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ESPNcricinfo Awards

ESPNcricinfo Awards 2019 ODI batting winner: when Stokes went for broke

One man (and a boundary) stood between New Zealand and a World Cup title

Alagappan Muthu
Alagappan Muthu
More on the awards here
It's been six months since… the incident… and it still seems unreal. On July 14, Ben Stokes got to bat not once but twice, and he didn't even have the decency to look fallible.
England had no such hang-ups, of course. They lost three wickets for 27 runs and later four for 31. Years of hard work, sacrifice and demon-slaying was being undone on holy ground. Lord's was in, well, not quite uproar, the MCC members wouldn't allow for that, but there was audible tut-tutting. After all, at 196 for 4 chasing 242, they were preparing for England's coronation. But at 227 for 8, they were watching the castle being raided.
Somewhere between checking out the master bedroom and drawing funny moustaches on the paintings there, New Zealand realised there was still one little problem they had to deal with. He had red hair, tattoos and the touch of destiny itself.
Stokes went to fifty quietly, consuming 81 deliveries to get there. He didn't celebrate. It would be hours before he let himself go. That restraint is the most striking part of his batting now. A man who announced himself by flat-batting Mitchell Johnson to the fence is now capable of dead-batting all comers.
Stokes had a control percentage of 84% that day. Only Kane Williamson did better (86%) and that was because the New Zealand captain took all the risk out of his game and scored at a strike rate of 56. Stokes could not do that. He was chasing a target. He had only the bowlers for support. He had to hit out and the fact he did so while guarding even the tiniest mistake and somehow pilfering 34 runs off his final 18 balls is testament to his decision-making under pressure, his strength of will and his sheer, blinding talent.
So much of this great final is condensed into that one unbelievable moment when a throw from the deep bounced off Stokes' bat and went to the boundary, assisting England's pursuit. He didn't ask for that. He just made it count.

Key moment

Trent Boult is such a gangsta in the deep that he's been on Sportscenter's Plays of the Day. So when he settled under the ball at midwicket, it seemed as though New Zealand would be rewarded for their never-give-up-ness in very tangible manner. Stokes would be dismissed and with the equation reading 22 off eight balls, the trophy would almost certainly be theirs. But, as merely the start of the most bizarre climax to an ODI ever, Boult trod on the rope as he took the catch and instead of walking back haunted by the question of what if, Stokes received a life and six game-changing runs.

The numbers

44 Number of years England had waited to lift a World Cup.
26 Number of boundaries England hit in the final - nine more than New Zealand. And that was how the ICC separated two teams who were tied in regular time and then again in overtime. The rule is now defunct.

What they said

"To go out there and have the pressure on you batting first [in the Super Over], to get as many runs as you can, it is a scary place to be especially in a World Cup final. But I think I'd rather be out there in the middle than having to watch."
- Ben Stokes
"He's almost superhuman."
- England captain Eoin Morgan
"What he did was extraordinary. He has a zest for life. He is a leader of people on the field and off it. People gravitate to him."
- England coach Trevor Bayliss

The closest contenders

Kane Williamson, 106 not out v South Africa
A sublime, single-handed effort that took New Zealand to victory in the chase and went some way to securing their qualification to the World Cup knockouts.
Jonny Bairstow, 111 v India
A fine example of the template England swore to follow after the 2015 debacle, and one he stuck to while dismantling India's considerable bowling might.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo