowling, he kept his nerve and composure and steered his team to the finish line.
Although Stokes will get many of the headlines, it was the bowlers who helped win it for England just as much. After England had won the toss and asked Pakistan to bat first, they kept the scoring in check and taken wickets at regular intervals.
Restricting dangerman Mohammad Rizwan to just 15 was a major coup, and, although his captain Babar Azam made 32, he was not able to find his usual fluency.
In particular, Pakistan will regret how they failed to find any momentum in the death overs, with too many deliveries finding the fielders. The final total of 137/8 did not look like being enough.
Adil Rashid took 2 – 22, and Chris Jordan, who was only playing because of any injury to Mark Wood, 2 – 27. However, the stand-out bowler was Sam Curran, whose 3 – 12 not only won him the Player of the Match award, but also the Player of the Tournament.
Roared on by the large Pakistan contingent in the crowd, their fast bowlers tried their best to win the trophy for their side. On another day, Naseem Shah might have had three or four wickets to his name, and his team-mates caused plenty of chaos, reducing England to 45/3 and then 84/4.
As the tension rose, the one man who kept his calm was Stokes, who enjoyed some fortune but found the boundaries when needed as the required total on the scoreboard gradually diminished.
And fittingly, it was he who scored the winning runs, sparking wild celebrations from the other English players and supporters. He finished unbeaten on 52, having scored a six and five fours.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man
Stokes proved yet again that he is the ultimate big game player. His inclusion in the side had been doubted before the start of the World Cup, because he had quit ODI cricket and had not featured in any T20Is for England for over a year.
And a series of indifferent batting performances had served to underline those doubts, until he produced another innings when it counted against Sri Lanka in their final group game to book their semi-final place.
Many players would have buckled under the pressure in Melbourne, but Stokes appeared to relish the occasion. He already had hero status within English cricket, but his reputation will now be burnished even more.
England worthy champions
England won the World Cup because ultimately they were the best team. They did not start well, and a shock defeat to Ireland in the group stages threatened to derail their challenge at one stage. But in the end, they were able to step it up in the big games and showed teams like India how T20 cricket should be played.
To win a World Cup, it does not matter how teams start a competition, but now they finish it that counts.
Pakistan can go home with heads held high
Pakistan can also go home with their heads held high having come close and knowing that, but for Stokes, they probably would have won the Cup.
They too looked like they were on the verge of elimination after losing their first two games in Australia, before winning four on the bounce.
They had some bad luck in the final – Shaheen Afridi hobbled off midway his spell meaning that they were one strike bowler less at the end. But, in the final analysis it proved to be just one step too far.
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