“Ben Stokes is the best allrounder in the world right now. The fans from Bangladesh can talk about Shakib Al Hasan, but mind you, Shakib is more interested in playing limited-overs cricket than Tests. Whereas Stokes takes Test matches seriously as because, he knows, to share a place alongside Imran, Botham, Kapil, and Hadlee, an allrounder has to prove his worth in 5-day cricket”
Imran Khan came out to bat when an injury-hit Pakistan were 7 for 3 against Australia in the second Test at Adelaide in 1990. Imran took the matter to his hand and along with Wasim Akram pulled Pakistan out of the fire with a match-saving hundred. Pressure motivated Imran more and yet again delivered his best under adversity.
Then Ian Botham scripted one of the best hundreds in the history of Test cricket at Leeds in 1981 against Australia to give England the slightest of hopes of a victory. At one point England were reeling at 133 for 7 while following on. England won and Botham became a part of cricket’s folklore. Again, adversity brought the best out from the best in the business during the era of 4 great allrounders.
Pressure. Adversity. Totally done and dusted. No hopes at all.
Such circumstances always motivated Imran, Botham, Kapil Dev, and Sir Richard Hadlee to essay the most unthinkable batting and bowling displays.
Ben Stokes is someone who is carrying on their legacy.
One wicket in hand. Stokes batting on 96. England were still 37 runs away from an impossible victory.
Josh Hazlewood, the best pace bowler for Australia in the Test match so far, ran into bowl and was plundered by Stokes. He brought up his hundred with a boundary and followed it up with two sixes. Hazlewood leaked 19 runs.
But before that, Stokes switch-hit Nathan Lyon for a six at square on the offside, and then swayed towards his offstump to hit Pat Cummins for a six – England had just one wicket in hand. Still, the target was out of reach.
But still, still…..Stokes stepped up to take desperate measures.
Stokes knew he could do it.
He was mentally disturbed by that unnecessary slash wide outside offstump against James Pattinson in the first innings, which led to an ugly collapse and set England to chase down a tough target at Leeds in the fourth innings. Joe Root and Joe Denly played their part to give England the stability and hope on Day 3, but on day 4, I am not sure why Root decided to dance down the wicket and threw his wicket away and why Jos Buttler decided to come out of the crease when there was no run at all.
Stokes was witnessing the hopes of a comeback devoured by a giant wave.
Jack leach walked out to bat when England were 283 for 9 and still needed 73 runs to win.
Mission impossible for Stokes?
The Imran and Botham of the modern era get motivated by impossible missions.
He was composed. Calm as a cucumber. Marshalled the last man smartly. Took risks when he thought he could cover the distance – a huge six brought the target back to 2. In between, he had to digest the thrilling nature of Test cricket.
Joel Wilson did not respond to Australia’s lbw appeal, which was out, but Australia wasted a review in previous over. Nathan Lyon survived a run out as Lyon fumbled while grabbing the ball thrown from the fielder. It would have been injustice towards the Herculian effort of a man if that run out happened. Or, if Wilson raised his finger, Stokes would have ended as the tragic hero. Well, his “judgement” kept the Ashes alive and thankfully, one of the best knocks ever played in the history of Test match did not have to bear a tragic fate.
Ben Stokes is the best allrounder in the world right now. The fans from Bangladesh can talk about Shakib Al Hasan, but mind you, Shakib is more interested in playing limited-overs cricket than Tests.
Whereas Stokes takes Test matches seriously as because, he knows, to share a place alongside Imran, Botham, Kapil, and Hadlee, an allrounder has to prove his worth in 5-day cricket.