2019: The Year of Ben Stokes
Never before in the history of cricket has one man had as much of a rollercoaster of a career as Ben Stokes, and there are still hundreds of overs and innings left in the tank.
From facing a possible prison sentence after a brawl on the streets of Bristol to his heroic antics this summer leading to the West Stand of Headingley shoeless, the impact he has had on the cricketing world has been monumental. He may never have had the opportunity to be hailed as England’s best player or to be compared to the likes of Flintoff or Botham if it were not for the ECB’s backing of such a masterful player.
Stokes’s story goes a lot further back than most people will remember, all the way to 2011 when he was picked for England’s ODI squad but was unable to make a difference. Regardless, in 2013/14 he was selected in the test team for the Ashes where he tallied off his maiden century. The next stand out performance was against South Africa in 2016. Stokes scored the second-fastest double century in test history, reaching 258, and almost single-handedly won the series, earning player of the series as a result.
In 2016 the T20 World Cup knocked Stokes down a peg or two as he took the ball in the last over of the final and was smashed for four consecutive sixes by Carlos Braithwaite. England had lost in another World Cup Final.
Stokes continued to perform, however, scoring two more centuries against South Africa and West Indies. Yet his comeback from the fateful T20 Final was swiftly halted in late 2017 when Stokes was arrested for affray on a night out in Bristol. Stokes was charged and faced a long trialling period that began in February and ended in August 2018. The all-rounder was acquitted but punished by the ECB with a £30,000 fine and an 8-game ban, which he had already served.
The ECB chief, Tom Harrison, spoke out about the drama and believed that Stokes could still be a role model. This was the first step to redemption. He came back to the England side with uncertainty; however, he showed the crowds his excellence once more.
The first game of the World Cup against South Africa saw Stokes bat to 89 and pluck the ball out of the sky at deep mid-wicket with an audacious effort putting England in control and eventually earning man of the match. It was an outstanding tournament for Stokes as he scored three more half-centuries in the pool stages showing defiance in defeat and dragging England through against India.
— ICC (@ICC) May 30, 2019
But Stokes’s highlight would be in the final against New Zealand as he dug in for two and a half hours scoring 84 to clinch a dramatic draw for England when the game looked gone. He was back out batting again 10 minutes later as he scored eight more runs in the super over and setting a total New Zealand could only match. England triumphed on boundaries scored, ‘the barest of margins’ that sealed England’s greatest day.
You may think leading England to its first ODI World Cup victory would be enough to hail him as one of the all-time greats, but Stokes was only just getting going.
Several incredible performances were witnessed in The Ashes series in England this summer. With the ball Stokes was yet again defiant as he had magnificent spells at Edgbaston and Headingley taking a few wickets and plenty of maidens but unfortunate not to take more.
It was with the bat that Stokes really impressed with two centuries in the series, one of which was truly one of the best Test innings ever seen. Stokes had scored three from 73 balls in England’s second innings, the stubborn display earning him plenty of respect. As Jonny Bairstow arrived at the crease, Stokes came to life, but the wickets soon tumbled, and England looked hopeless as it was down to the last wicket and they required 76 to win. 11 fours and eight sixes took Stokes to a marvellous 135 and England to one of the most outstanding wins ever. The pick of the shots a reverse sweep that flew into the stands for six as Nathan Lyon could only look despairingly.
The whole year surmounted in December as Stokes was nominated for Sports Personality of the Year and, as predicted, won the whole competition with his performances leading England to grab Team of the Year and Moment of the Year.
The year of Ben Stokes is not over yet, however, as England now travel to South Africa as the superstar will aim to continue his success against the Springboks and top his year off with further brilliance.