T20 World Cup final turns England from a good team into a great one as eyes turn to India

T20 World Cup final turns England from a good team into a great one as eyes turn to India

Mohammad Wasim bowls, Ben Stokes rather gruffs one into the leg-side and in that moment, by their own stiff criteria, a good team becomes a great one.

The former title rather undersells the status of this side prior to yesterday, already made legends by the epic 50-over triumph of 2019 on home soil, but England’s cricketers had been clear.

“We’ve only won one tournament,” Moeen Ali said last week. "We are a really good side. I get that and we have been over a long period. But if we’re going to be a great side we need to win more trophies.”

First, the boring caveat. Yesterday’s five-wicket victory over Pakistan in Melbourne was not 2019 and, probably, did not come close. That dramatic July day at Lord’s was the culmination of a four-year journey by a side that had revolutionised ODI cricket and genuinely captured the imagination of a sporting nation. T20 World Cups, by comparison, come around more often, the format’s innovation is usually led by franchises and its fickle nature lends to the feeling, whether true or not, that a degree of randomness is involved in assigning its champions. Indeed, in some ways it is England’s consistency - five semi-finals in five limited-overs tournaments - that does most justice to their excellence.

It was, however, a triumph that inflates the achievement of 2019 and its legacy, a golden generation (dare we use that term so close to Qatar) of English white-ball cricketers whose association with an unrivalled era of success just got a little more illustrious even if they do not necessarily have two medals to prove it.

Only four players - Jos Buttler, Adil Rashid, Chris Woakes and, of course, Ben Stokes - played in both finals and only two more, Mark Wood and Moeen Ali, were even involved in both squads, but 20 years from now even cricket’s pernickety history will not obsess over the specifics.

“I’m obviously gutted that I was not there,” the injured Jonny Bairstow wrote in his Times column this morning. “But I am also immensely proud to be part of this white-ball generation, which has turned England into such a dominating force in world cricket.”

Going into Sunday’s final, there was understandable talk of a last dance for some of this ageing side, all but three of whom are over 30. There are those for whom that may still be the case, but from this side of the final, with more silverware this morning on its way back to London, next year’s 50-over World Cup in India suddenly does not look especially far away.

That tournament will be extremely difficult to win, in the backyard of cricket’s global behemoth, but there are reasons for optimism.

As well as Bairstow, England were yesterday without Jofra Archer, Dawid Malan, Reece Topley and Wood (i.e. half-a-side) and in the longer format have Joe Root to come back in as well as, hopefully, a revitalised Jason Roy.

Add Sam Curran, a curious case across all England teams until a month ago, simultaneously impactful and expendable, but now, surely, a staple, both player of the tournament and the final at 24 years of age.

Sam Curran came to the fore in Australia (Getty Images)
Sam Curran came to the fore in Australia (Getty Images)

Phil Salt and Harry Brook have had their first tastes of tournament cricket, too, but plans for succession of the old guard may have been nudged a little further down the road, particularly in the case of Adil Rashid, who will be hardest to replace but whose performances at the business end of the tournament suggest he is nowhere near done yet.

And then there is the know-how that this crop of players have and, just as importantly, so few of their rivals can call on, the likes of India, South Africa, Pakistan and New Zealand all having gone at least one generation of players without World Cup success and in some cases, much, much longer.

For England’s all-conquering white-ball operation, why stop here?