GIVEN everything that happened on Sunday afternoon, there is a certain irony to the fact that Ben Stokes was born in Christchurch. Indeed, had his father, Ged, not been appointed as the head coach of Workington Town rugby league club in the early 2000s, there is a good chance Stokes would have been playing in the black of New Zealand rather than the blue of England at Lord’s.

As it was, the Stokes family relocated to Cockermouth, and Ben attended Cockermouth School, where his love of sport was immediately apparent. He excelled at rugby league – hardly a surprise given the familial link – but was even better at cricket, helping Cockermouth CC win the North Lancashire and Cumbria Premier Division title.

As a 15-year-old, Stokes was already playing for Cockermouth’s senior side, and one game in particular, when he took six for 15 against Cleator, marked him out as a special talent.

Cockermouth School PE teacher, Chris Hayes:

“He was a naturally-able sportsman, physically very able and highly coordinated. He wanted to be involved in all formats of the game - his batting, his bowling, his fielding. He could throw the ball further than anybody I'd ever seen.

“He was part of the most able team that I've ever had. We were able to compete as a state secondary school with the elite of the public schools, on an equal level in terms of ability. And we beat quite a few of them.

“One of the terms (for Stokes) is a kinesthetic learner, which basically means you only learn through movement. Anything to do with being still and listening, yeah (it was hard to get him to concentrate). But personally, he never let me down. He was always supportive of PE. It was his natural environment.”

IN 2006, as he was approaching the age of 16, Stokes was invited to join Durham’s academy. He was spotted while playing for Cumbria Under-15s, with his performances for his adopted county attracting the attention of one of Durham’s chief talent spotters, John Windows.

The Northern Echo:

On his arrival at Durham, Stokes was taken under the wing of former academy director and first-team head coach Geoff Cook, who immediately spotted the all-rounder’s immense potential.

He was fast-tracked into the senior set-up, and in his first full season, in 2010, he scored 740 runs at an average of 46, earning him a maiden call-up to the England Lions squad.

Former Durham head coach, Geoff Cook:

“We have a good relationship with the Cumbrian youth cricketers, and he was one of several players who came over at that time. He had a bit of daring, a bit of competitiveness, and a lot of talent. He got into the first team on a pre-season trip to Abu Dhabi against the MCC, and it was pretty obvious that we had to try and get him into the team.”

The Northern Echo:

Former Durham team-mate, Steve Harmison:

“Geoff Cook is a special person in my life, but in Ben’s life, as well. He mentioned Ben for the first time when he was a 14-year-old. He said, ‘We’ve got this cheeky little kid from Cumbria, red hair, great character. I think he’s our next special one.’ I said I’ll keep an eye on him.

“A 16-year-old comes in our dressing room. The minute I saw him in our dressing room, I phoned Andrew Flintoff, one of my best mates. I said, ‘There’s a kid here in the corner, sitting in his manky underpants and picking his nose. He’s just bowled for an hour in no socks and he’s hit the ball like you’d never believe. I think Geoff’s right, he’s the next special one’. Andrew replied, ‘What’s his name?’ I said, ‘Ben Stokes’.”

STOKES made his senior England debut in a One-Day International against Ireland in August 2011, scoring just three, but the early stages of his international career were not without controversy.

He was sent home from an England Lions tour of Australia after ignoring a team curfew, and missed the T20 World Cup in 2014 after injuring a hand while punching a locker in frustration during a tour of the West Indies.

However, he eventually established himself as a key part of the England team in all formats of the game, culminating in his appearance in the 2015 Ashes, when he took 6-36 in the decisive fourth Test as England claimed an unassailable series lead.

The Northern Echo:

He hit a career-best 258 during England’s winter tour of South Africa, but suffered one of his darkest cricketing moments at the 2016 T20 World Cup. Bowling the final over of the final against the West Indies, Stokes went for four consecutive sixes as Carlos Brathwaite blasted his side to a remarkable win.

England captain Eoin Morgan, speaking after the 2016 T20 World Cup final:

“Cricket can be a cruel game, but it’s quite simple from my point of view. He (Stokes) is going to be devastated. It’ll take its toll in the next couple of days. But we share the pain, just as we share success. You could say what you like to him at the moment, but he’s probably not hearing it.”

Ben Stokes, reflecting on the 2016 T20 World Cup final:

“I thought, ‘I’ve just lost the World Cup’. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to do. It took me so long to get back on my feet. I didn’t want to get back up. It was like the whole world had come down on me. There weren’t any good things going through my mind. It was just complete devastation.

“For about 40 minutes at the end of the game, I knew I just had to deal with it. I had to come back out on the field, collect my medal and listen to all the speeches. I knew the cameras would be all over me to see how I was. Obviously, I was gutted but I did not want to show that. I wanted to keep my head up.

STOKES recovered from his T20 disappointment and remained a key part of the England set-up, but his life was turned upside down in September 2017 when he was arrested after a brawl near a nightclub in Bristol.

He was charged with affray, but was acquitted at a trial in August 2018. However, the experience cost him his place in the squad for the 2017-18 Ashes, and also meant he was forced to miss part of the 2018 summer Test series against India.

Having been proven innocent, he was always going to be a leading member of England’s World Cup squad, and his performances helped Eoin Morgan’s side reach Sunday’s final. He was England’s key batsman, scoring an unbeaten 84 as the hosts matched New Zealand’s score over 50 overs, and adding eight runs off three balls to help secure a dramatic Super Over success.

Ben Stokes in the aftermath of Sunday’s final:

“I’m pretty lost for words. All that hard work for four years, and now to be stood here as champions of the World. It’s an amazing feeling.

“This is where we aspired to be, and to manage to come here and do it in such a good game, I don’t think there will ever be a better game of cricket in history than that. There was no chance I wasn’t going to be there at the end.”

The Northern Echo:

England captain Eoin Morgan:

“To come through it the way he (Stokes) did is extraordinary. It’s almost superhuman. He really carried the team and our batting line-up. Jos and his partnership was extraordinary. But to bat with the lower order the way he did, I thought was incredible.

“The atmosphere, the emotion that was going through the whole game, he managed to deal with that in an extremely experienced manner, and obviously everybody watching at home will want to try and be the next Ben Stokes.”