Cricket fraternities just couldn’t have asked for more. A game that stretched all the way to the ultimate over followed by the Super Over spectacle had all the ingredients to make it a final for the savers. Right from being a fixture of extraordinary events to becoming an episode of individual brilliance, the game on Sunday kept the spectators at the edge.

And while there remain several ‘if onlys’ for New Zealand, one Englishman, who was actually born in Christchurch, New Zealand, gave his team a glaring hope after the top order stumbled to a fiery Kiwi pace attack. Ben Stokes, arriving at the crease when England were struggling for rate, put in a performance of lifetime, which will be remembered for his and his knock only.

As the game reached its conclusion at Lord’s on Sunday, Stokes was in tears, again, embracing the support he received from the teammates and players alike. Not only did he become the man of the match after his unbeaten 84, he also became the only England player to accumulate 400 plus runs and pick five plus wickets in a World Cup.

Maybe all those little moments went against New Zealand on the day, but after all the agony Stokes has been through following the final over drama in the 2016 World T20 final, this warrant of contentment is the least he deserves.

April 3, 2016, Kolkata. West Indies need 19 runs off the final over and all-rounder Stokes is shouldered the authority of defending his team’s total. First ball, half-volley on the leg-stump and Carlos Brathwaite hit him for a maximum. Second ball, Brathwaite smeared the delivery over long-on. Third ball, a mis-timed shot but cleared the ropes over the long-off this time. West Indies need one run off three deliveries. Fourth ball and Brathwaite shows no mercy, hit Stokes into the stands at deep midwicket.

As West Indies celebrated their second World T20 title, a dejected Stokes realized he has cost his team the title. From then on, he has been dropped, got himself in the midst of street brawl, but the way to redemption was never put on hold.

Fast forward to three years, and the man who lost England the tile in 2016, made them the world champions three years later.

“I'm pretty lost for words. All the hardwork that's gone on in these four years, and to execute with such a good game is unthinkable,” said the 28-year-old after the game.

The margin of his country’s hopes (15 runs) heading into the final over of the game at Lord’s wasn’t really that different to that of the 2016 finale. Of course, there was luck, but an exhausted Stokes, who put up his everything into the fixture, knew exactly what he needed to do to at least get the game into the Super Over.

Individual brilliance? Maybe not. But Ben Stokes showed why he remains an ideal specimen of the locution ‘hard work always pays off’.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Dibyangshu Sarkar