Ben Stokes’ decision to bring the curtain down on his ODI career has taken many by surprise with the all-rounder previously tipped to help England retain their World Cup trophy next year. Instead, Stokes will be at home when the competition is played in India while his teammates try to make it back-to-back World Cup successes. Needless to say, Stokes will be sorely missed at a tournament that he virtually won single-handedly for England in 2019. With this in mind, what will Stokes’ legacy in the ODI arena look like now that he has called it a day in the 50-over format?
2019 and the World Cup win that wasn't theoretically a win
As briefly touched on, the 31-year-old will always be remembered for his spine-tingling innings at Lord’s on July 14th, 2019. It was during this knock of 84 off 98 balls that Stokes was able to rescue the game for England before helping to force the contest into a Super Over. It should be pointed out that the last over of this World Cup final was not without its drama either after Stokes inadvertently sent Martin Guptill’s throw to the boundary while trying to avoid being run out. At the time, England needed nine runs off three balls but as Stokes attempted to scamper home after a second run, he dived into his crease and deflected the ball past a hapless Colin de Grandhomme and to the boundary fence. Essentially, this worked out as a six for England and meant that they only needed three runs off three balls, instead of the far harder equation of seven off three.
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This was, arguably, the most significant moment of the World Cup final with fate intervening and ultimately, handing England the win when all looked lost. Of course, the history books will instead read that Stokes carried his bat and won the final for his nation but there is a sizable asterisk that could be put next to the World Cup final result that crucially, also ended in a draw after the conclusion of the Super Over where both teams matched the others' 15 run total. England were, however, awarded the trophy owing to the boundary countback rule which basically, decides the winner by virtue of which country hit the most boundaries during the World Cup final.
Fine margins have the greatest impact
If at this stage you are beginning to feel like this is an article that is intended to smear or indeed throw shade at England’s 2019 World Cup final then please rest assured that it isn’t. Rather, it’s meant to show how different Stokes’ legacy could have been but for a few and indeed hugely consequential breaks. Basically, instead of the current tributes being paid to Stokes lauding his World Cup-winning innings on the back of retirement, they could have for the same money been consoling him for being a nearly man in 2019.
They say history is written by the victors and perhaps there isn’t a better example in recent sporting times. Indeed, Stokes will retire as a 50-over World Cup winner and interestingly, will now put all his energy and spare time into helping the Cinch England team win the T20 World Cup at the end of the year in Australia. As things stand, the odds suggest that England have a good chance of doing so given that the cricket betting at Betway, as of the 19th of July, price Jos Buttler’s men at 4/1 in the outright market to win the tournament. England have, obviously, come close in the past but lost out to the West Indies during the 2016 World Cup final in a game that perhaps does once again cast the spotlight on how legacies in certain formats are decided.
On that occasion, England's current Test captain was tasked with helping England defend 19 runs off the final over but for one reason or another, the all-rounder couldn't find his length. The result of his miscalculation with ball in hand was utterly brutal as Carlos Brathwaite launched Stokes high into the Kolkata night sky for four consecutive sixes to hand the islanders a famous World Cup win.
Carlos Brathwaite vs Ben Stokes in the final over of the 2016 T20 World Cup.
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Perhaps these examples of both finals in 2016 and 2019 reinforce the notion that you need the rub of the green to be considered a sporting legend.
Yes, Stokes was a fabulous ODI cricketer, but he was also on the right side of fate in 2019.