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What is This Ben Stokes? (No Pun Intended)

In case you’re wondering, no, this post is not about England’s T20 World Cup hero, Ben Stokes. Or, maybe it is. Let’s find out what this is about.

Pakistan cricket team once again came close to lifting the T20 World Cup trophy, but they were denied by a defiant English side which, despite being put on the back foot by the Pakistani bowlers, held their nerve to lift their second T20 World Cup trophy. Ben Stokes was their man of crisis and everyone in Pakistan was like, “What is this Ben Stokes?”

The Men in Green had a roller-coaster ride in the tournament and it was truly depicted in the highly-contested final. After a less-than-impressive batting performance, the Green Shirts roared back in style with the ball in hand. At the end of the day, their efforts were in vain as they were unable to defend their miserly target.

Let’s have a look at the things that went wrong for Pakistan in the T20 World Cup final:

Not Changing the Batting Order

A crucial strategic mistake in the 12th over of Pakistan’s innings completely halted their momentum. After losing the wicket of Babar Azam in Adil Rashid’s over, Pakistan decided to send in Iftikhar Ahmed instead of their best spin hitter, Shadab Khan.

Having struck 12 runs in the previous over, Pakistan was looking set to post a decent total on the board but Rashid got a strong grip hold on the innings as he dismissed Babar and followed it up with five dot balls to Iftikhar Ahmed.

Shadab’s expertise against spin was not utilized by Pakistan, which led to a quick fall of wickets and from a strong position of 84/3 in 11.1 overs, Pakistan could only manage 53 runs in the next 8.5 overs.

Falling into England’s Trap

England’s plan of stopping the run flow and picking wickets at regular intervals worked like a charm as the Pakistani batters played their innings into their hands.

Realizing the two-paced nature of the pitch and monstrous boundaries square of the wicket, England bowlers decided to mix it up and bowl short which worked to their advantage. Pakistani batters, one by one, picked the fielders at the boundary square of the wicket as they completely lost control of a perfect platform to post a big total.

England was smart, but Pakistan lost it in the middle.

Poor Batting Planning at the Death

Pakistani batters looked clueless at the back end of the innings as they fell like a deck of cards. They were unable to realize the situation of the game and went to hit big rather than ticking the scoreboard with easily available 2s and 3s.

The MCG is arguably the best ground in the world, and it is no secret that hitting sixes at the ground is a tall ask for any batter in the world. Rather than utilizing the ground to their advantage and hitting the ball in gaps to take 2s and 3s, Pakistani batters went for glory, which ultimately cost them their wickets.

If they played smartly, Pakistan would have certainly had a bigger target to defend and the result might have been different.

Failure of Reading Pitch Conditions

England’s Adil Rashid was sensational in the final as he picked up two crucial wickets and gave away only 22 runs in his four overs. After judging the slowness of the pitch, Rashid decided to further reduce his pace which gave the ball more whip and made it harder for the batters at the crease.

Rashid’s spell completely broke the momentum of the innings and was one of the major reasons that England restricted Pakistan to such a low total.

Rather than taking notes from Rashid, Shadab went in the opposite direction. Shadab’s spell was, by no means, a bad one, but it could have been much better. Shadab kept his usual pace, which ranges from 90-99k, as the ball did not grip as much as it had during Rashid’s spell.

It made it much easier for the English batters to tackle and play out his overs. Pakistan was relying on Shadab to pick up a few wickets but he was unable to do so.

Shaheen’s Injury

Pakistan cricket fans had their hearts in their mouth as Shaheen hobbled off the field in pain after aggravating his knee injury. Shaheen’s injury forced him to pull out of the match which dented Pakistan’s already minimal chances in the match.

With England requiring 41 runs off the final 5 overs, Pakistan was hoping for Shaheen Afridi to do his magic and bring home the trophy for Pakistan. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be as Shaheen was unable to bowl his final two overs, and to add insult to injury, Afridi’s replacement, Iftikhar Ahmed conceded 13 runs off five balls which completely released all the pressure that Naseem Shah, Shadab Khan, and Haris Rauf had built up.

Even if Shaheen was not injured, it was likely that Ben Stokes would have won the match for England. But, it is a what-if that we will never know.

Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes looked ugly when batting against the likes of Haris Rauf, and Naseem Shah, however, he least cared about it. All he knew was to get his team over the line and he did so with slight ease in the end. He held his nerve, without worrying too much about how many times he got beaten by the swinging ball. At times he wasn’t even good enough to edge the ball. And perhaps, that would have been a great win for Pakistan. But, it was not to be as his 52 at a strike rate of 106.12 helped England win a second T20 World Cup title. Buttler, the England captain, later said that if Ben had played this slow in Test cricket, he would have dropped himself from the team.

So, well done Ben Stokes. You did your country proud and are undoubtedly a clutch player built for crunch occasions.

They call me the Sports Guy!

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