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Ashes 2019 3rd Test: The Summer of Stokes

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Last Updated on 5 years by Charbel Coorey

Ashes 2019 3rd Test: The Summer of Stokes

It is the first match of England’s much-awaited World Cup campaign. This was the one they truly believed they would win. After all, they had been the best ODI side since their embarrassing exit at the 2015 Cricket World Cup. Jonny Bairstow is out on the first ball he faces, and while England recovered well, the slow nature of The Oval pitch meant hard work, rather than hard hitting, was the need of the day.

Ben Stokes delivered immediately. His 79-ball 89 propelled England to 311, which proved far too much for South Africa. But, that is not before one of the best catches of all time, along with two wickets, that made this Stokes’ day.

But, surely no one could have predicted what was to come next in England’s huge summer.

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Standing tall during England’s World Cup worries

England’s World Cup campaign hit a roadblock halfway through; a surprise among British pundits and commentators who really rate their side. Their shock loss to Sri Lanka blew the group stage wide open, before a game against high-flying Australia at Lord’s which again ended in disappointment.

The one man to step up for England across those two games was Ben Stokes. He took them to within 20 runs of victory after a middle order collapse against Sri Lanka, only to be left stranded on 82*. Against Australia, he held things together after a top order collapse, outdone by a classic Mitchell Starc yorker for 89.

In both losses, we saw a man determined to fight right until the end.

Also read: A rating of 10 for Stokes is too low! 3rd Ashes Test Player Ratings

World Cup Final euphoria

England got their act together, winning their final two group games against India (where Stokes made a whirlwind 79) and New Zealand respectively to qualify for the Semi Finals. After brushing aside Australia in their Semi Final, it all came down to a Final against a New Zealand side that defended a modest total against more favoured India.

And that’s exactly what England faced in the Final. It was never going to be straightforward. The longing taste for success in ODI World Cups was never going to be spoon-fed. Certainly not against an excellent tactician in Kane Williamson and superb all-round bowling attack that New Zealand possess. Indeed, England’s top order found that out quickly.

But, given Stokes’ magnificent efforts throughout the World Cup, you always felt England were a chance as long as he was in. Nothing could faze him. He could bat through storms. However, a World Cup Final needed him to go up to another level, as England’s batting lineup was under attack from New Zealand’s armoury of talented bowlers in a pressure-cooker situation. The kind Australia crumbled in at Headingley. He gave himself a chance to get England home even when he could barely run anymore.

It was a performance for the ages, even with Trent Boult’s mighty ‘step-up’ on the boundary off Stokes in the penultimate over that meant a six instead England’s hopes dashed. There was luck involved, such as the six overthrows off his bat. But, none of that could have happened had he not fought through the tough periods. Sheer adrenaline and passion got him over the line. Every ounce of energy was spent in creating history. He achieved it, creating pandemonium in the stands and across the nation.

So, Stokes could then be mentioned in a list of players who produced gold in World Cup Finals – a list that includes Clive Lloyd, Wasim Akram, Aravinda de Silva, Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and MS Dhoni. For many players, such an achievement might mean a mental switch. Of course, it would be totally understandable if Stokes couldn’t quite deliver in a high-profile Ashes series so soon after an incredible effort in a showpiece event.

Ashes 2019 3rd Test: The Summer of Stokes. The summer of Ben Stokes
Ashes 2019 3rd Test: The Summer of Stokes: The man on everyone’s mind.

One of the great Test knocks

But don’t tell that to Ben Stokes. On the ground where England’s greatest all-rounder produced a performance for the ages nearly 40 years ago, Stokes wrote his own legacy with an effort that all at the ground and millions around the globe will never forget.

By the end of his 135*, even Tim Paine, not sure exactly what hit him, was in awe of Stokes. Kim Kardashian thought she could break the internet, but Test cricket like this has her covered any day.

So, what was the possibility of getting two freak matches, in cricket’s two most traditional formats, in the space of six weeks? That too after England’s horrendous first innings batting effort, of which Stokes’ dismissal typified England’s lackadaisical, muddled and complacent mindset after rolling Australia for 179? No one could have imagined the kind of drama days three and four could offer, after such dismal batting from both teams on the opening two days.

One man was at the centre England’s recovery. It began with his bowling on the second evening, which kept England in the fight. The two Joe’s – Root and Denly – then brought England back in contention after the openers – including the out of depth Jason Roy – were dismissed cheaply for the second time in the match. But, after Denly was dismissed for 50, Australia were back on top, and England could ill-afford to lose another one on the third evening. So, Ben Stokes played out 50 balls for two runs – a big “screw you” to anyone who dared complain about his scoring rate.

Ashes 2019 3rd Test: The Summer of Stokes. The summer of Ben Stokes
Ashes 2019 3rd Test: The Summer of Stokes – Ben Stokes fought hard with the ball.

So, England went into a big day of an Ashes chase so similar to that of Adelaide in 2017/18. Then, England needed 178 with six wickets in hand, with Joe Root at the crease. Here, they needed 203 with seven wickets in hand, with Root again at the crease overnight. However, the big difference this time was the presence of Stokes, who, if Australia couldn’t dislodge early, could very well bring it home.

That he did. The introduction of Jack Leach after wickets tumbled post-lunch on the fourth day sent Stokes into beast mode, displaying an unbelievable shift in gears, after which his first 82 balls yielded nine runs. One highlight in particular was his reverse sweep for six off Nathan Lyon, that had the vocal Headingley crowd truly believing. Towards the end, he could barely watch from the non-strikers’ end, but Jack Leach held his nerve better than Australia did.

“I didn’t really care”, said Stokes about reaching his century. “Personal milestones, especially in that sort of situation, mean absolutely nothing. There were still a lot more runs to get; I wasn’t bothered about how many I had.”

This gives quite the insight into what drives Stokes. The team. He treated his century as if it was just another delivery. After all, a record England run-chase was at stake. More importantly, they had to keep the Ashes alive. It was a display of self-belief, class and incredible concentration that no one who witnessed it would forget in a hurry. Indeed, it was so incredible that Australia crumbled, missing opportunity after opportunity that saw the urn dropped… for now.

Overall, though, this was a day for Test cricket. Ben Stokes gave it a massive shot in the arm in an innings that all Australians – even some of the rubbish media, should simply appreciate. I certainly do, as Stokes is one hell of a cricketer.

Ashes 2019 3rd Test: The Summer of Stokes. The summer of Ben Stokes
Ashes 2019 3rd Test: The Summer of Stokes – “Forget Australia’s mistakes”….

Thanks for reading!

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Charbel Coorey
Charbel Cooreyhttps://cricblog.net
Charbel is the owner & founder of cricblog.net, based in Sydney, Australia. He started the website to fulfill his love for the game of cricket. Charbel has also been featured on other publications including OP India, Times of India, and The Roar, among others. For any story tips or questions, you can contact Charbel at charbelcoorey@cricblog.net.

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