Stand-out star of an unforgettable summer of cricket inspired England’s historic World Cup win before one of the greatest Test innings of all time

This summer Ben Stokes delivered arguably the greatest performance in English cricket history.
Then 42 days later he did it all over again.
First, the World Cup Final. As England stuttered and stumbled in pursuit of New Zealand’s 241, and with wickets tumbling around him, his 84 not out, including 15 from the final four balls, tied the scores, setting up that historic super over.
It was an astonishing display of skill, courage, self-belief and bloody-mindedness, shot through with a simple and steely refusal to be beaten.
Later, as England’s exhausted, elated players celebrated amid the lengthening shadows at Lords, it was impossible to believe that this moment could be beaten, that it could be anything but the pinnacle of England’s cricketing summer.
Then, six weeks later at Headingley, with England once again on the brink, this time of surrendering the Ashes series to Australia, came a performance that defied belief.
First with the ball, as Australia looked to build a match-winning lead on the second evening, Stokes took up the challenge, in a draining 16-over spell that delivered two wickets, and crucially, kept England’s slim hopes alive.
The following day, even that chance of winning the third test appeared to have gone.
Australia finished their second innings 358 ahead, leaving England facing their highest-ever run chase to win.
It never looked likely, as short spells of resistance were punctuated by wickets falling. Stokes came in on the third evening, and initially set about doggedly protecting his wicket, scoring two runs from 66 balls.
The following day, as one by one, his batting partners fell, Stokes stood firm until with nine wickets down, Jack Leach joined him at the crease.
They were still an impossible 73 runs from home, and defeat was just a matter of time.
It’s just that nobody told Ben Stokes. Four sixes from the bowling of Nathan Lyon brought the target below 50, and a disbelieving crowd began to dare to dream.
A four and two more magnificent sixes brought up Stokes’ hundred, and with the help of a single from the doughty Leach to level the scores, England stood on the verge of history.
It came, naturally, from Stokes, in the form of a glorious cut to the boundary.
Later, as they tried to make sense of what they had seen, fellow players, past and present, struggled to find the superlatives to describe Stokes’s performance.
So perhaps it is best to leave it to the man himself, who said simply “Unbelievable”, as he was mobbed by his joyous team-mates.

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