Ben Stokes: Jonathan Agnew pays tribute to Sports Personality of the Year winner

Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes has earned legendary status through his exploits on the cricket field this summer and his Sports Personality of the Year award underlines how much the British public admires him.

The award truly is the icing on the cake of a fantastic 12 months for the Durham all-rounder.

In the last year, Stokes has earned back the England vice-captaincy and taken his game to a whole new level - culminating in those two magical Sundays at Lord's and Headingley which led England to World Cup glory and a barely believable victory in the third Ashes Test.

I still get goosebumps when I think back to both matches and it's amazing how much of the action was focused around one man.

No matter where I go, people come up to me and want to speak about Ben Stokes. His profile is enormous.

That's because not only were this summer's performances incredible, but they were accessible to the nation - millions watched the World Cup final on free-to-air television and weeks later, many tuned into Test Match Special, perhaps more in dread than anticipation of the theatre which was to unfold.

I'm personally delighted for Ben because I've always found him a delight to deal with. I have always enjoyed interviewing him - he tries very hard and is always polite. I have a very good relationship with Ben, as I do his parents.

They are lovely people and their son is an extraordinary cricketer.

The innings he played at Headingley, in which he scored 135 not out as England chased a record 359 to win the Test, was incredible and I don't think we'll see the like of it again. If we do, we'll be very fortunate.

What really stood out was Stokes' clear thinking. While the Australians lost it - Stokes was dropped by Marcus Harris, Nathan Lyon fumbled a run-out opportunity and the tourists dreadfully wasted a review - Stokes retained his focus and showed enormous clarity.

It began as a proper Test innings to try and dig his team out of trouble before becoming a full-on T20 innings, in which he showed staggering confidence to take on nine players on the boundary edge - and succeed - all while having to deal with a number 11 at the other end and farming the strike.

In many ways, Stokes is the first in a very talented new order of players. He is a Test player and a T20 player all rolled into one. He is able to switch between one and the other at an extremely high level.

English cricket is privileged to have such a talent and he is clearly somebody who can inspire the next generation.

He has helped put cricket back at the forefront of the nation's sporting consciousness.

That was brought home to me when I left The Oval to find my car at the end of the summer. I walked past a children's playground and I could hear all sorts of yelling. When I got closer, I saw a group of about 30 children - probably aged between 10 and 12 - enthusiastically playing cricket.

And in the days after that Headingley innings, people sent in videos of themselves listening to the winning moment. My favourite one centres on a Cornish beach where people have stopped what they are doing to celebrate England's victory - you see different groups of people cheering across the rocks to each other.

It shows how sport can bring people together.

That is the kind of legacy I will take away from this incredible summer of cricket, which was brought to life by the staggering individual performances of one man: Ben Stokes.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's Marc Higginson