When I sat down to write this headline all the usual superlatives went through my head. Awesome. Sensational. Insane. I even toyed with the headline The Miracle of Headingley ’19. But in the end only two words felt right. Only two words encapsulated all the superlatives I could ever regurgitate: Ben Stokes.
This summer we’ve seen English cricket’s infant terrible – see I can throw in the odd cliche as well multiple hyperboles – grow into the player we all hoped he could be. Yes he played a miserable shot in the first innings. But we’re all human. It’s how we learn from our mistakes and make up for them that counts. And today Ben Stokes delivered like a true champion.
I am absolutely lost for words. I can hardly believe it. I gave England absolutely no hope yesterday and buggered off to Twickenham to watch us beat Ireland at rugby instead. And when I checked the score at 7pm, after several jars of beer, I still gave us no hope. I thought today would be a formality for Australia. Unless there was a miracle of course …
And so it came to pass that the Lord of Durham, our Lord, made it so. We wouldn’t have come close to winning the World Cup without him. And without him Australia would now be drinking champagne and The Ashes would be gone.
It will take some time to digest what happened today. I was actually at my Mum’s 70th birthday party for most of today so I kept up to speed via sneaky looks at my phone under the table. Fortunately I got home to witness the finale when it became obvious something special was unfolding.
Was this game better than Headingley ’81? I think it might have been. Was it better than Edgbaston ’05. Yes I think it probably was. Stokes played one of the best innings in the history of test cricket. I never want to hear anyone say he’s ‘all hype’ ever again.
There are obviously a few talking points to mention in the aftermath. England’s top order is still a mess. And we basically won because our two best players (Root and Stokes) finally came to the party.
Then there was Marcus Harris’s drop at the death to discuss, and the dreadful umpiring of Joel Wilson. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Stokes was stone dead LBW at the very end but inexplicably given not out. Australia were completely robbed in this regard.
However, unlike New Zealand in the World Cup final, Australia only had themselves to blame. As soon as Paine reviewed that Leach lbw (which was never out in a million years) I turned to my father in law and said “they could well regret that”.
And so it proved. Paine basically cost his side the game through what I can only describe as pure desperation, panic, and stupidity.
But we can talk about all these things another day. Today was Ben Stokes day. And I don’t want anything to detract from that. The bloke is an ‘effin’ legend. He was invincible today. And the Ashes are still very much on … which brings me to my final thought.
Those of you who read this blog frequently will know that the previous article, written on Friday evening, was titled The Day We Kissed The Ashes Goodbye. Sport has a delicious way of making one eat one’s words. And I’ve never been happier to do so.
My only excuse it that this happens to the best of us. I listen to a superb Aston Villa podcast called My Old Man Said. If I ever do a TFT podcast I’ll probably model it on MOMS. With three months of the season still to go, and Villa firmly entrenched in mid-table mediocrity, they did an ‘end of season party’ episode. It was full of doom and gloom and gnashing of teeth.
At that point Villa needed to win ten games in a row simply to have a shot of making the playoffs. And they were playing terribly. None of the contributors gave them a hope in hell.
You can guess what happened next! For those of you who don’t follow football, they won a club record number of games in succession and then beat Derby in an epic encounter in the playoff final in May. They won their first game back in the Premiership on Friday night.
The beauty of sport is that it’s completely unpredictable at times. And it can make even the very best pundits look completely daft. Thank god I don’t do this as a living and have no professional reputation to uphold.
Bob Willis completely wrote England off the other night. He’s currently got the world’s biggest omelette on his face. Meanwhile Jonathan Trott (not to mention England’s batting coach Graham Thorpe), who invited ridicule by suggesting that England could indeed chase over 350 to win, will be feeling rather smug.
Good on ya guys. I guess that’s why you’re the blokes with test averages over 40 and I’m just a dope with a keyboard.