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Great Britain

England star Ben Stokes tipped to become first cricketer in 14 years to win SPOTY 2019

BEN STOKES is well used to stealing the show on any given Sunday.

His heroics in England’s World Cup final win over New Zealand came on the Sabbath.

And six weeks later, he was again at his Sunday best to single-handedly keep the Ashes alive with one of the all-time great innings at Headingley.

In Aberdeen on Sunday, Stokes is tipped to be the first cricketer to win BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 14 years.

And if the all-rounder emulates Freddie Flintoff in 2005, it will complete a remarkable redemption story.

In 2016 in Kolkata, Stokes was distraught after Carlos Brathwaite smashed four straight sixes off his final over as West Indies beat England in the World T20 final.

Then the following year, his reputation was in tatters after being arrested over that Bristol brawl.

Even after he was acquitted of affray, few would have tipped Stokes to capture the hearts of a nation. Yet that is exactly what has happened.

Sports fans will need no reminding of his titanic twin triumphs, the first of which came on July 14 at Lord’s.

Eoin Morgan’s England were huge favourites to beat New Zealand and win their first Cricket World Cup.

THE OTHER CONTENDERS:

Dina Asher Smith: Became first British woman to win a major global sprint title with gold medal in the 200metres in Doha at the World Athletics Championship. She also took silver medals in the 100m and the 4x100m relay.

Lewis Hamilton: The Mercedes driver moved one behind Michael Schumacher’s record haul of Formula One world titles when he claimed a stunning sixth crown. The 34-year-old Brit is close to being the greatest F1 driver of all time.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Won the heptathlon title at the World Athletics Championship in Qatar. In the process she beat her hero Jessica Ennis-Hill’s GB record and will now head to Tokyo 2020 as a favourite.

Alun Wyn Jones: Captained Wales to Grand Slam glory in the Six Nations, where he won player of the tournament. The Welshman also led his country to the World Cup semi-final, where they lost narrowly to South Africa.

Raheem Sterling: Crowned the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year as his Manchester City side won the domestic treble. Starred for England in the Nations League and publicly spoke out against racism.

Yet they were making a mess of chasing the Kiwis’ modest 241 until Stokes stepped to the crease.

In a 110-run fifth-wicket partnership with Jos Buttler, he helped drag England back from the brink.

But it was in the final over that Stokes really came to the fore.

Needing 15 to win, he smashed a six and then registered another one — albeit with overthrows via a freak deflection off his bat — to tie the scores and send the final into extra-time, finishing with an unbeaten 84.

Shattered Stokes then came out to do it again with Buttler in the super over, where he top-scored with eight.

As New Zealand could only equal England’s total of 15, Morgan’s men won on a countback of boundaries.

He then conjured up more miracles in the Third Test against Australia with The Ashes on the line.

The Durham dynamo bowled 24 overs to take three wickets in the Aussies’ second innings and ensure an unlikely victory target of 359.

However, any hope of completing a record run chase looked over when Joe Root’s side lost their ninth wicket with 73 runs still needed.

But as Jack Leach held up an end, Stokes defied all logic, hitting eight sixes in an unbeaten 135 to seal a series-levelling one-wicket win.

So it is no wonder he is odds-on favourite for Sunday’s Beeb big one.

And Stokes is missing the first match of England’s tour of South Africa to attend the show.

That said, there still could be a shock, with sprint star Dina Asher-Smith — the second favourite behind Stokes — sure to claim votes.

Formula One fans will back six-time world champ Lewis Hamilton and rugby’s Alun Wyn Jones will have support from all of Wales.

In a six-person shortlist, Manchester City star Raheem Sterling and heptathlon queen Katarina Johnson-Thompson are also worthy winners.

But the smart money is on another Stokes super Sunday, and never will the award have been more deserved.

Cricket fans chant 'Shoes off if you love Ben Stokes' after amazing Ashes victory over Australia
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