Ben Stokes’ astounding match-winning innings in the third Test against Australia have seen the all-rounder become the odds-on favourite to win the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Award.
Stokes already had an extremely strong claim to the award following his exploits in the Cricket World Cup Final. He produced an innings of 84 against New Zealand to save England from defeat before scoring vital runs in the resulting super over, which led to the eventual triumph at Lord’s.
Somehow the 28-year-old managed to better his performance to keep the Ashes alive against the Aussies at Headingley. England required a mammoth 359 to avoid defeat and allowing their bitter rivals to retain the urn.
Stokes battled throughout the fourth day, although his efforts appeared to be in vain when the Three Lions were reduced to 286-9, still requiring another 72 runs to win. However, the left-hander went into destruction mode, blasting the Australian bowlers to all parts of the ground. His efforts whittled down the total in a flash, while Jack Leach at the other end hung on for dear life.
His innings was reminiscent of Ian Botham’s outstanding knock of 149 on the same ground against the same opposition in 1981. That Ashes series has been fondly remembered as Botham’s Ashes – could the 2019 version be etched as Stokes’ Ashes?
The 28-year-old has been outstanding with the bat and willing to put the team on his back with the ball thus far. He shows no signs of being done yet with Joe Root’s men needing to beat the Aussies to take back the urn. Although Stokes has already done enough in the minds of the English public to win SPOTY, he will further enhance his claim in a winning Ashes effort, becoming the first cricketer since Andrew Flintoff in 2005 to win the award.
There are not many candidates to overhaul Stokes this year in the betting odds, with the all-rounder backed as low as 1/51.20-5000.20-5.000.20 with Bet365. Here are three figures that could surpass him for the award.
The 33-year-old is on course for yet another Drivers’ Championship crown in Formula One, winning the title for a third year in a row. Hamilton has been an unstoppable force since his move to Mercedes, surpassing Sebastian Vettel as the most dominant driver of the modern era.
He finished second in the voting behind Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas last year – earning a runner-up nod for the third time. Hamilton will likely be beaten out again in his quest to win the award for a second time with his best odds at 16/117.00+160016.0016.00-0.06 .
Given that the Rugby World Cup is yet to be played, Farrell or one of his England team-mates could crash Stokes’ party. Eddie Jones’ men have rounded into form ahead of the competition, hammering Ireland in their warm-up match at Twickenham. The Red Rose also split their series against Wales, who are ranked as the top side in the world.
Farrell will play a key role for England at number 12 as well as being their placekicker. He could be in line for a Jonny Wilkinson moment ala 2003, which could dislodge Stokes, although given that England have already won the Rugby World Cup, and triumphed in the Cricket World Cup for the first time this year, it’s unlikely to be enough at 25/126.00+250025.0025.00-0.04 with his best odds.
Stokes could be gazumped by one of his own England team-mates, especially if Archer rises to the occasion in the final two matches of the Ashes. He has already won the hearts and minds of the English public and become a fearsome prospect for the Aussie batsmen.
Archer also held his nerve, bowling the super over against New Zealand in the World Cup Final, and also leading the wicket column for the Three Lions in the competition. He has had his moments, but not quite at the level to surpass Stokes.