T20 WC 2022: Another final and Ben Stokes eases into the job without surprise
ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2022: Ben Stokes' heroics in the final guides England to second T20 World Cup title. Ben Stokes repeats 2019 Cricket World Cup (CWC) Final performance.
When the fourth ball smashed by Carlos Braithwaite went over the long-on fielder at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata in the final of ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022, West Indies snatched a welcome victory from the jaws of England. Ben Stokes who bowled that last over of the final was on his haunches for almost the entirety of the rest of the night.
The coming years saw the England all-rounder getting involved in a major on-field controversy and there was a lengthy spell away from the game to manage his mental health. Be that as it may, Stokes wasn’t short of skills when England required their hero the most. Who could forget that 2019 Cricket World Cup (CWC) Final or the Headingley Test knock against arch-rivals Australia couple of months later?
“It’s an amazing story,” England captain Jos Buttler expressed. “It’s been an amazing story, all his big moments… he’s never let that 2016 final push him back and the things he’s gone on to achieve since then are just amazing.”
Headingley or Lord’s - Stokes stood there till the end
Nothing could be a bigger stage than a World Cup final to prove the standard of a player’s game and temperament. It was the final of the 2019 ICC Men’s ODI World Cup final at Lord’s between England and New Zealand, and on the back of what happened in England cricket in the white ball set-up in the 4-year period after the end of that nightmare 2015 ODI World Cup, the pressure was mounting over the hosts.
Chasing a target of 242 on a juicy Lord’s track which was helping the fast bowlers, England were reduced to 71/3 when Ben Stokes walked into the middle and he further saw his side slump further to 86/4, before the England all-rounder managed a supreme 110-run stand with Jos Buttler, the current England captain in the white-ball format. Buttler was dismissed for a personal score of 59 in the 45th over with England still needing 46 runs in 31 balls for that elusive CWC title. From that point onwards, Stokes kept on running out of partners as he stood, dived, ran fast or juggled on the 22-yards but never let his eyes off the target. His unbeaten 84 runs off 98 deliveries eventually helped England drawing level with New Zealand, before England won the game eventually after a tied super over on the basis of scoring more boundaries than New Zealand.
If anything could come higher than a World Cup final in England cricket, then that would be undoubtedly the Ashes and again couple of months later, it was Ben Stokes who was in the middle of a record 359-run chase to save the urn in Headingley. After reducing home side England to 286/9, Australia smelled an early victory but perhaps they took Stokes a bit lightly. Stokes smashed, smacked, powered, drilled, reversed and played almost all sorts of shots one could think of to carry England over the line with his 135* to stun the arch-rivals and the whole world.
The change that Stokes has brought in the Test structure of the England side, especially after their poor last few years in the red-ball format, after being appointed Test skipper and working well alongside coach Brendon McCullum has been really refreshing.
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Stokes and the love affair to prove people wrong
“We all know what he’s capable of, and not just match-winning innings, but match-winning innings under serious amount of pressure,” England’s assistant coach Paul Collingwood spoke before their game against New Zealand in T20 World Cup 2022. “I know well that if it comes down to the crunch then you want a man like Ben Stokes walking out.”
With the defeat against Ireland due partly to an unfortunate spell of rain, and another washout against Australia, England had a clear-cut equation of winning against Sri Lanka to qualify for the semis of this world event. Questions were getting raised over the place of Ben Stokes in the team but it took Stokes one more game to make people wrong again.
Chasing 142, England got off to a racing start with 70 in the powerplay without any damage. Stokes calmly walked out into the middle with England at 75/1 in the eighth over. The tables turned and with the wicket of Moeen Ali, England were limping at 111/5 in the 15th over. Stokes was still there at 23* and smashed Charith Asalanka for a boundary, before wisely playing out Maheesh Theekshana for a quiet over.
With 15 needed in the last two overs, Stokes decided to score in singles and doubles to bring the equation to five needed in the last over. On a spinning track at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), Stokes with an unbeaten 42-runs in 36 balls, stood till the end as England held their nerves to get over the line.
“The situations are built for him; he can play a lot of roles for us in this T20 set-up,” Buttler declared at the post-match presentation of that game.
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Cometh the hour, cometh the man - Benjamin Andrew Stokes
Everyone was picking up their favourite player to come good in the finals. Without a doubt, most of them were going with one of the England openers, while few went with Sam Curran, who was having a magical T20 World Cup, but it was the former England captain Eoin Morgan who spoke on Sky Sports of how Stokes recognises and wants to be in the clutch moments always. Well, he was spot on!
The ghosts of 2016 were peeping when Ben Stokes bowling the first over of the final’s evening began with a no ball and followed it up with a wide ball. He managed the situation well to end with figures of 1/32 in his four overs, with the vital wicket of Iftikhar Ahmed. But the biggest chunk was yet to arrive.
England required 138 runs to get their second T20 World Cup title and Stokes walked into the middle at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) when Haris Rauf just had Phil Salt caught at mid-wicket, reducing them to 32/2 in the fourth over. Stokes took guard and saw his team slip further to 84/4 in the 13th over. England needed 51 off 42 with Stokes on 18* in 24 deliveries. The way he wisely played the superb bowling line-up of Pakistan, it couldn’t be better than that.
“We were all nervous, even when it was Ben Stokes batting, because it was getting tight,” Adil Rashid said after the game. “Obviously, he is human but ‘Stokesy’ is a matchwinner; he has proven that in the 50-over World Cup, he’s done it in Tests and now he’s done it in a T20 final.”
Having batted for 24 off 34 balls, he pierced the off side with a back foot drive against Haris Rauf and the moment he saw Shaheen Shah Afridi leaving the field with a knee injury, he knew it was time to open his arms against the part-time spin of Iftikhar Ahmed. He drilled him for a boundary before launching him over the long-off region for six. All of a sudden with Moeen Ali joining him in the party, the job was almost done and dusted.
“He is a man who can take a lot of pressure on his shoulders and perform. With him in the middle you know you’ve got a good chance,” Buttler praised his star all-rounder.
And at last, the microphone was delivered to Ben Stokes. “In the finals, especially when chasing, you probably forget all the hard work before that, how we bowled,” he said. “In tournaments like these, you can’t carry baggage with you, that was a little blip on the way.”
It was one of those close gritty innings, not the general powerful shots that Stokes is known for in white-ball cricket, and he got that against the best bowling side of the tournament in a pressure cooker situation.
If one goes through the scorecards few years down the line, one may not realise the impact of the knock but for Ben Stokes as he let out a roar after hitting the winning runs and dropped the bat on the MCG turf, another chapter of an extraordinary career has been added in the book.
Another final…another tough job…Pressure mounting…Call Ben Stokes...!!!