by Rex Clementine
Some say young fans in England are losing interest in cricket. Well, Ben Stokes maybe the man to bring them over. Having helped the country that gave birth to the great game to their first ever 50 over World Cup title, the all-rounder dazzled again with an unbeaten half-century as England secured a come from behind victory at the MCG on Sunday in front of 80,462 fans.
A fortnight ago, after a shock defeat to Ireland, England’s campaign was in disarray. But Stokes clicked when his team needed him most. Having helped them over the line in their last super 12 game against Sri Lanka, the New Zealand born star finished off the run chase in style. His half-century contained only five fours and one six, but brutal hitting was not required chasing 138.It looked as if Pakistan were about 15 runs short after England opted bowl under overcast conditions and the bowlers executed their job on a two paced wicket so well.
Amidst Stokes brilliance, the contributions of Sam Curran were almost forgotten. But the adjudicators rightly named him Man of the Match. His four overs claimed three wickets and Pakistan managed only 12 runs. There was no getting away from Curran, the son of former Zimbabwe cricketer Kevin. He was on the money never erring in line while his lengths were impeccable and impossible to put away. Curran is a small man, but he has a big heart. He bowls during Power Plays, comes over during death overs and puts his arm up when the captain needs a wicket.
England got home with six balls to spare. But this could have been lot more closer had Shaheen Afridi not limped off the field. Babar Azam kept two overs of his premier bowler to the last. He bowled a wide yorker to start the over. Even Stokes couldn’t get that one away. But soon after that, the bowler realized his knee was giving away, an injury that had sidelined him for five months before he made a comeback in Australia. Pakistan needed someone to finish the over. Part-time off-spin of Iftikhar Ahmed was called up. It was an invitation that Stokes couldn’t resist. Run making had been hard and Stokes opted to run hard instead of throwing the kitchen sink. Once the harmless off-spin was on offer, he took a few risks smashing the bowler for a four and a six. That brought the equation down to 28 in 24 balls. Then it became a cakewalk.
A word on Jos Buttler. He didn’t do much in the final apart from a stunning scooped six to a delivery that was clocked at 149 kmph. But the way he gave leadership to the side was unique. He was calm, he was assertive and supportive and more importantly he lead from the front.