England became the first men’s team to hold both the one-day Cricket World Cup and the ICC Twenty20 World Cup yesterday when they beat Pakistan by five weeks in front of 82,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
It was the final that nearly never was given England’s poor Super12 stage and the threat of a rain-hit final in Victoria, Australia.
But the tournament victory, completed with Ben Stokes’s first ever T20 international half-century, is the first for England under new limited overs coach Matthew Mott and is the biggest achievement under a dramatically restructured England set-up. Here are some conclusions from a sensational four weeks Down Under.
Stokes gets redemption
When people speak of Ben Stokes at World Cups, they’re likely to bring up one of two moments. The first is his super over heroics in the final of the 2019 one-day Cricket World Cup, and the other would be the final of the T20 World Cup in 2016 when his bowling at the death lost England the trophy.
Well, now he’s vindicated.
The Test captain had never scored a half-century in a T20 international until yesterday, when his 52 not out provided the winning runs against Pakistan’s otherwise lethal bowling attack.
The all-rounder’s initial contributions came with the ball; Stokes often bowls the opening over and the first one after the power play – the seventh – because it’s when batters historically play slightly within themselves.
His four overs for 32 runs with one wicket was the best of the England all-rounders in Melbourne and allowed the specialists to go after the other wickets in the opening innings.
But with the bat Stokes was sublime. His 52 from 49 balls included five fours and one six, and steadied the ship when he entered the crease with England at 32-2.
The 31-year-old has been talismanic for England across all formats this year but his performance yesterday was one of personal redemption for the man who wears his heart on his sleeve.
Count on Curran
At the beginning of the calendar year, Sam Curran would have been seen by many as a fringe player for the T20 squad. But now, after his three wickets for 12 runs in the final, he’s almost as undroppable as both Stokes and captain Jos Buttler.
He began the tournament with England’s first ever international five-for and concluded with sensational figures, too. His entire tournament saw him bowl 22.4 overs for 148 runs and 13 wickets.
The Surrey man has been a constant in this England side and has been paramount in their ability to tick over the wickets. Without his consistency and variation it is likely England would have been chasing totals worth tens more runs.
Mott’s men have historically been a side of stunning fielding – it’s a part of the game some sides neglect – and Liam Livingstone has been the personification of sturdy on the boundary across this tournament.
As if the 29-year-old had his own gravitational pull, his talked-about powerful arm seemed to magnetically attract any ball that found itself lofted into the air over the last few weeks.
In the final he made three key catches from deep in the field while being an ever-present throughout the other matches, too.
Smart bowling and clumsy batting cause the mistakes in T20 cricket, but you still need fielders to make the most of those. Livingstone has done that and deserves credit for it.
Some would say this World Cup isn’t worth as much as an Ashes win in Australia but England winning consistently Down Under cannot be underestimated.
It has long been a place England have gone to and failed, and to have something to show for a prolonged period in the country will be reassuring to this new England project.
The game in England is changing rapidly; the Test team has evolved and the limited overs teams are looking for new life. Every piece of psychological advantage the players and staff can bank will be key to growing and developing in the future.
England are world champions, and hold two World Cups. It’s a golden period for English cricket on the pitch at the moment, and it should be relished while it lasts.