Pride in England, pride in Ben Stokes
19 runs. Six balls. We just had to defend 19 runs and Eoin Morgan would have lifted the ICC WT20 trophy aloft. How difficult could it be? Very.
I'm writing my blog this month on an overnight flight back from Los Angeles, having got up this morning at 6am to find an online stream, which wasn't easy with poor wifi in a budget hotel, so I could watch the game. After Carlos Braithwaite hit those four successive sixes I felt compelled to have a look at Twitter to get a sense of the reaction back home. All I could think of as I began to scroll downwards was, please do not hang Stokes out to dry, aka David Beckham in 1998. If I'm honest, I was surprised. Pleasantly surprised. I was waiting for the inevitable "Stokes, you're a disgrace", "Stokes, you cost us". Now don't get me wrong, there was definitely an element of that, but in percentage terms I'd say it was 85-15 in favour of a sympathetic reaction.
I don't know why I doubted my peers. But, this kind of reaction made me proud to be an England supporter. Of course, if hindsight was possible, I'm sure Stokesy would have bowled those four deliveries completely differently, but it's amazing what pressure, pressure of a World Cup final can do. And I think the 85 percent of fans could see that whoever bowled those deliveries, was going to see them sail over that boundary rope, regardless. It was a freak cameo, on a par with Chris Gayle's knock in our first game. Carlos Braithwaite I take my hat off and congratulate you and your team mates.
I also think the positive reaction of the 85 percent of fans is because they know just how special a talent Ben Stokes is and will become. We all want him in our team. We all know how important he is. We all know, and appreciate, how lucky we are to have him. And I'm happy to put this out there - those four balls will be the making of Ben Stokes. Fans of other countries who will most likely be out there now laughing as they eat their jerk chicken or snags from the barbie, should be wary. Stokes will learn from this and he will use this to fire himself up. Stuart Broad got hit for six successive sixes early in his career, he's now the number one ranked bowler in Test cricket. John Terry, as much as I despise him, went on a trophy laden run after his Champions League final penalty shoot out miss, Lennox Lewis came back from defeat to rule the world in heavyweight boxing, Lionel Messi missed decisive penalties for Barcelona and Argentina and we know what he's achieved - Champions, true Champions, bounce back. Stokes will bounce back. I would be concerned, if I was playing for Sri Lanka or Pakistan this summer, because a fired up Ben Stokes will be taking the field. I for one, cannot wait.
Now, it would be remiss of me not to heap praise on the rest of the squad, because as Eoin Morgan said in his post match interview, "we win as a team, we lose as a team" or words to that effect. The team came into the competition with people saying we'd struggle to get out of the group stages. What this squad has achieved, in such a short amount of time, is incredible. 12 months ago our limited overs team was, quite rightly, a laughing stock. The transformation has been phenomenal and if we can continue to progress at this same rate in T20 and ODI cricket over the next 12 months, wow, where will we be then! Exciting.
Eoin, you and your squad, have done your country (or in Eoin's case, adopted country) proud. You've got us all excited about limited overs cricket. Thank you.
And thank you, once again Andrew Strauss. Your decisions on our approach to limited overs cricket have again been vindicated. I seem to say this every month, but Piers Morgan, Kevin Pietersen, ENOUGH. The KP era is over. He's been replaced by a new match winner, Joe Root. Please move on. KP is not required. Let us remember his wonderful career with fondness, not bitterness. This exciting crop of youngsters is what is required. Everyone else have moved on and you're both REALLY starting to make yourselves look silly, very silly now. Strauss and the selectors have AGAIN been proved right.
What a journey they are taking us on and Ben Stokes we're VERY proud to have you on that journey. You're going to bounce back.