In a two-over period late in the T20 World Cup final, the hearts of Pakistan supporters sunk and the English loosened up for wild celebrations.
Pakistan fans watched on gutted as the spearhead of the side’s attack, magnificent quick Shaheen Afridi, limped from the field.
He’d returned to the MCG pastures after buckling a knee while taking a classy outfield catch, only to bowl one ball and call it a day 15.1 overs into England’s chase.
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What followed was a glut of runs that saw the English rip the game away from a gutsy Pakistan side defending only 137.
Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali combined to pummel 29 runs from 11 balls across the 16th and 17th overs, setting England up for a five-wicket win with six balls to spare.
Mark Taylor labelled Afridi’s exit the “turning point” on Nine’s coverage of the match, while Callum Ferguson scorned the decision to hand part-time off-spinner Iftikhar Ahmed the ball when the leader of the attack stumbled from the field.
Iftikhar leaked 13 runs from five balls, before Mohammad Wasim conceded 16 from a full over.
“I’ve watched this Pakistan side really closely through the tournament. It feels like a more mature Pakistan at the moment,” Ferguson said.
“But there’s no doubt that Iftikhar bowling at that stage of the game was the furthest thing from everyone’s minds … before Shaheen went down. He’s barely bowled at all in this tournament. We know he’s an off-spinner that does bowl from time to time, but for that to be the situation and for him to be bowling that over — that was a real left-field one for me.
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“I thought (left-arm orthodox bowler Mohammad) Nawaz might have bowled it, even though it would have meant spinning into the two left-handers. I still thought they would have gone with him. He’s a guy that’s bowled well through the tournament.”
Stokes finished with an unbeaten 52 runs from 49 deliveries, saving the highest score of his T20 international career for the most important stage.
Ali played a tremendous supporting role, hammering 19 from 13 after striding to the middle at No.6.
“Wasn’t to be and it hurt them in the end,” Ferguson said of the call to give Iftikhar the ball.
“Ben Stokes took full toll.”
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