Ben Stokes: The Day Before
The nation has run out of superlatives for Ben Stokes. What he achieved on a baking hot Sunday in Leeds will go down in cricketing legend.
Former England captain Alastair Cook described his innings of 135* as “the most extraordinary innings ever played by an Englishman”. It most probably was, especially in the circumstances and with what was at stake.
For the second time in six weeks, it has been a record-breaking time for English cricket with Stokes at the very heart of it. After the Cricket World Cup victory, some people were calling it redemption after a rocky couple of years.
This time it was different.
In Australia’s second innings, Stokes flogged himself through almost 25 overs in a row and wouldn’t stop until the Aussies were done. It was like he was torturing himself for his bowling and batting performances in the first two innings’ where he bowled very poorly with figures of 9 overs 1 for 45, and then when England were batting he was caught at first slip playing one of the worst shots he has ever played to a very wide ball.
That evening England were 15-2 before Root and Denly dug deep to move the score past 140. When Denly gloved behind a Hazlewood bouncer it was Stokes who joined the England captain at the crease. There were no rash shots, in fact, there were almost no shots at all. He knew he had to be there the next morning for England to have any kind of chance in chasing down the 359-run target. He blocked or left every ball of the 50 he faced scoring just 2 runs. At that stage, runs were completely irrelevant and it meant England would close the day only 3 wickets down.
Without the toil the day before, there would have been no chance of the heroics the day after. Australia would, and should have had a lead of over 400 if it wasn’t for Stokes’s spell of bowling. Surely that would have been too many for England to chase down but as we now know, anything is possible with Ben Stokes in your team.