Ben Stokes goes from villain to hero in one glorious day

Tom Morgan
- Action Images via Reuters

Ben Stokes staged one of the great redemption acts of British sporting history on Sunday as he blasted England to a glorious first Cricket World Cup less than a year after he was cleared of his part in a nightclub brawl.

The New Zealand-born 28-year-old, with a father who joked he was cheering on the opposition, staged a one-men batting salvo to ensure England secured a fightback to match the most dramatic ever produced in team sport.

His heroic performance in forcing the side to an unprecedented tie before snatching the title from New Zealand in a six-ball shoot-out came almost a year to the day since his Bristol Crown Court affray case threatened to drag the reputation of his sport to an all-time low.

Stokes was subsequently cleared and, following his exploits yesterday, he was listed by bookmakers at 2-1 to become BBC Sports Personality of the Year. He could also be named along with his teammates in the New Year's Honours. 

It was a first trophy for England after 44 years and 12 editions of the tournament.   "It's moments like that you live for as a professional cricketer," Stokes said of the team's triumph.

Ben Stokes stepped up in the super over to deliver England victory Credit: AP Photo/Alastair Grant

The side secured their legacy in front of 30,000 captivated fans, a mass gathering at Trafalgar Square and on television in homes up and down the country. 

With the match screened live on Channel 4 thanks to an agreement with Sky, cricket secured its biggest audience in years for a match which will inject fresh life into the sport, which has suffered falling attendances at county matches.

It was also a day of heroism for England's Jofra Archer, 24, the Barbados-born fast bowler who tasked with bowling the deciding over. Acher's path to national bowling stardom was secured thanks to an administrative curve-ball and a father who lived 4,000 miles away.

Last November, the England and Wales Cricket Board made what was described as a "naked" move to name Archer by relaxing eligibility rules for foreign-born players. In its desperation to win the tournament on home turf, England residency requirements were slashed from seven years to three.

Stokes was quick to praise Archer instead of his own exploits. "It's moments like that you live for as a professional cricketer and the new kid on the block Jofra Archer, I backed him all the way. The talent he's got is incredible and he's showed it on the world stage," he said. 

Last night Richard Caborn, the former sports minister, told the Daily Telegraph that Theresa May, a keen cricket fan who was at Lord's yesterday, should swiftly recommend the team for the "highest honours".

Eoin Morgan, the captain, might even be nominated for a knighthood, he suggested.

Jofra Archer bowled the super over and secured England's victory Credit: Gareth Copley-IDI

Morgan had said of the triumph: "This has been a four-year journey and we have developed a lot over those four years, but particularly in the last two. We find it hard to play on wickets like that - as many good teams around the world do - but it was about playing cricket to get over the line and we managed to do that and it means the world to us.  

"Full credit to the boys who went out there at the end. Jofra Archer seems to improve every time something comes up in front of him and he really does have the world at his feet at the moment."

When asked about Stokes’ performance, Morgan described the all-rounder as “super-human”.

A super over, a six-ball shoot-out, had only occurred 11 times in international history and never before in an ODI. During the dramatic finale, the teams went blow-for-blow once again, Stokes and Jos Buttler hitting 15 off Trent Boult before Archer conceded 14 off his first five deliveries.

Archer, the least experienced player on either side, then held his nerve as Martin Guptill forced the ball into the off-side and came back for a second that would have taken the trophy.

Enter Jason Roy, who picked up cleanly despite unimaginable pressure and hurled a flat, decisive throw towards Buttler, who scattered the stumps as Guptill scrambled. Tied once again, England triumphed on account of boundaries scored in the original 50-over match, a technocratic decider in a contest that proved impossible to settle any other way.

In the end England's 22 fours and two sixes proved the difference, besting the Black Caps' tally of 14 and two but they are just numbers, and do scant justice to the emotional, occasionally controversial and endlessly replayable events that played out on this famous ground.

The Prime Minister said England's performance was "unbelievable".

"An absolutely incredible match, you have made your country so proud,” she added.

Archer said later: "It has been the best time of my life so far, making my debut and winning the World Cup in the space of two months is really, really special. Hopefully I can look back in 10-15 years and say 'I was part of that'."

The national side were back on a free-to-air terrestrial platform for the first time since the halcyon days of 2005 and they did not miss their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to match the achievements of their female counterparts, who became world champions at the home of cricket two summers ago.

Morgan will now take his place on the pantheon of great England captains, nestling alongside Bobby Moore and Martin Johnson, and going one better than the runners-up medals secured by Mike Brearley (1979), Mike Gatting (1987) and Graham Gooch (1992).

The shine was taken off the post-match party at Trafalgar Square last night as organisers cancelled a planned post-match DJ because revellers were refusing to leave the fountain.