The incredible rise of Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes celebrating his century in the game against Australia
Ben Stokes celebrating his century in the game against Australia

England’s Kiwi-born all-rounder is having a fantastic ICC Champions Trophy. His semi-final showing, an unbeaten 102 to lead his country to a 40-run win over Australia, was perhaps his most impressive for his nation to date.

The nation will be hoping he carries such excellent form into Wednesday’s semi-final. Whilst home advantage may give England the edge, you can be sure not to lose money betting via the method.

Former England spinner Graeme Swann was among the chorus praising the Durham man. “Of all the moments Stokes has had in an England shirt, this is the finest”, Swann told BBC Test Match Special. "He looks as good as any player in the world,” he continued. Since returning from the IPL as the competition’s most valuable player, Stokes has hit two centuries in four ODI innings for England – his most recent century constituting his highest ODI score, taking in 13 fours and two sixes.

It was clear from an early age that the big-hitting batsman was going to be a success. He was just 18-years-old when he signed for Durham – snaring England legend Mark Ramprakash with just his third legal delivery in senior cricket.

Nevertheless, after two successful seasons progressing in Championship cricket, and having worked his way into the England Lions team, his career hit an iceberg. He was called up to the Lions squad for the tour of Australia in 2013, but was sent home with three matches after two breaches of discipline.

Determined not to let his progress go to waste, he recovered quickly, playing a pivotal role in his county’s Championship winning season and earning a surprise call for the 2013-14 Ashes tour. The tour was little more than disastrous for England – they were thrashed 5-0 in the Tests, lost 4-1 in the one-day series and were then comprehensively beaten again in the T20. However, the one player to come out of the series with any respect was Stokes – his maiden Test hundred in Perth from no 6 made people remember his name.

Yet, a dismal summer in 2014 yet again halted his progress. He hit just 43 runs for England in 12 innings, succumbing to six ducks at an average of 3.60. That was followed by a badly broken wrist suffered by punching a dressing locker in the Caribbean, forcing him out of the World T20 in Bangladesh, and again casting doubts over his discipline.

A born fighter – after all, his dad was a professional rugby league player for New Zealand – he again managed to recover. A highly successful 2015 was epitomised by high batting scores against New Zealand, and then equally impressive bowling figures against Australia in the Ashes. That was followed by a monstrous 258 from 198 balls against South Africa in Cape Town in early 2016 - the fastest England double hundred in history, and second of all time.

His bad luck hadn’t ended there, however, and he suffered a crushing personal defeat in the T20 World Cup final in 2016. He had to defend 19 in the last over against West Indies, but was hit for 24 in four balls by Carlos Brathwaite.

Stokes may have fallen to his knees that night, but his current form emphasises his innate ability to recover from difficult situations. His aggressive batting and crowd-pleasing nature stands him as England’s commander - and one of the world’s very best.

© Cricket World 2017