Buttler dreams big for England before T20 World Cup final

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — England cricket captain Jos Buttler is on the cusp of living out a boyhood dream and is embracing all expectations surrounding Sunday’s Twenty20 World Cup final against Pakistan.

A record-breaker in short-form cricket, the first-year captain hopes England can add the T20 world championship in Melbourne to its 2019 success in the 50-over format in London.

The 32-year-old Buttler, who holds England records for runs scored and dismissals in the 20-over game, is confident the nation can capture a rare World Cup double at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

“It really links back to where … as a kid really, this is the kind of thing you’d be doing in the garden with your brother and sister, pretending to lift a trophy, that kind of thing,” he said. “And now to be able to have the opportunity to have a chance to live that kind of (dream) out is incredibly special.”

Pakistan and England finalized their preparations for the championship match of the four-week long tournament in differing fashions on Saturday.

After appearing alongside their opponents at a fan zone in the grounds adjoining the MCG, England headed back into the ground for a final training session.

Pakistan, which progressed to the decider with a stirring triumph over New Zealand at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday, opted for a rest day after training on Friday.

The two nations did not meet earlier in the World Cup, although England edged Pakistan in a warm-up game and also claimed a recent seven-game series in Pakistan 4-3.

It’s been 30 years since Pakistan’s “cornered tigers” defeated England at the MCG to win the country’s first World Cup in the 50-over format.

Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam, 28, was not alive for the famous triumph. But the opening batter is mindful of the significance of that success in Pakistan and determined to create his own captaincy legacy.

“Of course, there are similarities,” he said. “But we will try to win, as it is an honor for me to lead this team, especially on this big ground.”

Resilience throughout this tournament and also from an individual perspective has been a theme for both nations throughout the World Cup.

A shock loss to Ireland in a rain-affected match at the MCG placed England, which thrashed India in a semifinal in Adelaide on Thursday, under pressure to qualify for the semis.

A washout against Australia in Melbourne added to the uncertainty and England only qualified for the semifinals when it beat Sri Lanka last Saturday with just two balls to spare.

Few players in this event exemplify the importance of resilience more than Alex Hales, who partnered Buttler in an unbeaten opening partnership of 170 to reel in India’s tally of 168 for six with ease at Adelaide Oval.

An usher for the England captain in his wedding in 2017, Hales was banished from national duties and missed the 2019 World Cup triumph after testing positive to illicit drugs.

He only earned a recall for this tournament as a late replacement for Jonny Bairstow but has vindicated the decision by making 211 runs at an average of 52.75.

England’s path to the final was serene compared to the stress faced by Pakistan after excruciating losses to India at the MCG and Zimbabwe in Perth to start the tournament.

From an improbable position, Azam’s team has since shown the stirring spirit from 1992 with consecutive victories over the Netherlands, South Africa, Bangladesh and New Zealand to reach the final.

“We had our first two matches as losses, which cost us, but I am proud of the way the team came back in the last four matches,” Azam said.

The La Nina weather pattern prevalent on the eastern seaboard of Australia throughout the Southern Hemisphere spring has proven problematic in the World Cup and poses a significant threat on Sunday.

Between eight and 20 millimeters (nearly three-quarters of an inch) are predicted on Sunday and heavy rain is also predicted for the reserve day on Monday. World Cup honors will be shared if the necessary amount of overs needed to decide a result cannot be played.

Having fallen short against Ireland in a rain-shortened match in the group stages, Buttler said England received a timely reminder about how to prepare for possible interruptions.

“I think any experiences that you can draw on good or bad, you will have learned from those and reflect on those … situations of adversity or a bit of chaos,” he said. “The more experience you’ve got of being able to understand those feelings and how to react to them, I definitely see that as a benefit.”

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