England’s cricket World Cup-winning hero Ben Stokes has lost his father – Gerard Stokes, a former rugby league player, and coach, after the latter lost a long battle with brain cancer. Stokes Sr, who died at the age of 65, fell ill on England’s tour of South Africa last Christmas. He spent five weeks in a hospital in Johannesburg before returning to New Zealand. Gerard had returned home to Christchurch with his wife Deborah, where he was living at the time of his death.

His former club Workington Town released a statement which read: “It is with great sadness that we learn our former player and coach Ged Stokes has passed away.

“Ged is written into the rich fabric of Town history and will be greatly missed.”Ged still has many, many friends here in West Cumbria and we send our thoughts to them too.”

Earlier, this year – Stokes had left England’s bio-secure bubble against Pakistan mid-series to spend time with his ailing father. Later, Stokes decided to return to competitive action during this year’s Indian Premier League in UAE where he played for franchise – Rajasthan Royals.

Speaking at the time, Ben said: “I didn’t sleep for a week and my head wasn’t really in it. Leaving [the team] was the right choice from a mental point of view.”

Stokes had paid tribute to his dad when he was in hospital in January, by celebrating his ninth Test century with a heartfelt gesture. And after completing his ton in Port Elizabeth, he did his trademark finger move, folding his middle finger in.