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Big Ben

England's Ben Stokes in action
©Reuters
 

A figure seldom forgotten in cricketing circles these days, whose marvels single-handedly won the ASHES 2019 3rd Test, at Headingley, leading to an eventual 2-2 result in the series, but most importantly whose pursuance just recently annihilated New Zealand’s campaign earning England their maiden World Cup.

Parallels are being drawn and some experts have already labelled him the 21st Century “Ian Botham”. He’s the mighty Ben Stokes of the English Cricket team. Their new saviour, their lucky charm, their turn to person when all else fails.

Ironically though, things haven’t always been in Ben’s favour. There was a time when luck was not on his side. When his name was on the front pages for all the wrong reasons. For instance, when he conceded four sixes in four balls from Carlos Brathwaite in the final over of 2016 ICC T20 World Cup in India. Times were hard. It took Ben months to overcome the heartbreak. But things were far from over.

Perhaps the lowest of lows came when Ben found himself on the wrong side of incident, after being involved in a brawl outside a club, in Bristol, in September 2017, where he had been enjoying a drink with his team-mate Alex Hales, following a win against West Indies. Stokes lost his England vice-captaincy and a place on an Ashes tour after footage of the fight, which left two men unconscious, was published by a newspaper website in the aftermath of his arrest.

Ben Stokes had hit an all-time low; rock bottom. While many ex-cricketers wrote him off completely, many others called for his retirement.  But he wasn’t having any of it as there was just one way to go from there and that was “Up.”

He booked a seat back in the England squad after he was cleared of affray. But during the first few subsequent International appearances, Ben’s presence seemed merely physical, as it seemed that he was somewhere else. A 50 here or a five-for there. For most of 2018 Ben was hardly a shadow of his former glory.   

The turnabout

As 2019 arrived things took a turn. Ben was uprooting stumps, dislodging bails and whacking balls out of the ground. In his first series of the year, Ben racked up 115 runs in 4 matches, took 5 wickets and averaged 38 with the bat. In the run-up to the World Cup 2019, Ben’s performance at Trent Bridge won England a match out of nowhere, in their series against Pakistan. The year was already looking promising for Ben Stokes.

Then came the greatest showdown; with World Cup 2019 being played on home soil, England were the hot favourites and all eyes were set on the men in “sky” blue. Ben’s performance was meticulous from the word go, a superb 89 runs by him crucified the South African bowling attack in the opening match. Not only that, he went on to take the best catch of the tournament which sent Du Plessis packing. Nasser Hussain couldn’t believe what he had witnessed and could not stop himself from saying, “No! No way, you cannot do that!” every time the replay came on screen, literally.

His form continued throughout the World Cup with vital knocks against India, Sri Lanka and most importantly his clinical innings against New Zealand, at the grandest stage of them all, pulling the match back from 15 off 4 to a super over. He went on to win the final for England, by the narrowest of margins, his heroics earning England their first ever World Cup and a page in the history books. He took a total of 7 wickets and made 463 runs in the tournament at an average of 51.3. He was named the “Man of the Final”. Ben Stokes had finally got his redemption.

If that wasn’t enough, Ben Stokes in the 3rd Test of Ashes 2019, at Headingly, demolished the fearsome Aussie bowling line-up, his heroics single-handedly won England the match. Many ex-cricketers such as Mitchell Johnson claimed Ben’s display as, “The greatest innings I’ve ever seen”. Without Ben’s heroics England would have crumpled to a probable 3-0 or 3-1loss, but ended up drawing the series instead.

All that remains to be seen now is when the “Big Ben” strikes on 2020, what title would Her Majesty bestow upon the ‘Knight’ of the English Cricket fan’s hearts, Sir Ben Stokes has long had his calling.

The article has been written by Fasih Taqvi, currently an O Levels student at Froebels International School, Islamabad, Pakistan.


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