Luck was not on Pakistan’s side as they were beaten in the World Cup final by England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.
After a sub-par batting effort but a superb bowling comeback, the Green Shirts had made a match of it before an untimely injury to star pacer Shaheen Afridi a ball into the 16th over forced Babar Azam to turn to part-timer Iftikhar Ahmed.
Seeing the southpaw pacer leave the field deflated the team as his replacement Iftikhar was swiftly dispatched for a pair of boundaries by Ben Stokes and the match, from that point on, was as good as over.
Earlier, Pakistan pacers led by Shaheen and Haris Rauf did a remarkable job of keeping their team in the hunt despite just 137 to defend.
Shaheen, just as he usually is, was superb in the opening over, and got rid of Alex Hales. As mentioned above, luck was not on Pakistan’s side, something demonstrated by the fact that the lanky pacer picked up the injury while taking the catch of Harry Brook.
Had it not been for Shaheen’s injury, the match was anyone’s to take.
Earlier, Sam Curran bagged three wickets for just 12 runs as England held Pakistan to 137-8.
With forecast rain staying away, England produced disciplined and economical bowling to stymie the 2009 champions who never really got going, with Shan Masood’s 38 the top score.
Curran was deadly, accounting for Mohammad Rizwan, Masood and Mohammad Nawaz.
Adil Rashid’s leg spin also proved crucial, removing the dangerous Mohammad Haris with his opening ball then getting the crucial wicket of Babar Azam to end with 2-22.
Jos Buttler’s England, who reached the final with a thumping 10-wicket win over India, are aiming to become the sport’s first-ever dual white-ball champions after winning the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
Both teams are looking for a second T20 title after Pakistan’s success in 2009 and England’s a year later.
England, who were again without injured batsman Dawid Malan and pace bowler Mark Wood, won the toss and sent Pakistan into bat.
Ben Stokes was given the new ball and Pakistan were lucky to survive the over intact, with a nervy Mohammad Rizwan almost run out going for a risky single.
If Chris Jordan’s throw had been a direct hit he would have been gone.
Rizwan and Azam shared a century partnership in the semi-final against New Zealand and soon settled, with Rizwan clearing the ropes off Chris Woakes for the first six of the night in the fourth over.
But another big stand wasn’t to be, with Rizwan dragging a delivery from Curran on to his stumps on 15.
Pakistan, who powered past New Zealand by seven wickets to make the final, managed just 39-1 off the six-over powerplay, where only two fielders are allowed outside the 30-yard circle.
The introduction of Rashid soon after reaped an immediate reward with Haris attacking him on his first ball only to sky a simple catch to Stokes.
Azam led Pakistan to 68-2 at the halfway point of the innings and then Masood began swinging the bat, hitting a four and six off Liam Livingstone.
But once again Rashid got the breakthrough, pulling off a diving catch from his own bowling to claim the vital wicket of Azam, whose 32 came off 28 balls.
Iftikhar Ahmed only lasted six balls before Masood and Shadab Khan (20) fell in the space of two runs as Curran and Chris Jordan kept the lid on any hope Pakistan had of a late flurry.
England have won by five wickets.
138-5 after 19 overs: Wasim to Stokes, 1 run
137-5 after 18.5 overs: Wasim to Stokes, no run
137-5 after 18.4 overs: Wasim to Stokes, 4 runs
133-5 after 18.3 overs: Wasim to Livingstone, 1 run
132-5 after 18.2 overs: Wasim to Moeen (19), OUT
132-4 after 18.1 overs: Wasim to Stokes, 1 run
As Pakistani bowlers bowl their hearts out to keep Pakistan in the game, financial analyst Fahad Rauf remarked about the low total that Pakistan put up. “This bowling attack deserved some runs.”
Ben Stokes 46 (46), Moeen Ali 19 (11)
131-4 after 18 overs: Rauf to Stokes, 1 run
130-4 after 17.5 overs: Rauf to Stokes, no run
130-4 after 17.4 overs: Rauf to Stokes, no run
130-4 after 17.3 overs: Rauf to Stokes, 2 runs
128-4 after 17.2 overs: Rauf to Moeen, 1 run
127-4 after 17.1 overs: Rauf to Stokes, 1 run
Moeen Ali 18 (10), Ben Stokes 42 (41)
126-4 after 17 overs: Wasim to Moeen, 4 runs
122-4 after 16.5 overs: Wasim to Stokes, 1 run
121-4 after 16.4 overs: Wasim to Stokes, 2 runs
119-4 after 16.3 overs: Wasim to Moeen, 1 run
118-4 after 16.2 overs: Wasim to Moeen, 4 runs
114-4 after 16.1 overs: Wasim to Moeen, 4 runs
Author Osama Siddique praised the Pakistani fightback as he observed how injury compelled Shaheen Afridi to walk off the field.
“What bad luck. Your main strike bowler can’t compete the crucial overs at this crucial stage. Oh well. What can one do. Chin up. And what a fightback.”
Ben Stokes 39 (38), Moeen Ali 5 (7)
110-4 after 16 overs: Iftikhar to Stokes, 6 RUNS
104-4 after 15.5 overs: Iftikhar to Stokes, 4 runs
100-4 after 15.4 overs: Iftikhar to Moeen, 1 run
99-4 after 15.3 overs: Iftikhar to Stokes, 1 run
98-4 after 15.2 overs: Iftikhar to Moeen, 1 run
97-4 after 15.1 overs: Shaheen to Moeen, no run
Ben Stokes 28 (35), Moeen Ali 3 (4)
97-4 after 15 overs: Rauf to Stokes, 4 runs
93-4 after 14.5 overs: Rauf to Stokes, no run
93-4 after 14.4 overs: Rauf to Moeen, 1 run
92-4 after 14.3 overs: Rauf to Stokes, 1 run
91-4 after 14.2 overs: Rauf to Stokes, 2 runs
89-4 after 14.1 overs: Rauf to Stokes, no run
After Shadab Khan dispatched Harry Brook, journalist Brad Hogg observed the “great exhibition of leg spin bowling tonight” by both Adil Rashid and Shadab Khan. “Well bowled both.”
Ben Stokes 21 (30), Moeen Ali 2 (3)
89-4 after 14 overs: Naseem to Stokes, 1 run
88-4 after 13.5 overs: Naseem to Stokes, no run
88-4 after 13.4 overs: Naseem to Stokes, no run
88-4 after 13.3 overs: Naseem to Stokes, no run
88-4 after 13.2 overs: Naseem to Moeen, 1 run
87-4 after 13.1 overs: Naseem to Moeen, no run
Ben Stokes 20 (26), Moeen Ali 1 (1)
Comment: A possible turning point in the game as Shadab gets rid of Harry Brook. The right-handed batter takes risk against the leggie and gets caught by Shaheen. There is a big injury scare though as Shaheen picks up an injury. He is being treated by the physio.
87-4 after 13 overs: Shadab to Stokes, 2 runs
85-4 after 12.5 overs: Shadab to Stokes, no run
85-4 after 12.4 overs: Shadab to Moeen, 1 run
84-4 after 12.3 overs: Shadab to Brook (20), OUT CAUGHT
84-3 after 12.2 overs: Shadab to Brook, no run
84-3 after 12.1 overs: Shadab to Brook, 2 runs
@ZubairKhanPK says “need that Wasim Akram spell right now when the game was slipping in 92 too.
“Those two magical balls in an over, will anyone ball those today right now?”