March 24, 2015. Semi-final. Eden Park, Auckland. South Africa-born Grant Elliott clobbers Dale Steyn over wide long as New Zealand enter the final for the first time by beating South Africa. Elliott celebrates and in an image which has become an icon for sportsman’s spirit, he lends a hand to Steyn who is down on the ground with disappointment and helps him get back on his feet. July 15, 2019. Final. Lord’s. Ben Stokes, born in Christchurch to Gerard Stokes, a former All Black rugby player, is the Man of the Match for his knock of 84* and his efforts in the super over as England become world champions for the first time due to not an outright result, but due to a superior boundary count.
The score for both Elliott and Stokes was 84* in their respective games. While Elliott ended up helping New Zealand reach the final, Stokes’ knock in the most extraordinary circumstances makes his story the ultimate redemption tale of an England all-rounder touted to be the next Sir Ian Botham, who was the gold standard for England all-rounders.
From having his wrist broken after punching his locker during the series in West Indies, to getting smashed for four consecutive sixes by Carlos Brathwaite to help West Indies inflict a painful World T20 loss in the final in Kolkata 2016 to spending a night in jail over the punching incident in Bristol, the journey of Stokes has been an emotional roller-coaster.
After missing the Ashes and for the majority of the series in New Zealand, Stokes was welcomed back to the England team and he was touted as the key component in England’s World Cup success. The left-hander was not part of England’s humiliating 2015 World Cup campaign and this made him one of the new faces in ‘new’ England’s ODI resurgence.
Almost-man in league stages
During the 2019 World Cup, it seemed Stokes would be the almost-man. His 82 and 89 against Sri Lanka and Australia were sublime one-man efforts, but England lost both games. The loss against the Old Enemy in the ‘home of cricket’ was the spark which reignited England’s campaign, according to Jason Roy. Stokes blasted 79 in the death overs against India and helped England win after 27 years against India in the World Cup.
In the final, Stokes was up against the country where he was born. New Zealand managed 241/8 and it was not going to be an easy chase. Stokes hung in with Jos Buttler and the duo got things back on track with a 110-run stand. When Buttler fell, the situation demanded Stokes being there. The situation confronting Stokes was almost similar to what Elliott was up against in Auckland.
In the fourth ball of the 49th over, Stokes muscled a ball from James Neesham to wide long on. Trent Boult took the catch but the momentum forced him to step on the boundary. A couple of weeks ago, this was the same Boult who took the catch inches from the boundary to deny West Indies glory in Manchester after Carlos Brathwaite’ epic century almost resulted in the impossible.
In the fourth ball of the final over bowled by Boult, Stokes played out two dot balls and the pressure mounted with 15 needed off four balls. On the third ball, he thumped a six and off the fourth ball, Stokes went for a crazy second run and Martin Guptill fired the throw. However, the ball hit the bat as Stokes dived and went for four overthrows. Six runs were awarded. In Manchester, Guptill had secured a direct hit to run-out MS Dhoni and knock India out. Oh, such are the fine lines of fate.
'Today does not define you'
Stokes was there till the end as the match finished in a tie and the super overcame about to determine who was the winner. Stokes and Buttler, who had gotten England on the brink of glory, slammed a four each and 15 runs came. Stokes was not done with the bat. When Jofra Archer came to bowl and was hit for a six by Neesham to get the equation down to seven off four, Stokes came up with inspirational words.
Drawing upon his own experience of hurt, pain and disappointment, Stokes told the young Archer, “Win or lose, today does not define you. Everyone believes in you.” Those 12 words were enough as Guptill was run-out with the scores level in the super over and England was declared winners due to a superior boundary count.
The emotions of Stokes after the match summed up all the years of pain and disappointment in the moment of glory. Weeping openly, Stokes said, “I am lost for words. All the work over four years, to get here and be the champions of the world is an amazing feeling.” Stokes was even apologetic for the overthrow and signified the moment when he had matured from England’s bad boy to ultimate match-winner.
“In the last over when the ball hit the bat and went for four - I apologized to Kane for that. It's fantastic, the lads, the family, and the support, it's just been incredible,” Stokes added after he became the Man of the Match in the final, thus cementing his legacy.
The journey of England to ‘New’ England is synonymous with that of Ben Stokes. From being knocked out in group stages to World Cup winners, it has been an emotional roller-coaster not only for England but for Stokes.