Ben Stokes called the summer ‘a blast.’ He may as well have called it the summer of Ben Stokes. And there could be no disagreeing about that. A World Cup final and the drama in Headingley has made him a cult hero in England.
2019 was a crazy year for English cricket. Both the World Cup and the Ashes were held in their backyard. One was delivered with Stokes leading them by the scruff of their necks and the other had to contend with a series draw and not letting Australia take both the urn and the series win.
It is believed that the last four months was a journey for English cricket. A journey of rediscovering their selves, finding their true identities and in many ways, Ben Stokes has been leading the charge. And in that attempt, he has gloriously written his legacy.
The 28-year-old was the star of England in both the World Cup final and the Ashes scoring 465 and 471 runs respectively. He had five half-centuries in the World Cup which included 84 not out in the final, after which, he scored two hundred and two fifties against Australia including a 153 not out at Headingley. All of these were defining moments of the summer barring the World Cup final, of course.
There was also a touch of fate about it. Stokes made amends for costing England the 2016 T20 World Cup Final with some poetic retribution in this year’s tournament.
Ben has put in his shift. His path has included a lot of sacrifices, struggles, and extremely hard work. And the efforts have been rewarding. Even when going through all the trials and tribulations, Stokes has retained his perspective. He attributes a lot of accomplishments to that and continues to hold on to that even after the crazy summer he’s had.
“Before England had played a game this summer we knew we had the World Cup and the Ashes ahead of us and now we’re stood here at the end as World Cup winners and with a drawn Ashes series,” he said as the confetti had settled on Australia’s retention of the urn. “We’d like to have won it, but we haven’t lost anything.
“All I wanted to do was have an impact in as many games as possible and help England win as many matches as possible this summer.”
Between now and England’s next engagement away to New Zealand, cricket will be far from Stokes’ mind and daily routine. “I think my pads might already be in the bin!”
Ben Stokes will have almost a month to relish what he’s accomplished so far and then will have to start afresh.
Despite there being a tinge of regret, as it always does with the players with the biggest winning mentalities which Stokes embodies, he will have to address his mindset given the Ashes defeat.
“There have been some incredible highs and some moments that I can hardly believe happened, but they did and I will always be able to remember what it was like being out there in the middle when we won the World Cup or won at Headingley. But as good a day as that was, I would still swap that drama at Headingley for an overall Ashes win though.
“It probably hasn’t all sunk in yet, but at some point, I’ll be able to look back with some satisfaction at what we managed to achieve as a one-day team and a Test team this year.
“So many people have been in touch at various times during the summer, and that catch here at the Oval against South Africa feels like such a long time ago, but I guess that is where it all started.
“It hasn’t all been plain sailing because we had to dig ourselves out of a hole in the World Cup and then we had to scrap until the very last to get that trophy, but we got it.
“The same in the Ashes where we had to fight to the end to get the draw, but we got it and I think that is something we can be so proud of. When things got tough, we didn’t crumble, we stood tall to the end and showed the character in our dressing room.”
Stokes has high hopes for the Test side which has looked dismal at times.
“I think the Test side has done pretty well considering some of the difficulties and issues we’ve had such as the regular changes in the batting order,” said Stokes. “It looks like we’ve found a formula in the last game or so that works for us and is something we can build on.
“Joe Denly has experience as an opening batter and did it for however long in his career and he now looks comfortable there. I think we’ve found something that works and hopefully we can stick with that so when guys get their opportunities down the line they can be consistent with their performances.
“A few people said a few things about Broady and maybe he was coming to the end of his career, but I think he’s shown here that he’s nowhere near done. The way he has bowled right from the start of this series, and with Jimmy not being available, has been heroic and we’ve all been impressed by his skill. He’s set the tone for the bowling attack every time which is exactly what you want from your opening bowler, especially against someone like David Warner. The fact their opening partnership has gone nowhere is largely down to Broady.”
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