England’s Lions win World Cup, break Pakistani hearts
The Pakistani fans were longing for an encore of 1992 when Imran Khan’s team created history at this very venue but batting let Babar Azam’s side down as 137 for 8 was never going to be good enough.
The seasoned Ben Stokes (52 not out off 49 balls) just like the 2019 ODI World Cup, anchored the chase despite occasional scratchiness and had a calm Moeen Ali (19) as an ideal foil.
They chased down the target in 19 overs to regain the title they had won in 2010 in the West Indies.
Experienced Haris Rauf and young Nasim Shah bowled their hearts out to prevent it from becoming a one-sided game but Stokes soaked the pressure along with Ali as the duo put on a 48-run stand for the fifth wicket to nail the win that avenged England’s loss to the same rivals in the ’92 World Cup final.
Shaheen Shah Afridi also could not bowl his full quota of overs after suffering a hamstring injury while fielding and that too helped England.
But player of the evening certainly was left-arm seamer Sam Curran, whose couple of spells had heavily tilted the game in the favour England.
Shane Warne had tormented Pakistan at the MCG in the 1999 final and it was turn of another leggie Adil Rashid to flummox them.
Stokes took 30 balls to measure the Pakistani attack but with no scoreboard pressure, the southpaw pressed the accelerator just when needed to finish the match.
England’s depth in resources could be gauged from the fact that they became the champions despite not having Dawid Malan, Mark Wood in the knock-out games and Jonny Bairstow, a T20 superstar in the form of his life, was not available for the tournament.
It was seven years back in this very country that England’s limited overs cricket lay in tatters with a dated approach and lack of intent being pointed as the reason for a group league exit from the ODI World Cup.
The core of the team was changed along with the mindset and in three years time, England now have both the white ball titles in their closet having identified match-winners in this format.
The revolution was started by an Irishman who responded to the name of Eoin Morgan. He moulded the ODI team into a champion outfit and handed the T20 baton to an able Gen-Next leader in Jos Buttler.
A champion T20 player in his own right, Buttler in the past few months, has proved to be a leader of men and in fact put Pakistan under immense pressure with his heart-warming humility.
The MCG rooted for Pakistan but no one grudged when Stokes pumped his fists after what had been an incredibly difficult few years, battling depression and mental health issues.
In front of an audience of 80,462, two highly-rated but not enough celebrated T20 bowlers Curran and Rashid scripted the win.
The duo put relentless pressure on the Pakistan batting line-up to restrict the opposition to a below-par 137 for eight.
Curran, who made comeback from an injury earlier this year, has been England’s ‘go to’ bowler in the competition and he proved that on the big stage with brilliant figures of 4-0-12-3.
The wily Rashid (4-1-22-2) wasn’t going to be left far behind as he choked the run-flow in the middle overs with as many as 25 dot balls between him and Curran.
Rashid, with his stupendous effort, time and again showed how the Indian team management bungled its script by letting Yuzvendra Chahal cool his heels throughout the tournament.
The MCG track had enough bounce and pace but Buttler’s best performing bowling duo (Curran and Rashid) did exactly the opposite – take the pace off their deliveries.
Rashid flighted and lowered his pace to 75 kmph while Curran bowled between 126 kmph to 130 kmph which made run scoring difficult for the Pakistani batters.
Both Babar (32 off 28 balls) and Mohammed Rizwan (15 off 14) started on a cautious note as they had been doing for the past one year.
Curran, England’s most consistent bowler in the tournament, angled one across at fuller length and Rizwan didn’t have enough width to drive as he dragged that back to the stumps.
Babar hit a couple of boundaries but as it has been for him generally, it was more of a struggle to keep the scoreboard alive.
At the start of the back-10, when Jos Buttler introduced Liam Livingstone to bowl his off-breaks, Shan got 14 runs with a down the ground boundary and a six.
But Babar at the other end was foxed by Rashid as he shaped to play the cut and found a googly cramping him for room to give a return catch to the English leg-spinner of Pakistani descent.
Iftikhar Ahmed (0) would like to forget the evening as he was kept under tight leash by Rashid and then Stokes bowled one in the channel to get a nick as Pakistan slumped to 85 for 4 in the 13th over.
Shan built a launchpad for himself and thew it all away as Curran tested his patience with variations of cross seam deliveries and cutters.
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