Ben Stokes has barely had time to process his role in England’s unforgettable World Cup win but has already set his sights on sealing a historic double by reclaiming the Ashes.
Stokes turned in a man-of-the-match performance as England emerged triumphant from a Lord’s final that he believes will go down as “the best ever” in the sport.
Without his epic 84 not out, an innings punctuated by several moments of raw brilliance, good fortune and draining tension New Zealand would be flying home with the trophy, but his work was still not done.
Having tied the scores at 241 he reemerged to bat in an unprecedented super over, battling fatigue to help play his part as the teams once again reached a stalemate – each scoring 15 from six balls before England were crowned champions on boundaries scored.
Speaking at a celebratory reception at The Oval, attended by hundreds of fans and schoolchildren who took up the invitation to toast their heroes, a sleep-deprived Stokes told PA: “I’ve woken up in better conditions, but it’s an incredible feeling.
“I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet but coming down here and seeing what a small portion of the support we’ve had feels about it…the kids, the adults…these feelings are something we will hold on to forever.
“We would have been devastated if we hadn’t managed to lift that trophy but looking back over that game I think it will go down in the history books as the best ever, with all the drama of a World Cup final. It’s an amazing thing to be part of.”
In any other circumstances Stokes and his team-mates might he settling down for some well-earned down time, having stretched themselves to the limit over the past six weeks.
And while several of the triumphant squad are likely to be excused next week’s Lord’s Test against Ireland, the small matter of a five Test series against Australia is just around the corner.
The battle to regain the urn begins at Edgbaston on August 1 and Stokes has promised there will be no World Cup hangover.
“We may be world champions but also want to be Ashes winners as well,” he said.
“Everyone here deserves to feel like a champion because we’ve just won it, but when it comes to the Ashes it’s going to be heads on again because it has to be.
“Whether you’re winning or losing games, you’ve just got to wipe the slate clean.”
Stokes has not had it easy in the last few years, clubbed for four successive sixes as England slipped to a heart-breaking final-over defeat in the 2016 World T20 and missing the previous Ashes series Down Under following the late-night incident that eventually led to his acquittal on a charge of affray.
He has done his best to leave those travails behind him and to see the 28-year-old mobbed by star-struck children as he signed autographs and posed for pictures on the outfield was to witness a man at ease with his role-model status.
“That’s all gone and forgotten. It’s about now and what goes on in the future. I’m just going to enjoy this moment,” he said.
“In sport, and cricket in particular, you ebb and flow with your emotions, but we’re going to enjoy the next two days because we deserve it. I’ve got this medal around my neck so it’s all good.”
Stokes also lifted the lid on the tangled emotions he felt in the midst of his crowning achievement – first as he tried to hit the winning runs in the final over of the match, then as he berated himself for failing to do so.
Finally, he took a moment of solitude before stepping back on the stage to finish the job in six-ball shootout.
“Needing two runs off one ball all I was thinking was ‘just don’t hit it in the air and get caught’. It was just ‘don’t try to be a hero and do it with a six’,” the all-rounder revealed.
“I wish it had gone for two because I wasn’t best pleased with myself walking off and back to the changing rooms for that 10-minute turnaround.
“I actually had to go and have five minutes to myself in the shower area of the changing room. I was pretty annoyed, angry. I had to get my head switched back on because I knew there was a job out there to do. I was full of adrenaline so I needed to make sure my head was in the right place.”