Ben Stokes feels he may have to wait until retirement before he can fully comprehend his phenomenal 2019 after being named players’ player of the year at the Professional Cricketers’ Association awards.
All-rounder Stokes played a starring role in England’s maiden World Cup win before repeating his heroics to help salvage an Ashes draw with Australia.
The 28-year-old Durham player was honoured for those achievements by scooping the Reg Hayter Cup ahead of fellow nominees Simon Harmer, Ryan Higgins and Dom Sibley.
Somerset’s Tom Banton picked up the PCA young player of the year, while England bowler Sophie Ecclestone collected the women’s player of the summer.
Speaking at the PCA awards ceremony in London, Stokes told the PA news agency: “It’s a proud moment to win the award. I think that is because it’s voted for by everyone else, the other players.
“In terms of reflection, I think there will come a time where I will be able to take it all in but I don’t think that will come until I retire really becomes it all comes so thick and fast. This will definitely be a summer that I will be able to look back on forever.”
Asked if it was the best year of his career to date, he replied: “Yeah, definitely.
“Winning the World Cup was an amazing feeling to be a part of – seven weeks of hard toil to then walk away with with the World Cup was brilliant, and then a great Ashes series to be part of.
“This will take some beating but hopefully it does happen.”
Stokes won the young player award in 2013 and becomes only the sixth player to collect the PCA’s top two male honours.
Having started the World Cup with an outstanding catch in the curtain-raiser against South Africa, his unbeaten 84 against New Zealand in the final was central to England winning the competition for the first time.
He followed that up with a sensational 135 not out against Australia at Headingley, a stand-out innings in an Ashes series where his 441 runs at an average of 55.12 was his team’s best aggregate total.
Despite Australia retaining the urn courtesy of a 2-2 series draw, Stokes’ herculean efforts in recent months mean he is the favourite with bookmakers to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
England captain Joe Root paid tribute to his team-mate, saying he was unsurprised by his performances during an unforgettable summer.
“He’s awesome, he really is. He’s a massive driving force of this team, one of the senior players across the board,” Root told PA.
“He works extremely hard behind the scenes at his own game, helps other lads around the dressing room.
“And I’m not one bit surprised by the success he’s had this year – I’ve seen it coming a long time off.
“I couldn’t be more delighted for him, a brilliant vice-captain, one of those players you want in the big moments in the big games.”
Young player of the year Banton has been included in England’s Twenty20 squad for the winter tour to New Zealand after amassing more than 1,000 runs across the two domestic limited-overs competitions.
The 20-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, who won ahead of James Bracey, Zak Crawley and Sibley, began the season uncertain of his role at his club.
“If you’d told me at the beginning of the year that this was going to happen, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Banton told PA.
“It’s obviously a nice feeling.
“I think at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t entirely sure where I stood at Somerset, either white or red ball. I wasn’t sure if I was going to play, if I was going to be in the (second XI).”
Left-arm spinner Ecclestone scooped the female honour for the second successive year.
The 20-year-old was her country’s leading wicket-taker in the multi-format series against the West Indies with six scalps, while she had 13 victims in the unsuccessful Ashes campaign.
“I feel like I’m a bit more of a presence in the team now than I was last year, and I’ve enjoyed getting my point of view across,” she said.
“The big goal is to get ready for that World Cup and show everyone what we’re all about.”
Other award winners included ODI player of the summer Chris Woakes, Test player of the summer Stuart Broad, and County Championship player of the year Harmer.
The 50th NatWest PCA Awards were held at the Roundhouse in Camden. The event, organised by the PCA in conjunction with the England and Wales Cricket Board, celebrates the highlights of the international and domestic season with all proceeds going to the players’ charity, the Professional Cricketers’ Trust.
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Pakistan secured a five-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the third and final one day international in Karachi on Wednesday, also emerging victorious in the three-match series 2-0.
A new career best for Lankan opener Danushka Gunathilaka led the visitors to a competitive 297-9 from their 50 overs but the score was chased down by Pakistan with 10 balls to spare.
Fakhar Zaman top-scored for the home team with 76 while fellow opener Abid Ali scored 74 before Haris Sohail contributed 56 lower down the order.
Pakistan won the second game by 67 runs while the first match was rained off without a ball being bowled, both in Karachi.
India’s quest for a record 11th consecutive home series win started on a strong note with their openers making hay against South Africa in the opening day of the first Test against South Africa at Visakhapatnam.
The hosts had raced away to 202 without any loss in just over 59 overs before bad light and subsequent rain brought an early halt to proceedings on Day One.
After what was a completely lopsided day for the hosts, we take a look at the key talking points from Vizag.
India openers break century partnership drought
India’s lack of big opening partnerships since the turn of 2017 had started to become a concern with just two century stands to show for during the period. That all changed on Wednesday with Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal racking up a double-century stand for equal measure.
On a dry pitch with not much assistance for the seamers, India’s two openers were circumspect to start with but were soon in complete control as they imposed their dominance over the Proteas bowlers.
The duo added 91 runs in the opening session at Vizag before upping the ante even further after lunch. Rohit was the first to breach the 50-run mark and the limited-overs stalwart was soon racing away to his fourth Test ton after some fine attacking play against the South Africa spinners.
Agarwal, too, looked on song as he notched up his highest Test score (84 not out) for India and the 28-year-old will hope to register his maiden ton when the match resumes on Day Two.
Rohit justifies faith as opener
The talk before the series began had hovered around Rohit’s inclusion as an opener with skipper Virat Kohli making it clear that the team management was ready to provide the limited-overs vice-captain with a long rope in the position.
With a Test batting average greater than 80 in home conditions, Rohit wasted no time in seizing his chance despite some nervous moments early into his innings. The 32-year-old looked a completely different beast at the crease once South Africa’s three-man spin attack was introduced as he made the boundary ropes look small with each passing over.
It did not take long for Rohit to bring up his fourth Test ton with the help of four sixes and 10 boundaries and he brought the entire Indian dressing room to its feet in doing so. The glee on skipper Kohli’s face was evident with Rohit more than justifying his Test inclusion with an assured innings.
Rohit, however, didn’t celebrate much and the Mumbai man looks determined to ensure that his century ends up being a big one.
Proteas staring down the barrel already
The rueful smile that Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis flashed in the direction of his team-mates after losing the toss to Kohli spoke a thousand words.
The South Africa stalwart knew his team were in for the long haul after India elected to bat first and his worst fears were confounded after his new-ball attack of Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada lost its sting inside the opening hour.
The visitors sprang a surprise by going in with a three-man spin bowling attack for the Test and it was clear to see why with the ball taking sharp turn on the first day. Still, that prodigious turn did little to help South Africa’s cause with India’s openers making merry with a run-fest at Vizag.
The concerns will only grow for South Africa as the Test progresses with the pitch expected to become slower in the coming days.
India’s spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will be licking their lips in anticipation after watching the first day of action unfold. And the writing seems to be already on the wall for the visitors who could be potentially batting on a minefield in the final innings.
For now, Proteas will be hoping for some divine intervention and their best hope could come from the weather with more rains predicted in the coming days at Vizag.