Headingley hero Ben Stokes is cricketer of the year

Ben Stokes has unseated Virat Kohli as Wisden’s leading cricketer in the world, ending the India captain’s three-year reign.
Headingley hero: England's Ben Stokes. Picture: Mike Egerton/PAHeadingley hero: England's Ben Stokes. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA
Headingley hero: England's Ben Stokes. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA

The Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2020, published today, crowns Stokes as the sport’s pre-eminent player – the first Englishman to receive the prestigious honour since Andrew Flintoff in 2005.

The award is the latest to be bestowed upon the 28-year-old all-rounder following his heroic exploits last summer, when he inspired his team to an unforgettable triumph in the World Cup before producing one of the greatest innings of all time to win the Ashes Test at Headingley.

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Stokes’s other recent gongs include the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in December and the Sir Garfield Sobers trophy for ICC men’s player of the year, but acclaim from the famous ‘yellow book’ has always held a special place in cricketing culture.

Editor Lawrence Booth said: “Ben Stokes pulled off the performance of a lifetime – twice in the space of a few weeks. First, with a mixture of outrageous talent and good fortune, he rescued England’s run-chase in the World Cup final, before helping to hit 15 off the super over.

“Then, in the third Ashes Test at Headingley, he produced one of the great innings, smashing an unbeaten 135 to pinch a one-wicket win. Against red ball or white, he was a force of nature.”

Wisden has also revealed its five cricketers of the year, led by Stokes’s World Cup-winning team-mate Jofra Archer.

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The award can only be won once, ruling out all of those who have already had their moment, and is based primarily on performances during the English summer. Archer was a certainty to make the list, having had a seismic impact since his long-awaited international bow in May.

He instantly became a first-choice player in an England one-day side which had otherwise been carefully moulded over the course of four years and, by the time the Lord’s finale came down to its last six deliveries, it was the Barbados-born paceman who stood up to be counted by sending down the super over.

He was just as important to the Ashes, bowling at lightning speed on Test debut in a duel with Steve Smith that will live long in the memory.

Of the remaining order, three are Australian with nods for Pat Cummins, Marnus Labuschagne and Ellyse Perry – who also reclaimed the leading women’s cricketer in the world title from Smriti Mandhana.

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Cummins, ranked as the world’s No 1 Test bowler by the ICC, was a dominant force as Australia retained the Ashes urn in a 2-2 series draw, taking 29 wickets at 19.62. He also contributed 14 wickets to his country’s unsuccessful World Cup defence.

Labuschagne would have been considered a long shot for such recognition at the start of the summer but went from strength to strength after becoming international cricket’s first concussion substitute after the brutal conclusion Archer versus Smith.

He went on to average more than 50 and has gone from back-up player to No 3 batsman in the Test standings.

Essex spinner Simon Harmer flies the flag for the county game. The South Africa-born Kolpak signing has become the leading slow bowler in the domestic game and topped the County Championship wickets chart with 83 scalps in a title-winning campaign as well as captaining the club’s maiden victory in the Vitality Blast.

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The 31-year-old has experienced life on the international scene, winning five Test caps for South Africa in 2015, but has spent the past three seasons at Chelmsford, turning in the best cricket of his career.

“I think the biggest thing is the tradition that goes with this award. I’m extremely happy to know I’ll be joining the ranks along with some truly incredible cricketers,” he said.

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