An account of Ben Stokes glorious last 12 months in International cricket
If English fans ever thought who after the great Ian Botham? Their answer saw the emergence of an all-rounder from Lancashire as Andrew Flintoff would take the world cricket by storm at the turn of the century and would continue to do so for a healthy nine to ten years thereafter.
Soon after Freddie's retirement from international cricket in 2009, there were talks surrounding the England cricket team for someone who can fill up the boots for the mighty all-rounder.
For a brief period, their T20 World Cup winning skipper Paul Collingwood was viewed as a makeshift all-rounder, who would deliver with both with bat and ball but his impact in the world cricket was never that huge.
However, in 2011, the world cricket saw first signs of Ben Stokes in a one-off ODI against Ireland. With his broken finger, he was merely selected as a batsman in the team as the occasion didn't transpire well for the Durham cricketer who would score only three runs on his debut.
Though it was a forgettable debut in England colors, none realized that Stokes would end up being the England's search for the next Flintoff, perhaps the original Ben Stokes.
The journey hasn't been smooth for the 28-year old. From being involved in the Bristol brawl, to emerge as the best of all time, Stokes has seen it all. While many believed that the awful incident in 2018 changed him for the good, there's a certain series of events that also justifies the fact.
The World Cup at home in 2019 was a perfect occasion for Ben to redeem himself after he was well supported by the team and the players upon his return into the side. A lot rested upon his shoulders as someone who would provide the final flourish at the back end of the innings.
And virtually, Stokes ended up being a man for all situations for England. Be it with his immaculate hitting or accurate bowling throughout the tournament, he was the last man to concede in a match situation.
He played a pivotal role in taking England into the finals as it was all about one great performance to put an end to England's World Cup drought.
The stage was set for him to deliver and when that throw from Martin Guptill ricocheted off his bat to the boundary, deep down even he would have realized that it was meant to be his final. He played a lone hand, scoring 84 off 98 deliveries to provide the hosts with the glimmer of hope as the game went into the Super Over for England to secure a win in one of the dramatic fashions.
The summer of 2019 just didn't end here for Stokes as what was to follow was one of the most riveting contests of all-time - The Ashes. Australia was well-prepared and were determined to create history on the English soil after they last won an away Ashes in 2001.
But it was that man again who weathered the storm in one of the most captivating displays of individual brilliance at Headingley. After a first innings debacle and with series on the line, Ben was the last man standing who kept Aussies at bay for a majority of the last day.
His unbeaten 135 in the most trying circumstances allowed England to spring their way back into the Ashes with a one-wicket win. A tenth wicket partnership was never so important before as Stokes, along with Jack Leach added 76 runs to script an unfathomable win for the hosts.
It was a summer with Ben Stokes as the central figure while it lasted. It was no surprise when he was even voted as the BBC Sports Personality of the year in 2019.
In one of his most recent exploits at Capetown, there was no doubt that Stokes would put his hand up and lay the foundation for England's most satisfying overseas win in the recent times. This time, he got support from his fellow teammates, which allowed a Stokes' special to take center stage in the closing moments of the Test match.
With James Anderson injured and unavailable for bowling, Ben took the onus to go past South Africa'a appreciable defiance on Day 5. He had earlier played a blinder in England's second innings to wallop a 47-ball 72 to uplift their lead to 437.
It was his turn to deliver with the ball, and as aforementioned, he wouldn't disappoint this time either. Picking up two wickets off consecutive deliveries, the game was yet again turned in England's favor late in the day.
With only a wicket remaining, it was fitting that Stokes would take the last man out to mark England's 189-run victory at Newlands.
While there is no doubt that Ben Stokes is by far the best all-rounder on the planet, and if his performances are anything to go by, he could well find a place for himself among the world's leading all-rounders of all time. The English fans would certainly hope that this might just be the beginning of Stokes' 'Coming off Age' in 2020.
While it is highly impossible to replicate success of that magnitude from last year, England's world cup hero would want to continue his good run even in the upcoming year.