England beat Pakistan by five wickets with six balls to spare in the final to win the 2022 Men’s T20 World Cup. Geoff Lemon’s match report originally appeared in the 2023 edition of the Wisden Cricket Almanack.

Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 final: England v Pakistan at Melbourne, November 13, 2022 (day/night)

Toss: England. England won by five wickets with six balls to spare.

Inevitably, another World Cup finished with Ben Stokes. In the T20 version of 2016, it had been Stokes with the ball, trying to defend 19 and watching Carlos Brathwaite send four deliveries up to their vanishing point in the black Kolkata sky. In the one-day final at Lord’s in 2019, it had been Stokes with the bat, producing a string of miracles in regulation play and a super over. Now, it was Stokes grinding out an unbeaten 52 on a bowler-friendly MCG pitch to steady England’s chase of 138 after Pakistan had rocked its balance.

Setting up such a gettable target had been down to all of England’s bowlers. Pakistan had entered the final with the world’s most prolific opening pair: Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan had put on 2,201 T20I runs for the first wicket. But they had been poor for much of the tournament, and other teams had been knocked out after timid batting during the fielding restrictions. Buttler exploited the nerves of a final by sending Pakistan in, and it worked: barely a shot was played through those first six overs, with Stokes, Woakes and Curran keeping the score to 39, for the loss of Rizwan, who dragged Curran on to his stumps.

Mohammad Haris lived up to his billing as one of the most aggressive players in domestic T20s, but barely made contact with any of his swings, before finding long-on from Rashid’s first ball. His second wicket was the key, though. After Shan Masood took apart Livingstone’s spin, Rashid produced a googly to fool Babar, who chipped it back just as he looked ready to go up the gears; the over, the 12th of the innings, was a wicket-maiden. Stokes summoned a Test-match lifter to undo Iftikhar Ahmed, who had previously crafted some decent rescue acts. At 119-4 after 16, Pakistan had potential, but again England removed a player on the verge of going big, Curran using the long MCG boundaries to induce a pull from Masood to deep square leg. Catches in the deep kept coming, giving Jordan two cheap wickets and leaving Curran with a scarcely believable 3-12.

But Shaheen Shah Afridi was yet to be reckoned with and, in the first over of the chase, rocketed an inswinger through Hales. Fierce pace from Haris Rauf saw Salt mistime a pull to midwicket, and Buttler prod an edge behind. In between, Naseem Shah bowled an over that beat Buttler five times while conceding 11, via five off a wide and a trademark scooped six. It was a mile a minute, England finishing the powerplay on 49-3 – slightly shaken, but up with the rate.

The pace, however, began to slow and, with Stokes and Brook barely able to score, Pakistan crept into the ascendancy. Shadab Khan bowled a brilliant spell of leg-spin, four overs straight through, with Brook’s wicket in the last. Just before that, Naseem again beat the bat five times in an over. The equation reached 49 from 36 balls. Importantly, though, Stokes was still there, and Afridi had injured his knee catching Brook.

That Stokes was here at all was contentious. Before the series against Australia that had preceded this tournament, he had not played T20 cricket for England in 18 months; even before that, he had averaged 20 with the bat – without a fifty – and nearly 38 with the ball. His selection seemed more to do with his status as a big-game player, a seizer of important moments. His slow starts did not suit the team approach, especially alongside Dawid Malan: two anchors were one too many. But with England unwilling to risk Malan, who had missed the semi-final with a groin strain, the balance around Stokes improved. Chasing 200 on a road might have made him a liability, but a middling pursuit in bowling conditions made him an asset. At one stage, he had 24 off 34 balls, the kind of innings that can end a T20 career. But Afridi’s withdrawal after one ball of his third over, the 16th, saw Stokes take four and six from the occasional off-spin of Iftikhar, lifting England close enough that Moeen Ali’s three boundaries in the 17th, off Mohammad Wasim, all but sealed the game. Stokes addressed the stat about half-centuries, then hit the winning run through midwicket. That night in Kolkata could be pushed further into the recesses of memory – and England had at least a year to enjoy being world champions in both formats.

Player of the Match: SM Curran. Player of the Tournament: SM Curran.