Ben Stokes’ officially laid the ghost of 2016 to rest at the MCG when his unbeaten 52 helped England on their way to T20 World Cup glory against Pakistan. While Stokes will take the plaudits as he so often has in recent years, he will be thanking his bowling attack during the English celebrations, which will go on long into the night. Their brilliance restricted Pakistan to a total of just 137/8, which England reached with an over to spare to seal their second 20-over World Cup trophy, 12 years on from their first success in the West Indies.
The total posted by the Pakistanis was the lowest they have achieved all tournament when batting first. Their batting order had no answer for Sam Curran, who produced tournament-best figures of 3/12 from his four overs, an economy rate of just 4.00, unheard of in the shortest form of the game. He was supported by England’s go-to spin bowler in limited-overs cricket, Adil Rashid.
The Yorkshireman picked up the key wicket of captain Babar Azam just when the opener looked like he was about to start motoring. He then snaffled the dangerous Mohammad Haris a couple of overs later, before Curran took over. Paceman Chris Jordan also did his bit, nagging himself two wickets.
England’s chase got off to the worst possible start though. Their top order - as it often has in test matches - collapsed. Alex Hales and Phil Salt were both dismissed cheaply, before captain and dangerman Jos Buttler was dismissed for 26. But cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Ben Stokes came to the crease with England 45/3 and he steadied the ship and steered them to victory. Back in 2019, he single-handedly helped his team defeat Australia in the third Ashes test match at Headingley with a blistering 135 not out. Six weeks before that, he was once again front and center, smashing an unbeaten 84 off 98 balls to help his nation to 50 over World Cup glory. And now, he has done it once again.
Stokes and co. bounce back from humiliation
Just over a fortnight ago, it looked like anything but World Cup glory would be on the horizon. The English are no strangers to gobsmacking results in sporting events. We all remember when Leicester City shocked the footballing world back in 2016 when they won the Premier League. But this time, England were on the receiving end of a seismic upset against local rivals Ireland. The Boys in Green defeated them in their second match of the tournament, leaving Jos Buttler’s plans in tatters.
Then, courtesy of Australia’s rainy season, their match against the tournament hosts was rained off, meaning the eventual winners would have to defeat the ever-impressive New Zealand, as well as Sri Lanka, to have any hope of reaching the final four.
Those matches were tests that England managed to pass. Captain Buttler helped himself to 73 runs off just 47 balls against the Kiwis, before Stokes was up to his old tricks against Sri Lanka in the final group game. He helped his nation over the line and into the semifinals with just two balls to spare.
It was at the semifinal stage where Brendon McCullum’s side finally showed their very, very best. They ended any hopes of an India/Pakistan final by smashing Virat Kohli’s side, winning by 10 wickets after openers Buttler and Hales hammered 170 runs between them off just 16 overs.
2016 heartbreak firmly forgotten
It was fitting to see everything come full circle for Ben Stokes. Yes, he has been the finest cricketer in the world in recent years, even picking up the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 2019. But it wasn’t always this way.
Back in the T20 World Cup final against the West Indies in 2016, he was responsible for defending 19 runs in the final over. Carlos Brathwaite had other ideas however and slapped four consecutive sixes to take the trophy to the Caribbean and leave Stokes in tears. Six years on from that painful evening in Kolkata, he has finally laid the ghost to rest.
England are ICC T20 World Cup champions.