“I don’t think Ben Stokes fully realises what he’s just done” – tweeted former England skipper Michael Vaughan after the end of the 3rd Ashes Test at Headingley. Vaughan was right.
It will take some time for Ben Stokes to digest what he has achieved. In fact, it will take the entire cricketing world to come to terms with how the 3rd Ashes Test ended. It was magical. It was historic. It was unbelievable.
Who would have thought that after being bowled out for a paltry 67 –their lowest in the Ashes since 1948 – and conceding a lead of 112 runs, England would end upon the winning side? Who would have thought that with 9 wickets down and needing 73 runs still for victory, England would emerge the winners? Especially since the target was 359 and England had never chased down a 350-plus target in the Ashes.Embed from Getty Images
But then there was Ben Stokes. England’s savior. The same man who was at the crease, fighting till the very end in the recent ICC World Cup final at Lord’s, with a stupendous unbeaten 84. His effort eventually resulted in a maiden World Cup triumph for England then.
In the 3rd Ashes Test, Stokes was even better. With all hope lost and Australia on the brink of retaining the Ashes, the left-hander produced an absolute masterclass – a glorious unbeaten 135 with 11 fours and 8 sixes. With that magnificent effort, he single-handedly won England the Test and kept the Ashes alive.
It was an innings of two extremes. At one point Stokes was on 52 off 153 balls – it was his slowest Test fifty by some distance. But as wickets kept falling, Stokes became more aggressive. It wasn’t blind hitting, either. Stokes picked and chose his spots and deliveries. He was also astute with his running and stole some great singles and twos while batting with last man Jack Leach.Embed from Getty Images
It was an amazing performance; easily one of the greatest Ashes hundreds and one of the greatest Test hundreds in a chase. It was a performance that will be remembered for decades to come and Ben Stokes certainly deserves all the accolades that are pouring on him now.
“That is the most extraordinary Test innings ever played by an England batsman. To do that after the World Cup final. Those are once in a lifetime innings. And he’s done two in six weeks,” said ex-England captain Alastair Cook in disbelief.
This clearly has been the summer of Ben Stokes. First he was the hero for England in the World Cup. And now he is being their match-winner in the Ashes. He has been impactful both with the ball and the bat and across formats. The hundred in Headingley came after a solid 115* at Lords in the second Test.
In fact, his batting performance has often dwarfed his bowling efforts recently. While he may not have been getting big five-wicket hauls, Stokes has been doing rather well as a fast bowler – taking crucial wickets, forcing breakthroughs and bowling his heart put whenever the captain throws the ball at him. In the 3rd Test itself, Stokes’ 3-56 in the second innings was a terrific fast bowling performance where he consistently troubled the Australians batsmen while moving the ball at pace and got vital breakthroughs that stopped them from setting a huge target.Embed from Getty Images
Ben Stokes, hence, is the man of this summer. He has firmly established himself as the best all-rounder, across formats, of the present generation and perhaps one of the greatest Test all-rounders of all time already. At just 28 years of age, Stokes still has plenty of time on his hand and one can only imagine where he would end up by the time he is nearing his end.