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Monday, Dec 05, 2022

Ben Stokes imprints his name on England triumph; Adil Rashid shines; Babar backs his brave bowlers & Rizwan chirps away

England win the T20 World Cup by 5 wickets against a fighting Pakistan with 6 balls left.

England win the T20 World Cup by 5 wickets against a fighting Pakistan with 6 balls left. (AP)

Ben there, done that: Stokes imprints name on England triumphs

As soon as he hit, Ben Stokes started to backpedal, roar, and kept roaring till first Livingstone hugged him. And then the rest of his team-mates. Perhaps, no other contemporary cricketer seizes big moments like him. He is imprinted in all the biggies. The 2019 World Cup final. Even when he was sprawled on the ground, the ball ricocheting off his bat, became the image. The Ashes when he couldn’t even see his partner Jack Leach bat, hunched as he was at the non-striker covering his eyes. And then that gobsmacking smack off Pat Cummins. And now, in another World Cup, he has caught hold of the big moment and pocketed it with steel and ambition. Even in that last over that England lost in Kolkata, it was him with the bowling but where it could have scarred a lesser mortal, he has wiped it off like only he can. We know the backstory: the pub fight that threatened his career, the death of his father, the mental-health struggle, the Test captaincy recharge with Brendon McCullum, the ODI world cup star, and now the T20 world cup star.

Sriram Veera

Rauf, manning the boundary bravely and in pain

Haris Rauf was nursing a stiff leg for most of the match. He would walk gingerly, stutter around with a grimace, wince in pain at times. But it did not prevent him from making lung-busting runs or fling to the ground to block boundaries, saving 4s to be 3s. He was prowling at long-on when Harry Brook pulled Naseem Shah. The ball raced fence-wards, but just before the ball thudded onto the boundary cushion, Rauf’s little palms intervened. He then somehow staggered back onto his feet and flung a flat, fast throw. Soon after the effort, he clutched his thighs, but the pain hardly seemed to matter.

Sandip G

Shadab brooks no doubt.. gets Harry

After playing all sorts of tricks on Harry Brook but enjoying no luck, Shadab finally got his man three balls in to the 13th over. With only five runs having accrued in the previous two overs, England were getting fidgety. And Shadab threw one up fuller and wider outside off stump, like how Yuzvendra Chahal would have surely done with the benefit of the longer boundaries, had he only been played in this World Cup. Brook threw his hands at the bait, but hit it too flat and straight to Shaheen Shah Afridi at long-off. The fielder seemed to have done his knee some damage, but it brought Pakistan another precious wicket.

Abhishek Purohit

Noone puts Rizwan in the corner

No other wicketkeeper in the world appeals for everything as much as the excitable Mohammad Rizwan. *If the ball has come to him, it’s out Even though he himself might later suggest, as he did to Haris Rauf in the 15th over, that he can’t hear anything*. But first the hands will go up.

He wasn’t even a natural keeper when very young but decided one day that he was going to don the gloves. “When he started to become a wicketkeeper, everyone persuaded him not to bother,” his mentor Talha Ramani once told this newspaper. “But he is a stubborn man; it’s almost as if disbelief is his fuel. ‘Agar mehnat karoonga, toh log khamosh ho jayenge, bhai’ (If I work hard, people will fall silent).”

They have fallen silent alright, but he hasn’t. Appealing for everything, and then when the umpire turns it down, a lovely smile lights up his face.

Sriram Veera

Stokes does a Stokes…Ian Smith is Ian Smith

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With 38 runs needed off 26 balls, Ben Stokes did a Virat Kohli: two successive boundaries under immense pressure. Going by his own career, we can say he did a Stokes. Nerveless, ambitious, and one who trusts his own game. Against him was Shadab Khan, a very good leggie. First ball, Stokes backed away to slam it to long-off boundary. Nasser Hussain started to turn into a Bill Lawry on air. The next was a thriller: Stokes backed away, Shadab held his nerve and for a long time, it seemed he had his man. Stokes had heaved it on the up and the white ball seemingly hung in the air. The long-on fielder jumped but grasped thin air. Stokes, and England were away. “What about this bloke Stokes. What about big occasion? Staggering,” Ian Smith as ever with the pithily insightful cries that would stay in the mind for long.

When he came to the World Cup, he hadn’t played a T20 game in 18 months. Buttler sat him down for a chat to tell him what his role was. Perhaps he said, we will be stuck in a hole in two pressure must-win games, against Sri Lanka and then in the final. You do your thing. For that’s what Stokes has done.

Sriram Veera

Good Stokes always gives returns

Ben Stokes is like a premium stock, one should buy it on the dip. Stokes was slow, wasn’t connecting like he should but till he was there, even if not getting the best at the World Cup, the team knew he would return in the long run. He held his nerves and like a good stock, picked at the right moment when he slammed Iftikhar Ahmed six and a four. Before the over he was batting on 29 off 36 balls. And by the time Ahmed concluded his over, his score jumped to 39 off 38 balls. Good Stokes always work.

Devendra Pandey

Plans come undone for ticketmasters Gogo

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Everyone was wanting to see the India vs Pakistan final – noone more than ticket-buying India fans, and England surely spoilt the party plans. Many Indian fans didn’t go through the turnstiles into the Melbourne finale at the G on Sunday and instead were seen selling tickets for half the price outside the stadium. Many Pakistan fans too spoke of wanting to play India, but later assured Indians that they would beat England and “take revenge for the semi-finals loss.”

Devendra Pandey

Black arm-bands for David English; organiser of kid tourneys

Mixed bag from England so far. Ben Stokes unable to quite tame the swing on offer. Chris Woakes too starts with a wide down the leg side. A run out missed by Chris Jordan. With Rizwan in the powerplay, a run out is always on the cards, especially in the first 2-3 overs, but Jordan from mid-off couldn’t find the stumps. England players were wearing black arm bands in honour of David English, the ‘godfather of England cricket’ in many ways. Many in the past and current England team have come through David’s tournament: “The Bunbury U-15 tournament for kids. Buttler would tweet: So sad to hear the news of David English passing away. One of life’s great characters, so much fun to spend time with and producer of some of the best English cricketers through his wonderful Bunbury Festivals. RIP”

Sriram Veera

Chris Woakes vs Mohammad Rizwan: the battle of the slower ones

The first time Chris Woakes tried a slower one in his first over, Mohammad Rizwan didn’t quite pick it early. He ended up shovelling it just wide of mid-on. However, he was ready for the next one: first ball of Woakes’ second over, the fourth of the innings. Rizwan went down on his knee for one almighty whack over deep square-leg. Woakes didn’t give up on the slower ones. Couple of balls, he went knuckle-ball and thought for a moment, he had his man but Rizwan would just about poke it to the on side. Another slower one came next ball and Rizwan squirted it to the off. And as Rizwan would saunter across for a single, Woakes would welcome him with a smile and a few words. Who will win this battle?

Sriram Veera

Rizwan drags onto stumps

When Sam Curran leaped in the air to celebrate Mohammad Rizwan’s wicket, it was the third time Rizwan would get out bowled off the inside edge in this tournament. For the first time, it was through an attacking shot. In the past, he was tentative outside off, just poking at them and finding the ball clatter onto the stumps off the inner edge. But this one from Sam Curran was fuller, wider and he went after it with an extravagant flourish. But it was the wobble-seam ball, not as much pace, and Rizwan could only drag and edge it. Already, Chris Woakes had shown England’s pace with a slew of slower ones against Rizwan, who did pick a six but hasn’t quite dealt with the others as well.

Sriram Veera

Babar chases ball; ball bites back

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The fifth ball of the third over, from Sam Curran to Babar Azam, was wide and angling away. Most of left-armer Sam Curran’s deliveries, apart from a ball that cut back a shade into Mohammad Rizwan, have been similar. Babar would throw his bat at the ball, but would end up just swiping the air. The last ball, he shuffled across, so that he could get closer to it, and was about to waft at the ball, before it bent devilishly back into him. It bounced awkwardly and cut Babar into two. Usually someone who plays late and has enough time to make last-second adjustments, the swing stunned Babar, and in his scramble to defend the ball, he slipped. Babar gasped, Curran grimaced.

Sandip G

Slow & Dippin’: cool Adil Rashid allows not Haris to slay spin

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A week back, Muhammad Haris would say, “It’s not that I’m weak against spin. I just haven’t played against spin much, but I have shots that give me options against spin, too.” He tried one of them on the big day but the spin bowler Adil Rashid had one up on him. Down he dashed down the track but Rashid, a confident bowler these days, had not only slowed it up like he had done against Suryakumar Yadav but had got this to dip as well. Haris would have to adjust to the lack of pace and then to the dip, and ended up butchering the intended hit weakly towards long-on where Ben Stokes swallowed it whole. Rashid was all cool about it, walking to high-five with Stokes, as if he wasn’t surprised one bit about the outcome.

Sriram Veera

Nudge & get ’em to blink

The nudge off the leg-side is not even considered a stroke. But subcontinental batsmen would rave about its usefulness. It is their best friend when the time is not the ripest to attack, which is often the case in the middle overs when you are two wickets down and the spinners are operating. So batsmen would thrust their front pad, and even if they are not to the pitch of the ball, they would use their malleable wrists to “nudge” the ball into the gaps for a double. Babar Azam is one of the finest in the nudging business and nudged Adil Rashid for a pair of twos. Watch any of his innings, including the rearguard act against Australia a few months ago, there were plenty of those nudges. Until ofcourse…

Sandip G

Never a library, so shush the silence

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Is this a library? This is what the travelling Premier League football fans chant at away games when their team has quietened the stadium with an early strike. Against India at Adelaide in the semi-final, Alex Hales and Jos Buttler had forced those in blue to watch the proceedings with fingers on their lips. In the final, the English new ball bowlers were doing the same to the highly audible Pakistan fans. Those bringing the roof down at MCG with their ‘Dil Dil Pakistan’ cries before the toss hadn’t much to sing because of the slow start and the early dismissal of Baby Inzi – the fearless stroke player Muhammad Haris. Will the library turn into a dance floor? Like you have been all through the tournament, keep following the final at The Indian Express live blog. By the way we will be there for you during the FIFA World Cup. It’s never a library here.

Sandeep Dwivedi

What just happened to Babar: Dream-weaver Rashid knows bowling The Over of the Final

How many times has Babar Azam fallen to Adil Rashid’s googly? Now one more time in the World Cup final. Jos Buttler’s reactions told the story. When the googly broke back in and tied up Babar for room, Buttler wasn’t sure what happenned. He would just limply put his right arm about the plausible lbw chance. But the ball had been stabbed off the bat and unlike his captain, Rashid was well aware of what happenned. He would dive forward to take the rebound and Buttler would be there to envelop him with a hug.

He nearly had Iftikhar Ahmed too in the same over. A dream over. Two stinging leg breaks beat the hesitant poke. Then he fired a front-of-hand slider on the off stump that had Iftikhar just about stabbing away from the stumps. Then came the googly, which nearly broke through Iftikhar’s off drive. Rashid would drop his head, disappointed that he hadn’t snared another victim. It was the over of the World Cup final, thus far, and one that he would remember for a long time.

Sriram Veera

Manoj Prabhakar vs Zahid Fazal, 1992 to Stokes vs Iftikhar 2022: if you have no clue what we are talking about

Remember 1992 India v Pakistan World Cup, and in particular Zahid Fazal’s dismissal that had Manoj Prabhakar running in glee, wagging his index finger? No? Then you can rewatch Ben Stokes v Iftikhar Ahmed from the 2022 T20 final. Same difference. A length delivery straightening outside off, a tentative poke, and the keeper takes the catch. Incidentally, Fazal, for this if you bothered to read the *bumper 1992 redux preview we put up today*, would keep another mystery alive. The famous 1992 World Cup cornered tiger speech of Imran. In Aquib Javed’s telling, it was life changing. In the manager Intikhab Alam’s telling, it changed the mood of the dressing room. Fazal, on the other hand, would say no such talk, no such meeting ever took place. Hmmm. Perhaps he would say the same about his dismissal too!

Sriram Veera

Can Pak pacers nip-back Jos Buttler from good length?

Shaheen Afridi vs Jos Buttler has been the fan-cry ahead of the final but it would well come down to how Haris Rauf bowls to Buttler. Or a right-hander like Naseem Shah. Buttler is wristy and pretty good against full balls. What tests him is what Bhuvneshwar Kumar used to produce at his pomp: the nip-backer from a good length from just outside off stump. He has cleaned up Buttler’s stumps with that line and length. Shaheen was convinced that he had got an outside edge in the first over against Buttler but none of his team-mates were convinced. Over now to Buttler vs right-hand seamers.
But Afridi vs Hales is a different story. As soon as the ball started to tail in, you knew Hales was in trouble. The leg hadn’t moved, the head began to fall over, and there was no surprise when the death rattle came. Out spread Shaheen’s arms.

Sriram Veera

Babar gestures I am the captain!

When Shaheen Afridi wanted the lbw appeal against Phil Salt to be reviewed, he turned to Mohammad Rizwan and asked him to go for it. Babar Azam was around with a smile, and gestured to his chest – as if to say, hey I am the captain, it’s my decision. And he went for it. He also had a chat with the umpire Kumar Dharmasena, after he had gone upstairs, and Dharmasena shook his head to say no, not out. And it was not out.

Sriram Veera

Seam of the ball has a mind of its own; even bowler might’nt know which way it goes

There is something magical about fast bowlers who can land the ball on the seam. Example: Shaheen Shah Afridi’s unplayable ball to Alex Hales. What is it about these special deliveries that make the batter clueless? There is a school of thought that believes that these balls are so difficult to read because even the bowlers have no idea which way they will move after pitching. Once Ajit Agarkar was asked why Zaheer Khan gets Graeme Smith all the time, doesn’t the batsman of that high quality know which way the ball will move. “Honestly, if you ask Zaheer, even he can’t,” he says. What he meant was when a 140 kph ball lands on the seam it gets a mind of its own. Depending on at which angle the seam hits the ground and the wear and tear of the surface the ball changes direction or at times even keeps going straight. It’s only hope and a prayer that can save a batsman when a real quick one hits the perfect length with the seam.

Sandeep Dwivedi

Louder than the English fans

Some of the Indian fans seated inside the stadium have been celebrating louder than the English fans for the finals at the Melbourne Cricket Stadium. They cheered and danced whenever the England team got wickets of the Pakistan batsmen. When the English batsman cleared the ropes they welcomed that too with applause. The local Indian settled in Australia certainly wants Pakistan to lose. Some rivalries cannot be erased even on a sports field.

Devendra Pandey

Babar, the bowler-indulging captain

Babar Azam could be a bowler’s delight. There are fewer captains who could be cajoled so easily for a review. Shaheen Shah Afridi didn’t implore him for a review when Phillip Salt missed a pull at a slower full toss that hit him on the back pad. It was more a ‘what do you think of it’ gaze from Afridi. But Babar, with a broad smile, immediately sought a review, surprising Afridi himself and some of his teammates. Turns out that the call was not too bad as it first seemed, but for the umpire’s call on where the ball had pitched (just outside the leg-stump), the decision would have been overturned. As the decision was conveyed to Babar, he smiled broadly again and gestured to Afridi that it was a matter of half an inch. Afridi applauded, why would he not? He has a captain who readily seeks DRS.

Sandip G

Make a Bish: How Naseem set up Buttler for Rauf

The pace bowler in Ian Bishop came out roaring. Naseem Shah had bowled three balls outside off stump to Jos Buttler and just missed the edge. Bishop shouted on the mic, it was almost a lament. “Still no slip, still no slip … I think wicket-keeper Rizwan is asking for it,” he said with a bit of relief. Soon Iftikhar could be seen moving to the slips, hoping that Naseem’s well directed thunderbolts would touch Buttler’s bat and reach him. Next ball, Buttler moves outside off stump and guides the ball over the keeper’s head for a six. Naseem doesn’t get rattled, he sticks to the off-stump line and beats Buttler again. His good work doesn’t go to waste as Haris Rauf too sticks to the same plan and gets Buttler in the next over. The game-changing wicket could even be a match winning one.

Sandeep Dwivedi

Poke and a miss

And Buttler falls, a huge moment in the world cup final. Expectedly, the blow came from a right-handed seamer. For a while Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf had been teasing him with length deliveries in the off-stump corridor. Poke and a miss was the theme. Then came Rauf’s beauty, after a fabulous wicket-less over from Naseem. This one, unlike Naseem’s, didn’t shape away but straightened from a length. Out came the poke and this one took the edge and had Rauf jumping in joy at *his second home* at MCG. Enter the kid Harry Brook, hailed by Kevin Pietersen as the future of England cricket.

Sriram Veera

But there was that gorgeous 6 before Jos was gone

Scooping a 150 kph quick on a bouncy track in the final of a World Cup? Forget the technical proficiency, the sheer courage of Jos Buttler has to be admired. Just the previous over had England lost Phillip Salt, when they were purring at eight runs an over, and a more conventional-minded batsman would have just worked the ball round his legs or bunted it down the ground. But not Buttler. He would just shuffle across, hunker down, waiting for the thunderbolt and just scoop it over with a flap of the wrists. Had he missed, the ball would have crashed onto the stumps. But Buttler seldom sees risks, only fours and sixes rather. That though was his last boundary of the tournament. But the sheer audacity of it. Buttler, though, might differ, pointing out that it’s his percentage stroke.

Sandip G

More on that Buttler beauty… And the unappreciated Naseem assist

Perhaps only Jos Buttler could have pulled this off in a World Cup final. After being beaten three successive times by the ball leaving him from Naseem Shah, he moved across, exposed the stumps and scooped Naseem for six over short fine leg. The downside of this shot always is that it makes you look silly if you miss and get dismissed. Imagine how it would have made the England captain look in a World Cup final, like Mike Gatting’s reverse-paddling dismissal in the 1987 final.
For Pakistan, it would have been cruel to not have sent back Buttler after Naseem beat him every time in that over apart from that six. And Haris Rauf duly claimed Buttler midway in the next over, caught behind off a similar delivery. Cruel for Naseem nevertheless.

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Abhishek Purohit

First published on: 13-11-2022 at 05:47:10 pm
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