Updated: January 8, 2020 10:00:55 am
At Newlands Ben Stokes rose again. He has been Atlas-like for England since the World Cup last year. Whenever England had prayed for a hero, Stokes has emerged as the undisputed match-winner. His Cape Town heroics was another feather in his cap. England wouldn’t have won the Test without his late burst – two wickets in two balls on the heels of his 47-ball 72 in the second innings and six catches in the match. Forget the official honour, Stokes has long been Knighted on social media.
From the World Cup final Lord’s to the second Test against South Africa at Newlands, via the ‘Miracle of Headingly 2019’, Stokes has emerged as the biggest match-winner in contemporary cricket. On Tuesday, through his on-field exploits he also sent a reminder to the people on the smart seats at the ICC that day five is very much worthwhile in the purest format of the game. From England’s perspective, when the team needs him, he shines.
Newlands, January 3-7, 2020
South Africa were sitting pretty at the tea interval. Quinton de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen were building a good partnership and England needed five wickets in the final session to square the series. It looked unlikely even after de Kock and van der Dussen got out.
The visitors needed a spark to polish off the lower-order. Cometh the hour, cometh Stokes. Dwaine Pretorius and Anrich Nortje had been taken care of in consecutive deliveries – 90mph thunderbolts – and then, Vernon Philander was made to fend one at gully. England won.
Stokes’s match figures read: 119 runs, six catches and three wickets. Botham-esque.Fifteen runs required off the final over and two wickets left. It was Stokes or bust for England in the World Cup final against New Zealand. A six and a lucky overthrow later, the equation came down to three off two balls.
Two run outs followed and it was a tie. Stokes very intelligently chose placement in the final delivery rather than a big hit. He had to cut down the risk factors. England won in the Super Over on the boundary count and the Cup eventually came home. A few days later, both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, the Tory ‘rivals’, agreed that the Christchurch-born England allrounder deserved to be Knighted.
Headingley, August 22-25, 2019
England were 67 all out in their first innings in the third Ashes Test last year. At 286/9 in the second innings, the game was all but over. The victory target was still 73 runs away. Stokes decided to take the attack to the Aussies. Josh Hazlewood was taken to the cleaners.
Nathan Lyon had been clobbered all over the park. Australia suddenly started to feel the pressure. They wasted their reviews, missed a lollipop run-out opportunity and dropped a catch. At the end, nobody was talking about those missed chances. The ‘special one’ had taken England over the line, an unbeaten 135. Ian Botham still needed Bob Willis to script the “Miracle of Headingley 1981’. Stokes towered over the rest in the sequel.
WACA, December 13-17, 2013
It was only his second Test. Mitchell Johnson was breathing fire and some England batsmen had been suffering from mental disintegration. On a cracked Waca pitch, Stokes withstood Johnson to score 120 in the fourth innings, albeit in a losing cause. It was the only time that an England batsman had reached three figures in the 2013/14 Ashes Down Under.
Chittagong, October 20-24, 2016
On a Chittagong dust-bowl, Stokes’s 85 in the second innings had kept England in the game. Shakib Al Hasan was making the ball talk. With the Test hanging in the balance in the final morning, Stokes ran through Bangladesh’s lower-order to secure a 22-run victory for his team. That day Stokes had announced himself on the subcontinent.
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