c994d02922b4f232d0dcff70499775a7084fa52a Stokes lead England to T20 World Cup glory.
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Stokes lead England to T20 World Cup glory.

England became the first men's team to simultaneously win both limited overs titles by defeating Pakistan in a thrilling T20 World Cup final, solidifying their position as the best white-ball cricket team in the world.

At the spirited MCG, where Melbourne weather defied pre-match predictions of heavy rain by remaining dry throughout, Sam Curran (3/12) had a brilliant bowling performance in a gripping, low-scoring encounter. Ben Stokes (52 not out) and Moeen Ali helped England in chasing down Pakistan's modest 8/137 total with five wickets and one over remaining.

Following a dismal World Cup in 2015, England reinvented limited-overs cricket and emerged as a global powerhouse, fulfilling the promise Eoin Morgan and company made after the squad won the 2019 ODI World Cup trophy.

However, Pakistan had to bemoan the knee injury that their speedy star Shaheen Shah Afridi sustained while attempting a deep catch; he would comeback, but was only able to muster a ball before limping back on.

When Afridi limped off, Stokes and Moeen took advantage of Iftikhar Ahmed and quick replacement Mohammad Wasim to score 29 points in 11 balls, ultimately ending the game.

The amazing performance in which Curran captured 13 wickets (excluding qualification matches), taking just 11.38, earned him the title of player of the tournament, surpassing Stokes' batting prowess to win the man of the match award.

Despite the fact that regulars Dawid Malan (groyne) and Mark Wood (hip) were both hurt, England played it safe and chose the same starting lineup that upset India in the semi-final on Thursday night. Pakistan also made the decision to enter the same lineup that had easily thrashed New Zealand in their own group semi-final match.

Stokes opened with a no-ball and a wide, while Pakistani openers Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan required three overs to reach the limit.

With the exception of England, all teams in the competition have chosen to play conservatively rather than aggressively during PowerPlay overs, despite the fact that Babar's spectacular six-over-the-square backflip appeared to be the signal to up the ante.

The 24-year-start old's could not have been better with just five runs coming from his first two overs plus that wicket. However, Curran's appearance did not help his predicament because he lured Rizwan into a powerful attack that he could only launch from the inside with his own stumps.

Chris Woakes, on the other hand, was more costly, giving away a few limitations to Babar and Mohammad Haris in the last PowerPlay as Pakistan seized the lead at run-a-ball speed. The English were in charge of the match, though, at 1/39 after six overs and with the grounding limitations lifted.

Another turning point came with the arrival of Adil Rashid. Haris, who had been relegated to a holding position at this World Cup due to unsuitable surfaces for his deft leg spin, ignored the MCG's size and attacked with his first ball, which ultimately led to a straightforward catch for Stokes.

The Pakistani captain attempted to play a shot to relieve the strain but was only able to return the ball to the bowler. Rashid then added Babar to his list of victims in his third over.

The fight against Liam Livingstone, though, was going better for Shan Masood on the other side. The southpaw showed scorn for England's second-spinner, who has developed into a critical part of their upper-middle bowling, and blew it with a magnificent six down the centre of a 16-run over to give Buttler something to consider.

Despite Masood's best efforts, the other end was beginning to drop; when Iftikhar Ahmed feathered a catch behind Stokes for a six-ball duck, the underdogs were in trouble at 4/84.

Shadab Khan arrived at this crucial juncture to turn Pakistan's tournament on its head in their crucial group stage match against South Africa, which they had to win. Pakistan's tournament situation had become even more precarious. After a magnificent save against Stokes, he then hit a spectacular 20-ball half-century to energise the green army. He appeared capable of doing the same in the championship match.

However, Curran's return for the last few over during which no player in the history of cricket has been more successful led to another game-changing moment. Masood only succeeded in taking Livingstone down in the deep while trying to divert the southpaw while standing on his stumps.

Pakistan's innings ended with a moan rather than a bang after Shadab was run out by Chris Jordan at the end of the next half over and Curran added a third wicket when Mohammad Nawaz, a well-known late batsman, attempted and failed to lift him over the long line at the deep wicket half. A top-edge shot over the wicketkeeper by Afridi came in the final four overs, for a total of 18 runs, as Pakistan faltered at 8/137. 

With a stunning 13 wickets in a World Cup that marked his coming of age, Curran would conclude with the astounding figures of 3/12 from his four overs. You wouldn't be surprised if Curran followed a similar trajectory across all formats for years to come. The last World Cup held on Australian soil, in 2015, saw another lefty named Mitchell Starc become a superstar.

Given their recent 170-run finish to make a difficult run chase against India appear easy, Buttler and Hales, one of the finest opening combinations in the game, would undoubtedly think a 138-run chase was a piece of cake.

However, Afridi had other plans. The left-renowned hander's striking was simply too good for Hales, clearing up a man with 185 runs in his last three innings and made the tournament's most qualified player appear completely outmatched.

Buttler, on the other hand, appeared capable of carrying out the task for two; even though Phil Salt only managed to get 10 before being switched by Haris Rauf at half the wicket, the England captain continued to add runs as usual for the first six overs.

Despite losing two wickets, 43 came off the first five overs; considering the small target, this was a respectable start. However, all it takes is one ball to change the course of events; when Rauf connected with Buttler's lead for 26 in the PowerPlay final, Pakistan appeared to be contained in Melbourne.

This was not the best scenario for Harry Brook, a 23-year-old who had just played 10 months of international cricket, as he only scored 36 runs in four innings of the competition and arrived with the green army on fire. 

With run rate being of no concern, he and Stokes could easily progress through the intermediates; only three caps came during a 39-run partnership that pushed England closer to victory.

However, there was drama as the Pakistani bowlers lifted spectacularly. Naseem Shah gave Stokes some spectacular work after a shaky start with the new ball. The southpaw was defeated by perfect-length wild pitches three times in a row; the final one was so close that Babar decided to swing again in the hopes of getting a tiny hit, but he received no reward.

This time, with Afridi on the field, the stillness was broken when he held onto Brook's fly ball for the longest time before collapsing to the ground in pain with what appeared to be a knee injury.

As Pakistan hobbled off the field, they were sadly forced to deny England without their finest bowler, with their final two overs now urgently needing to be filled. But by coming back after a few minutes on the sidelines, it would cheer green hearts everywhere.

With six overs remaining, England's score of 4/89 was just two runs behind the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern matchup, the first time in their career that they had found themselves below the pace. With rain rapidly approaching, the possibility of a hampered finish loomed.

Driven to shoot down the sixteenth, it was obvious that Afridi was having trouble; he would only last one ball before hobbling off the field and carrying a big chunk of Pakistan's chances with him. Iftikhar Ahmed, the replacement spinner, took over and had played just three overs throughout the entire competition.

The England talisman would follow with a crunch of four through cover and a devastating six just inches above the pads after being fortunate to survive a high strike that landed just before a desperate Babar at long range. Afridi's absence is made worse by the captain's fingers.

The pressure created by Pakistan's desperate defence had subsided by the time Moeen Ali followed Stokes' example and crushed Mohammad Wasim over cover and then into a free leg. 18 runs had come off the last four balls. The fact that England could safely finish off Haris Rauf's final over knowing that spin and Wasim were all Pakistan had left allowed them to turn 41 out of 30 balls into 12 out of 18.

In contrast to Lord's in 2019, the latter would save Pakistan by castled Moeen following a 19-win cameo, but it was too late to force a grandstand finish or super over.

The attempt by Iftikhar to cross the limit in a desperate manner was unsuccessful. Stokes pushes Wasim into the middle of the wicket to score the winning runs, which is only fitting given his role in the match. The England camp arose in joy.

They are now officially the best limited team in the world, surpassing West Indies as the only other men's team to win the men's championship twice. West Indies were the first team to simultaneously host the T20 and ODI World Cups.

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