Ben Stokes was labelled “almost superhuman” as he inspired England to World Cup glory for the first time after a thrilling conclusion to their final against New Zealand at Lord’s.
England’s chances of overhauling New Zealand’s 241 for eight seemed to be forlorn but under the utmost pressure, Stokes held his nerve to contribute an unbeaten 84 to leave the scores tied at the end of a dramatic 100 overs.
Despite showing clear signs of fatigue, Stokes returned to bat in a super over, putting on 15 alongside Jos Buttler.
There was a further twist in the tale when Jimmy Neesham and Martin Guptill took 14 from Jofra Archer’s first five balls.
But scampering back for a second from the final delivery of the match, Guptill was short of his ground after Jason Roy’s throw from deep midwicket enabled Buttler to lop off the bails, giving England victory by the unlikely method of registering more boundaries across a riveting contest.
That would have been inconceivable without Stokes’ efforts, with England captain Eoin Morgan in no doubt as to the significance of his talismanic all-rounder’s contribution.
Morgan said: “To come through it is extraordinary. He’s almost superhuman. He has really carried the team and our batting line-up.
“To bat with the lower order the way he did, I thought was incredible. He managed to deal with the emotion and atmosphere in an incredibly experienced manner.
“Hopefully everyone watching at home will try to be the next Ben Stokes.”
Stokes’ previous final in an England shirt ended in heartbreak when he conceded four successive sixes as the freewheeling Carlos Brathwaite secured the World Twenty20 crown for the West Indies in 2016.
Morgan added: “A lot of careers would have been ended after what happened in Kolkata. But Ben has stood up individually, and in the unit for us, a huge number of times since then.
“Here he’s had a huge day out, and we’re thankful for that.”
Stokes recognised the magnitude of the finale, watched on by 30,000 at the home of cricket, a mass gathering at Trafalgar Square and a bumper audience, swelled by being broadcast on free-to-air television.
At the presentation ceremony, he said: “I’m pretty lost for words. All the hard work that’s gone in over these four years, this is where we aspired to be.
“To do it with such a game, I don’t think there will be another like this in the history of cricket.
“The lads, in this one-day team, the Test team, my family, their support has been massive. Now I’m just looking forward to tonight.”
Following his exertions with the bat, Stokes even had some wise words for Archer in the heat of battle.
The young paceman said: “Stokesy came over and told me, win or lose, today will not define me as a player.”
Morgan attended the press conference with the World Cup trophy after leading England to their first global 50-over title, ending 44 years of disappointment in this tournament.
Morgan said: “This means absolutely everything. It’s been an absolutely incredible journey. I still can’t quite believe it, that’s why I’m carrying it around as much as I can.”
Morgan recognised there were moments that went in England’s favour, most notably in the final over when a diving Stokes unintentionally made contact with the ball as he stretched to make his ground, leading to four overthrows.
He added: “It was the most incredible game of cricket, with nothing between the sides. It was the finest of margins, and it could have gone either way.
“I spoke to Adil (Rashid) and he said that Allah was with us. So Allah was with us as well.
“I commend the Black Caps and Kane (Williamson, New Zealand captain), they’ve been absolutely incredible. Admirable spirit, the fight they’ve shown.”
Asked about his future, Morgan added: “We’ll let the dust settle. We’ll celebrate as hard as we can and then reflect.”
Morgan and the rest of the team will celebrate the World Cup victory at the Kia Oval in Kennington, Surrey, on Monday morning.
Gates are open to the public at 10.30am and the team will arrive at 11.30am.