Stokes leads England past Pakistan to win T20 World Cup

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — England confirmed its reputation as the masters of short-form cricket by claiming the Twenty20 World Cup with a stirring five-wicket triumph over Pakistan at the MCG on Sunday.

A combination of miserly bowling and poised batting proved the difference as England claimed its second T20 World Cup following its win in the West Indies in 2010.

After restricting Pakistan to 137-8, England struggled for a period in the middle of their pursuit before Ben Stokes lifted the tempo with five overs remaining in Melbourne.

The all-rounder steadied England through a testing time and burnished his reputation for delivering in big matches by top-scoring with an unbeaten 52 runs off 49 balls.

England had one over to spare when Stokes struck the winning runs through mid-wicket, with the left-handed batter jumping into the air in celebration after a superb innings.

Largely dominant throughout the tournament, a shock loss to Ireland in a rain-affected match aside, England is the first nation to hold the T20 and 50-over World Cup titles in tandem.

In his first year as English captain, Jos Buttler led his country superbly throughout the month-long tournament in Australia and was delighted by his nation’s performance in the decider.

Sam Curran, who bowled superbly when taking 3-12 from four overs, was named both the player of the match and also of a tournament in which he finished with 13 wickets.

“I don’t think I should be getting this, the way Stokesy played there (but) we’re going to enjoy this occasion. (It’s) very special,” he said.

“The way I bowl, I go into the wicket with my slower balls and keep the batsmen guessing. (To be the) world champions, how good.”

While heavy rain fell around Melbourne on Sunday night, concerns that the final would be interrupted were unfounded with only a few drops falling early in England’s pursuit.

That was fortunate for England, which slipped behind the required run rate in the middle stages until Stokes’ settling innings, and also the 80,462 fans in attendance for the final.

Pakistan will ponder what might have been after star pace bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi injured himself while taking a catch to remove Harry Brook with the final still in the balance.

On returning to the field after treatment, Afridi was reintroduced into the attack with five overs remaining but lasted just one delivery before again limping from the MCG in despair.

This proved a reprieve for England, which still required 41 runs from 30 balls when Afridi was brought back on to bowl. It was here that Stokes launched the winning attack with the bat.

It is a deserved triumph for the tournament favorites — they were as methodical with both the ball and bat in hand in the final as they had been throughout the month in Australia.

Curran and right-arm leg spinner Adil Rashid were superb in helping restrict Pakistan, vindicating Buttler’s decision to bowl first after winning the toss.

Pakistan’s opening combination of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan combined for 29 runs before the latter dragged a delivery from Curran on to his stumps in the fifth over.

Azam, the Pakistan captain, batted with measured aggression until losing his wicket caught-and-bowled to Rashid for 32 runs off 28 balls in the 12th over.

Rashid’s variety and ability to surprise when finishing with figures of 2-22 from four overs proved crucial in helping England restrict Pakistan at a pivotal moment in their innings.

As adept in the infancy and also at the death of Pakistan’s innings was Curran, who bowled superbly.

Buttler, who said on Saturday that he had dreamed of leading his nation to success as a boy, set an aggressive tone for England at the top of the batting order after Afridi removed Alex Hales in the first over.

But when an innings featuring classical cover drives and innovative shots was ended by Rauf Haris for 26 off 17 balls, the pro-Pakistan crowd came to life.

Stokes and Brook slowed the tempo when combining for a crucial 39-run partnership before the latter holed out to Afridi off the bowling of Shadab Khan in a pivotal moment.

But with Stokes at the crease and Afridi hobbled, England always looked likely to reach the target, with the hero at the crease praising the work of the nation’s bowlers.

“In finals, especially when chasing, you forget all the hard work that came first. To restrict them to 137, the bowlers have to take a lot of credit,” Stokes said.

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