Jos Buttler hailed Ben Stokes as one of England’s greatest ever players after the all-rounder again delivered under the most intense pressure to lead his side to T20 World Cup glory.
Stokes was belted for four successive sixes by Carlos Brathwaite in the last over of the 2016 final as the West Indies snatched victory from under England’s noses, but he put that night in Kolkata to bed.
Already an England hero after his 2019 50-over World Cup final exploits, he added another chapter to a storied career by underpinning England’s chase of 138 against Pakistan in this MCG showpiece.
It was not his most fluent knock – as at Lord’s three years ago, this pitch was desperately tricky for batters – but his 52 not out off 49 balls underpinned England’s five-wicket win with an over to spare.
“He always stands up in the biggest moments,” Buttler said. “He’s a man who can take a lot of pressure on his shoulders and perform. With him in the middle, you know you’ve got a good chance.
“He’s a true match-winner and he’s been there in those scenarios time and time again. He just has a lot of know-how for how to do that.
“It certainly wasn’t his most fluent innings or he probably didn’t time the ball as well as he can, but we knew he was never going to go down without a fight and stand up and be there at the end.
“We’re immensely lucky to have him, he’s one of the great players of English cricket and he can be in the conversation for sure (to be regarded as England’s greatest cricketer of all-time).”
This was Stokes’ first T20 international fifty and he now possesses unbeaten half-centuries in both ODI and T20 World Cup finals as England became the first men’s side to hold both titles simultaneously.
Stokes missed a large chunk of last year because of lingering finger trouble and to look after his mental wellbeing, as chronicled in his ‘Phoenix from the Ashes’ documentary released earlier this year.
“It’s an amazing story, really,” Buttler said. “It’s a shame he did his documentary a year early. He could have added that in. He’s been on an amazing journey, all these big moments.
“He’s obviously never let that 2016 final push him back. You think of the things he’s gone on to achieve in his career since then, it’s just amazing.”
Buttler has joined an exclusive club containing Eoin Morgan and Paul Collingwood, who won this competition in 2010, as cricketers who have led England’s men’s side all the way at a global event.
Buttler lost three of his first four series as captain this summer but after building momentum with wins in Pakistan and Australia, their World Cup was almost derailed by a shock defeat against Ireland.
England pipped defending champions Australia to second spot in their Super 12s group on net run-rate and made a statement in thrashing pre-tournament favourites India by 10 wickets to reach the final.
They restricted Pakistan to 137 for eight after winning the toss on Sunday, with Sam Curran taking three for 12, but slipped to 84 for four in the 13th over with the match on a knife-edge.
Pakistan were dealt a cruel blow by Shaheen Shah Afridi’s knee injury, which meant he bowled just one ball of the 16th over, and Stokes and Moeen Ali ruthlessly capitalised to put England in pole position.
An equation of 41 from 30 balls was brought down to 12 from 18 and Stokes fittingly hit the winning run before he was mobbed as his team-mates rushed on to the field to celebrate.
“It’s amazing. It’s been a fantastic tournament for us, to now be sat here with the trophy, I’m just immensely proud of everyone involved,” Buttler said. “I think we fully deserved it.”
Curran was named player of the tournament after collecting 13 wickets, a year on from being ruled out of last year’s edition with a stress fracture of the lower back.
“He’s been an absolute revelation, he’s a brilliant cricketer, he loves those crunch moments and he’s deserved the player of the tournament,” Buttler said. “We’re so proud to have him our team.”
As the holders of both white-ball World Cup trophies, there is a strong argument for England to be regarded as one of the best limited-overs sides of all-time.
“It’s not for us to judge but we certainly enjoy that,” Buttler added. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t go on from strength-to-strength.”