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Ben Stokes opens up on "special" England team spirit after dream 2019

The all-rounder was the undisputed star in a glorious year for English cricket in 2019.

Ben Stokes truly discovered how special England's dressing-room spirit was when he found himself on the outside looking in.

The 28-year-old capped an amazing tale of redemption by winning the public vote for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year prize on Sunday night after a stunning summer defined by two innings which have earned him English cricketing immortality.

His unbeaten 84 paved the way for a Super Over success in the World Cup final against New Zealand in July and he followed that up just over a month later with arguably the greatest Test innings of all time – a match-winning 135 not out against Australia at Headingley.

It was all a far cry from the winter of 2017, when in the wake of an incident outside a Bristol nightclub Stokes was left out of the touring Ashes squad.

He was ultimately cleared of affray in 2018, and Stokes admits those difficult times illustrated how strong the support network around him was.

"Sport has an amazing way of picking you back up," he said.

"It's when you're out of the team that you feel it. When you're in the team you're in the bubble, it's just sort of day by day, you know – training, playing.

Ben Stokes, left, with third-placed Dina Asher-Smith
Ben Stokes, left, with third-placed Dina Asher-Smith (Jane Barlow/PA)

"When that gets taken away from you, and you're not around the people that you're generally spending time with, but they have taken time out of their days to keep in contact, ask 'how are you?' and stuff like that, that's when you really know that you're part of something quite special.

"That wasn't just for the first eight to nine weeks, it was until I got back into the team. Even though I wasn't there, I was made to feel like I was."

Stokes returned to the England set-up in August 2018 before going on to light up the summer of 2019.

As run-rates climbed and wickets fell, Stokes seemed to be the only man in the country not chewing their fingernails to the quick.

Stokes in action during the World Cup final in Lord's
Stokes in action during the World Cup final in Lord's (Nick Potts/PA)

But despite the swashbuckling nature of those era-defining innings, he insisted: "I think people who say they aren't nervous are probably telling a little white lie. Nerves get you going, playing so much and at the highest level you're bound to be nervous.

"But once you step out there and once you're in that moment, you're in a place where you're comfortable, you're in a place which you know.

"When you're out there as a batter I just try to envision myself in a bubble, anything outside of that I try not to let it in, I just look at what I've got to do when I've got the bat in hand."

Lewis Hamilton won a sixth Formula One title in 2019
Lewis Hamilton won a sixth Formula One title in 2019 (PA)

Stokes' heroics secured him first place in the annual awards ahead of six-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and 200 metres world champion Dina Asher-Smith.

The 24-year-old sprinter's coach John Blackie was named Coach of the Year, while the England one-day side won Team of the Year and the decisive run-out in the World Cup final was chosen as the Greatest Sporting Moment of the Year.

Eleven-time Paralympic gold medallist Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson won the Lifetime Achievement award while the Helen Rollason award for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity went to former Scotland rugby lock Doddie Weir, who has fund-raised for motor neurone disease since being diagnosed with the degenerative condition.

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England coach John Mitchell pictured in September 2019
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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States30352792
Olympics flagRussian Olympic Committee16222058
Great BritainGreat Britain16181852
Today's Olympic highlights header

Friday's key events

· Great Britain's women aim to secure their place on the podium as they face India in the bronze medal match (2.30am)
· Netherlands - silver medallists five years ago - and Argentina battle for the gold medal in the women's final (11am)

· The women's gold medal will be decided as Australia and USA go head to head (3.30am)

· Lauren Price will be looking to add to Team GB's success in the ring when she takes on Nouchka Fontijn of Netherlands in the women's middleweight semi-final (6am)

· Tom Daley already has one Olympic gold to his name in Tokyo, and he begins his bid for second in the men's 10m platform. Teammate Noah Williams is also involved in the preliminary round (7am)

· Jason Kenny's reign as sprint king may be over, but Jack Carlin looked strong in his bid to succeed his compatriot. He takes on Harrie Lavreysen in his sprint semi-final (8.10am), with the final taking place later in the day (10.35am)
· The women's madison makes its Olympic debut at the velodrome as Team GB duo Katie Archibald and Laura Kenny look to add another medal to their collections (9.15am)

· Hosts Japan will look to get themselves on the podium as they face Mexico in the men's bronze medal match (10am)
· The women's champions will be crowned as both Sweden and Canada aim to win Olympic gold for the very first time (1pm)

· The men's 5000m final includes Great Britain's Andrew Butchart, but most eyes will be on Ugandan world record holder Joshua Cheptegei (1pm)
· Team GB's Jodie Williams will hope to get on the podium in the women's 400m final, but defending champ Shaunae Miller-Uibo is favourite for gold while Stephenie Ann McPherson should challenge and Allyson Felix is bidding to become the most decorated female track and field athlete of all time (1.35pm)
· Netherlands' Sifan Hassan takes on leg two of her ambitious attempt at a Tokyo treble in a women's 1500m final which also includes Great Britain's Laura Muir and Faith Kipyegon of Kenya (1.50pm)
· A star-studded women's 4x100m relay final will see a Team GB quartet including Dina Asher-Smith look to upset defending champions USA and favourites Jamaica, who boast Elaine Thompson-Herah as she goes for her third gold of the Games (2.30pm)
· Great Britain and Jamaica will also be going for gold in the men's 4x100m relay final, and their medal hopes have been boosted by USA's failure to qualify (2.50pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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