Taha Hashim looks back on Wisden‘s No.1 men’s ODI innings of 2019, Ben Stokes’ dramatic 84 not out in the World Cup final against New Zealand.
Ben Stokes 84* (98)
New Zealand v England
ICC Men’s World Cup, Final
July 14, 2019
Stokes at Headingley or Stokes at Lord’s? The debate will rage on for years to come.
The former was done in whites, which adds a bit of gravitas, particularly when you consider England’s first-innings meltdown and how the urn had virtually been lost on day two. Consider the attack, too: things don’t get tougher than Messrs Cummins, Hazlewood, Pattinson and Lyon baying for blood. With his incredible acceleration (he went from 3 off 73 to 61 off 174 to 135 off 219) and shepherding of Jack Leach, it was certainly the more skilful innings.
But the truth is that defeat wouldn’t have stung much. Yes, it was the Ashes on the line, but there wasn’t despairing pain among the masses after Australia later triumphed at Old Trafford. Rather there emerged an acceptance that a flawed England side were always second best to the indefatigable run-making of Steve Smith.
There would have been a different reaction in store had Stokes not pulled off his first miracle of the summer. Yes, it was a World Cup final, but it was more than that for English cricket. It was the match both the ECB bigwigs and players had been building towards since a group-stage exit at the previous World Cup. On a four-year journey they’d blitzed world records and topped the rankings, but that would have all felt insignificant without the trophy in the bag, on home soil, where the game so desperately needed a lift. This meant more.
However, with 22 needed from nine balls and the tail crumbling, the dream looked dead. Stokes was at the crease and not unlike previous occasions in the tournament, it felt like he’d been given too much to do. Against Sri Lanka Stokes been left stranded on 82 not out in a 20-run defeat, and it took a Mitchell Starc yorker from hell to send him sprawling for 89 in England’s third and final group-stage loss.
When he subsequently launched Jimmy Neesham to wide long-off, the end was in sight, with the safe hands of Trent Boult primed to end the contest. And for a brief moment, Boult had the ball and the World Cup in the palm of his hands. A second later, he was lying behind the rope, with the honest Martin Guptill signalling six. Stokes, firmly entrenched in that peculiar place they call “the zone”, repeated the signal. No-one had any idea that the chaos was only just getting started.
Of course, we all know what followed. The singles he turned down in the final over. The ridiculous slog sweep over midwicket off Boult. The innocence of his hands-up pose after the ricocheted six. The angst in only landing a single from the final ball that left the job unfinished.
He was shattered, but he was never not going to bat in that Super Over. And after the misery of that night in Kolkata and the fallout from that night in Bristol, he was never not going to win England the World Cup.
49.3 Trent Boult to Ben Stokes, SIX
How can it not be this? At this stage, the game’s not about aesthetics, tactics or common sense. It’s a scrap of runs and wickets, madness that not even the oldest of the egg-and-bacon tie brigade have witnessed. So barely anyone can register that Stokes has played one of the great shots, with one knee down against a ball outside off that flies beyond your comprehension. England need 9 from 3. The madness continues.