No one interested in cricket will surely ever forget where they were or what they were doing when Ben Stokes hit a boundary to win the third Ashes Test against Australia at Headingley, Leeds on Sunday 25 August. Stokes is a remarkable cricketer. A brilliant all-rounder, he never knows when he or his team are beaten, as he demonstrated in the World Cup final in July. His 135 not out at Headingley, on a broiling day in front of a raucous crowd, has been acclaimed by Alastair Cook, the former England captain, as the “greatest ever innings by an Englishman”.
Let us not forget that England were bowled out for an abject 67 in the first innings at Headingley, leading many to question their resolve and dedication to the cherished five-day game. To beat Australia, they had to accomplish the highest ever fourth innings run chase in the history of English Test cricket. When Stuart Broad was the ninth man out, for a duck, England still needed 76 runs to win. Stokes was joined by Jack Leach, a left-arm spinner who bats at number 11 for good reason. And yet, the bespectacled Leach (who also suffers from Crohn’s disease) was resolute in defence, supporting Stokes as he launched a ferocious counter-attack, flaying the Australian bowlers. The greatest innings in international cricket history? Who knows for sure. But on that radiant Sunday afternoon in Yorkshire, Ben Stokes, Jack Leach and England reminded us why Test cricket is the greatest form of our wonderful summer game and, perhaps, even the greatest of all games