“Cut away for four! The Ashes well and truly alive because of one cricketer!!”
As the ball raced away to the boundary rope off the master of day, Ben Stokes’s bat, the whole England stands up in joy to salute their hero, whereas the Aussie players lonely strolled up to the stairs. The drinks are coming out, hugs and kisses took place in the middle and Why not!! Even my neighbors found me a bit crazy but hardly I had much to deal with my emotions as it would be of any true Cricket fan’s.
The Great Knocks of Ashes:
What I witnessed that day sitting in my drawing room almost 5000-miles away was hardly imagined in a sweet dream or for an Australian it was the worst nightmare. Calling my partners or looking off to the windows, I was screaming out one line; “You got to see this, even the highlights if not live!!”
I had not seen Headingly 1981 by Sir Ian Botham but someone repeating it in just couple of months after presenting England their maiden ODI World Cup 2019, did not just deserve to be in words. But, I guess, this one in whites was something extra, even the earth as if stopped for a moment to notice. Let’s re-tour it.
Australia without Steve Smith:
When Australia reached Headingly, they were 1-0 up but the dark clouds of head injury that caught Steve Smith during the Lord’s test was gathering over their head and at-last the thunderbolts spread out when the medical team declared the rescue man unfit for the 3rd test. “Oh, what? No Smudge?” The Kangaroos required to stick around a bit more now.
It was absolutely gloomy out there when Marcus Harris and David Warner made their way with the bat after Joe Root decided to take full advantage of the weather against a weak looking opponent batting.
The Visitors Faced a Night-mare:
“It was all like an old-fashioned Headingly; Batman’s nightmare!” Indeed, it was what Jonathan Agnew spelled out about the conditions. With Smith sitting into the dressing room, the batting collapsed; it was just the sum of all fears. Leaving Warner & Labuschagne, no one appeared to be batting on that track, with only captain Tim Paine joined those two into double figures. It just narrated what responsibility the missing man was carrying on his shoulders.
Archer got 6, in his second test as the visiting side bowed out for 179.
England almost had the same batting situations, but just mark out your feelings, when you see blue skies turning out next day after being out on a dark day with the stick in hand. The home side has to just bat and bat all day and post a grand total; but that was just their plan and not execution. In the next three hours, probably one of the best collective bowling I watched of late. All balls were in the channels with hardly any freebies.
England Packed up for 67:
Roy and Root nicked off and Warner jumped to take a fabulous catch, Burns failed to pull, Denly grabbed the edge. Only bowlers changed but not the English fortune. Ben Stokes chased a wide one to the slips and not to praise the tails about their batting. 12 was the highest in the card by Denly with others sheltered in the mobile numbers. “We finally got one of those days.” Warner smiled. The home side packed up for just 67, lowest for them in an Ashes test since 1948.
Australia had their task cut out. But the start was not ideal. Warner again got out to Broad for a duck. Others just stayed there, with Labuschagne, who showed a lot of attitude coming to Lord’s as a replacement, scored a fighting eighty. When Archer disturbed the furniture to get the last man, Nathan Lyon, the scoreboard flashed out the target of 359.
What most of us missed in that innings was the donkey work by Ben Stokes. He was coming over after over bowling short hitting the deck hard and those deliveries expects a lot of toil of the body. He continued from the end before and after tea. Those figures of 24.2-7-56-3 appeared dim to what he did next.
For a batting line-up that just accounted 67, it was funny for them to even expect to reach nearer with records revealed 332 as their highest successful run-chase in history. The statements received proof as the Three Lions lost both their openers at 15. Both Joe did reasonably well to give their team some resistance with the partnership of 126-run but his wicket welcomed Ben Stokes with a big cheer to the middle. What a golden summer did this man had. Both of them survived the day’s play with the final day coming.
203- England, 7-wickets – Australia.
When they lost Root thanks to an outstanding judgment of the inside edge by Warner, the game was half done. Stokes was playing so safe, too much and the roar for his first boundary summed it up pretty well. Momentum just shifted but then the Aussies sent Bairstow home and a causality brought the end of Butler. After a mad sweep by archer what found Head in the boundary line, Broad took just 2-balls before being LBW without troubling the scorers. The game is finished (for some). The winviz had jumped up and down a lot that day.
“We’re home.” Mitchell Marsh yelled out his thoughts or probably of the whole Australia. “We are 2-nil up in the Ashes.”
The last man Jack Leach ran on the 22-yard. He had the reputation of a good batter with 92 against Ireland and probably if my memory is alright, then he opened in Sri-Lanka too. But there was a huge bridge to cross.
“They’re gonna hit one up, we’re gonna get a wicket here.” Oh, he did hit but cleanly enough for a six. One shot he played off Lyon; reverse-sweep over the Western Terrance, I can just watch it all day on loop.
England Losing Chances:
The pressure was getting on the skin and the fielding side got melted by it. It was the last ball of the over and the field was absolutely spread out. Warne kept on advising from the com box as was coach Langer and Smith from the change room. “You’ve got a guy who can bat and you’ve got a guy who can’t bat.”
Peter Lalor described the twos in the middle as on the last ball of the over, they just had to stop Stokes getting off strike and Ben got the easiest single in his career. And then normal show resumed. A six over third man and in the mid-off dragged him to a marvelous six. Just when the ball went in the air, all Aussies stood on the chairs or the table, lots of prays went in a second but God seemed to be in the team of Stokes; Harris missed a big chance.
Reviews are generally one of the most essential part and parcel as the modern generation has shown not to waste it. Cummins hit Leach in the boot and after some discussions, Paine showed the T-sign with Ponting couldn’t believe it sitting in the com box. “You know, you’d be kicking yourself even if it was, even if it’s 1% chance.” Cummins reported of the skipper’s mind. The replays traced it out as pitching outside.
The Drama Begins:
Still, it’s not over untill it’s over. “Lyon Fumbles.” Stokes sweeped straight to Cummins and by the time, he looked up, Leach was standing with him. Lyon had to just collect the ball and broke the stumps but he fumbled (The Ashes)!! The camera found their coach kicking the dust bin in the change room in frustration; the good thing was he cleaned the dust on his own too.
The next ball hit Stokes in the legs, the whole Australia appealed as Lyon was on his haunches watching umpire Joel Wilson shacked his head. The replay made it worse as it was crushing the middle stump. The burning review cost them.
The Most Vital Single:
The next ball was about to bowl, Leach took his helmet off, glasses off, cleaned it, glasses on, helmet on and rushed for the most important single in his life. The cut came as the stadium erupted. Ben Stokes had played the most gigantic innings of all time. “It was unbelievable, one I’ll never forget.” Ben Stokes cheered up about his innings and its importance. “Just never give up.”
That was certainly one in a generation innings. India was playing West Indies in a test match at the same time; still the whole attention on that evening was on the Ashes. Both teams had their chance, probably the losing side played the best of the four days but as they say, you have to snatch it when it matters the most. Three years before, he was standing on his knees in a lonely night at Eden Garden; now in 2019, in between just 60-days, he did miracle twice.
BEN STOKES!! TAKE A BOW!!!