Ben Stokes – the cricketer’s cricketer – rose to the occasion for England once more, writes Cameron Ponsonby.

As Naseem Shah was busy bowling the best spell without reward since Harry Potter accidentally blew up his aunt in The Prisoner of Azkaban, Ben Stokes stood there and laughed.

It was exhibition cricket on the largest stage of all. The format of crash, bang, wallop transformed into a Test match with a very strict time-limit. Stokes left the first ball he faced in his innings and played and missed at roughly a thousand more in the overs thereafter. More often than not, just after the ball had crashed into Mohammad Rizwan’s gloves behind him he’d push his hand out in front of him from left-to-right in the universal symbol of, “that did f***ing loads”.

As this went on and on, the pressure of the occasion only served to increase and so too did the responsibility resting on Stokes’ shoulders.

T20 cricket is only 19 years old and still going through a teenage angst in trying to understand what in life should be valued and what shouldn’t. Old cricketing wisdom tells you that batters should “be selfish” and not to leave it to the next player. Modern advances argue the opposite: teams have 10 wickets for a reason and that resource should be used. What if, for instance, in putting the game on his back, Stokes had got out when 45 was required off 29 balls, hs innings ending on 24 off 35 balls with England needing an unlikely nine an over to win?

It is possible that in years to come, innings like Stokes’ at Melbourne, an unbeaten 52 off 49 balls, become obsolete. Teams that bat all the way down (Adil Rashid has 10 first-class centuries, don’t you know) means chases of 140 may be boom-or-bust events. But that’s a hypothetical of tomorrow and not the reality of today.

A crease in the sheet of T20 cricket that this tournament presented was the Kookaburra ball striking back. In an interview in the latest Wisden Cricket Monthly, Harry Brook spoke of the need he felt during England’s loss to Ireland to hit one into the stand in order to scuff up the ball so it’d stop swinging. Lively pitches and livelier balls meant that the need for batsmanship as much as pure striking made its return to the format. What was needed wasn’t a T20 great, but a pure and simple cricketing one.

“The wickets have been a bit spicy,” said Pakistan’s Shan Masood after the final. “In these conditions, you realise how important it is to put your ego aside, consolidate, build platforms and finish well.

“It’s probably a bit of old-style cricket, with the bigger boundaries and the quality of the bowling, batsmen were certainly humbled and a lot of people had to change their games.”

And on that front there’s a reason that Stokes’ is the cricketer’s cricketer. What may come of the sport tomorrow isn’t known, but of what we know now, it’s that when quality is needed in quantity, there’s no-one else in the world that the best would rather have by their side.

“He always stands up in the biggest moments,” said his skipper Jos Buttler. “He’s a man who can take a lot of pressure on his shoulders and perform, and with him in the middle you know you’ve got a good chance. [I’m] just so proud of him, pleased for him that he’s stood up and done it again.”

Again being the key word. Stokes had already won England one World Cup in 2019 and single-handedly given them arguably their greatest Test victory of all time that same summer. And yet, there was still a redemption arc to his night out under Melbourne’s lights. Not on a national level – that was never necessary for the reasons laid out above. But on a personal one, as any ghosts of 2016 were laid to rest. Having lost one T20 World Cup final quickly, Stokes won a second slowly.

“It certainly wasn’t his most fluent innings or probably didn’t time the ball as well as he can,” said Buttler, “but you knew he was never going to go down without a fight and stand up and be there at the end.

“He’s obviously never let that 2016 final sort of push him back, and you think of the things he’s gone on to achieve in his career since then is just amazing. He’s one of the great players of English cricket.”