The history of English cricket has more often than not given us quality all-rounders who are equally adept with the bat as with the ball. Whether it was the legendary Sir Ian Botham or the exuberant Andrew Flintoff, these Englishmen have proved to be blockbuster players and the ones you’d pay big bucks to watch.
So, when the Christchurch, New Zealand-born Ben Stokes arrived at the scene in 2011, everyone hailed him to be the next Freddie or the next Beefy. However, his statistics won’t tell you half about the cricketer he has become since then. Stokes has produced a string of excellent displays for his country across multiple formats, cementing his place among the sport’s elite stars.
Emerging from the lows
In September 2017, it seemed like Ben Stokes career had hit a rock bottom when he was caught on camera involved in a brawl in Bristol. It was fascinating to watch him rise from that low and effortlessly emerge as the undisputed king of English cricket and as per some, world cricket. His balanced ability with both bat and ball and not to forget his athleticism on the field makes him a modern great of the game.
Along with this, he is also known to be a great source of motivation on the field, continuously motivating his teammates to give in their best. One of the most famous ones was when Jofra Archer was getting ready to bowl in the infamous 2019 Cricket World Cup final super over. Stokes walked up to the young speedster and said, “Everyone believes in you. Win or lose, today doesn’t define you.” It was a lesson Stokes himself had to learn the cruel way in Kolkata when Carlos “Remember the name” Braithwaite had smashed four consecutive sixes off his bowling to win the 2016 T20 World Cup for the West Indies.
Golden Summer of 2019
The summer of 2019 had to be a big one for England. With the Cricket World Cup and a gruelling Ashes series both to take place at home, they needed characters like Ben Stokes to stand up and soak up the pressure and boy, did he deliver! Remember, the Three Lions had never won a 50-over World Cup before and this was probably their best chance to get one and that too on the holy turf of the Lord’s Cricket Ground.
The World Cup started off on a positive note for the Durham man, as he pulled off one of the most remarkable catches the cricket fraternity has ever seen. Even Ben Stokes had stunned himself with that effort. But it seemed like Stokes saved his best for the last. As if he knew that his country would look up to him at the biggest stage of the tournament and will need him to deliver in that clutch situation.
That final at Lord’s against New Zealand will go down in history as the best final ever played and the most bizarre one for sure. Stokes struck an unbeaten 84 off 98 balls to help England tie with New Zealand’s 241. He then made eight off three balls in a Super Over shootout, which also ended in a tie, but England eventually won the title on boundary count. Ben Stokes went on to be adjudged the Man of the Match in the final, proving to be a major figure behind bringing cricket home as the country lifted their first-ever 50-over World Cup trophy.
Now, it was time for the Ashes. The battle for the little urn began at Edgbaston where Australia were far superior to their opponents and Steve Smith in his comeback series had plans of spoiling the party mood in England. We moved to Headingley for the second test and it was a must-win for England. Their hopes of regaining the Ashes appeared to be over when they were bowled out for 67 in their first innings at Headingley, before eventually being set a target of 359 to square the series. Stokes managed to do the impossible for his team as his unbeaten 135 off 219 balls helped England secure an improbable chase of 359 after being down to 9 for 286 at Headingley.
It was Stokes’ summer but Smith’s Ashes as the Tim Paine led team drew the series 2-2 and went on to retain the Ashes. Nevertheless, world cricket witnessed the unquestionable rise of a modern great in Ben Stokes.
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