It was the night of 3rd April, 2016. The iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata was hosting the final of the sixth edition of the ICC T20 World Cup. The two teams were England (who gave birth to the game and the format too) and the West Indies (the undisputed champions of the shortest format). At around midnight, the game was reaching its climax and a new World Champion was to be crowned.
Batting first, England scored 155/9, which was considered a good score in a big finale. They even seemed like defending it when the West Indies were still 70 runs away after 14 overs. It was a daunting task. To England’s disadvantage, Marlon Samuels, the saviour of the West Indies last time when they won the T20 World Cup in 2012, was still at the crease.
When captain Darren Sammy was dismissed, 49 runs were required off 27 deliveries and that’s when Carlos Brathwaite joined Samuels at the crease. The duo added 30 runs in the following 21 balls, leaving 19 runs for the last over – a huge ask, even by standards of the big hitting West Indians.
When Ben Stokes couldn’t land his yorkers and was left stunned
Ben Stokes was given the ball to deliver the final over. An England victory looked only plausible. At this point of time, nine of ten times one would want to be on the bowling side. That night however, the bowling side ended up being disappointed as three balls into the over, England’s dream of winning a second World T20 title went down the drain.
Three consecutive sixes came from the bat of a then not so renowned Carlos Brathwaite. And then came that fourth maximum. ‘Carlos Brathwaite, remember the name’ (You could almost hear Ian Bishop in your mind, right?) was the icing on the cake, a flavour which England fans still dislike.
Ben Stokes, without a doubt, was heartbroken. The heartbreak was justified too. He had just let a World Cup slip away. Moments like these make or break a player. It had broken Ben Stokes. He sat still on the ground, while his team mates tried to console him. Carlos Brathwaite, on the other hand, became a famous entity in world cricket.
Today marks the 4th anniversary of that unimaginable turnaround of events. Things are different now. Ben Stokes has turned himself into a fantastic all rounder and is steadily progressing up the ladder in the list of all time greats. Okay, his numbers are fairly average but you know what they say, stats don’t show the complete picture. What he has achieved for England and himself personally is beyond any numerical representation.
One can’t say this about Carlos Brathwaite. Prior to the 2016 T20 World Cup, he had played only 2 matches in five years since making his debut. The surreal performance at Eden Gardens made him quite a star in the Caribbean Islands. After the glorious triumph, he was appointed the captain of the West Indies T20I team just a few months later. To say the least, he didn’t live up to the expectations.
His only other innings of note came in last year’s World Cup at Old Trafford, when he nearly stole the match from New Zealand with a sensational 101-run knock.
Ben Stokes turns villain to England’s hero in 2019
Coming back to Ben Stokes, or Ben Stokes OBE, the whole of 2019 was his moment. He reached his peak last year and immortalised himself in cricketing history. He lit up the World Cup with a breathtaking one-handed catch off the bowling of Adil Rashid in the opener against South Africa. Nasser Hussain’s words on the live global telecast summed it up, ‘No way. No way. You can not do that, Ben Stokes.’
Around six weeks later, England’s long held wish of winning the 50 overs World Cup was fulfilled on 14 July 2019, when they defeated (sensing major conflict) New Zealand at the home of cricket, Lord’s. Despite coming into the tournament as the number one ranked side and as firm favourites, they had to fight and fight hard to earn it.
It almost slipped away from them, almost. But they held onto it, courtesy an absolute gem off an innings from Ben Stokes. In pursuit of 242, when Jos Buttler got out at the score of 196 in the 45th over, England were all but gone. There was, however, one man standing between the Kiwis and the World Cup. Ben Stokes. He scored 84 off 98 and took the game to the super over. He then batted in the super over and took England to 15. And New Zealand lost (not really) the game despite scoring the same number of runs due to lower boundary.
Another defining moment, this time in the Ashes
In the last week of August later that year, England were on the cusp of losing the urn to Australia. At Edgbaston, they were defeated by a lone warrior in Steve Smith and the two teams played out a draw at Lord’s. In the 3rd Test at Headingley, England hit absolute rock bottom after getting out for a paltry 67 in the first innings.
Set a total of 359 to chase, Stokes played one of the greatest innings in Test cricket (135* off 219) and added 76 runs with Jack Leach for the last wicket to deny Australia a well deserved win. The Ashes was on the line and it was as if he stood in between and said ‘Not Today’ (Game of Thrones instincts taking over).
This time too, Nasser Hussain was in the commentary box and as soon as Stokes hit the winning runs, he said, ‘What an innings, what a player. Take a bow, Ben Stokes. The Ashes well and truly alive because of one cricketer, and that cricketer is Benjamin Stokes, the cricketer for England in 2019.’ Case closed.
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