Ben Stokes is a very modern genius… but we have to make sure he doesn’t burn out

0
79
Ben Stokes hits a six off Nathan Lyon as Australia captain Tim Paine watches on


Sportsmail’s cricket experts reflect on a sensational Headingley Test, Ben Stokes’ heroics and consider the destination of the Ashes now…

Have you seen a greater Test? 

Paul Newman (Cricket correspondent)

No, this cannot be bettered and it was a privilege to be there. How can a team be bowled out for 67 and still win? That hadn’t been done in more than a hundred years, for goodness sake. I wasn’t at Headingley 1981 or Edgbaston 2005, so there really is no competition. 

This is why Test cricket remains the greatest game and please, please, may it always be so. That’s the sort of cricket that will inspire a new audience, surely? I cannot bear the prospect of spending my retirement watching just Twenty20 and, heaven forbid, The Hundred. I just can’t.

Ben Stokes hits a six off Nathan Lyon as Australia captain Tim Paine watches on

Nasser Hussain (Former England captain)

I watched some of the 1981 series as a young lad, but the only game I’ve seen that would run this one close was the 2005 Ashes Test at Edgbaston. That had incredible drama right at the very end, but the difference between that match and Headingley was that Edgbaston had various protagonists affecting the game at different moments, while Headingley ended up being all about one man. 

And not only did England win after being bowled out for 67, but they needed 73 with only one wicket in hand. In terms of miraculousness, Headingley wins it for me.

David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd (Broadcaster, former England batsman and coach)

I was out and about during the game and strangers were coming up to me on the street saying: ‘Have you seen what’s just happened at Headingley?’ It feels like the game has lifted the nation’s spirits, a bit like Botham’s heroics did in 1981. 

And I also think more people got involved in this match. The first four days were sold out, whereas in the 1981 Headingley Test, the total attendance over five days was 52,000. I can’t think of a Test that has captured the nation like this one.

Defeat at Headingley would have raised questions over Joe Root's Test captaincy

Defeat at Headingley would have raised questions over Joe Root’s Test captaincy

Lawrence Booth (Wisden editor)

The only Test I’ve seen in the flesh that can compete with Headingley 2019 was Edgbaston 2005 — another occasion when England avoided going 2-0 down against Australia by the skin of their teeth (and with a little help from the umpire). 

But that summer there were still three Tests to go. Defeat at Headingley would have been curtains, and the questions would have started about Joe Root’s captaincy. Some of the World Cup gloss would have been removed too. 

Three Tests have been won by teams who followed on, and two have been tied, but this game has to rank with any.

How about a greater Test innings?

Booth: For sheer shock value, Kusal Perera’s unbeaten 153 for Sri Lanka against South Africa at Durban in February (another one-wicket win) will take some beating. 

For out-and-out cojones, there’s Kevin Pietersen’s Ashes-clinching 158 at The Oval in 2005. But for his range of strokes — a ramp here, a reverse-sweep there, straight sixes everywhere — Ben Stokes has to go straight into the top handful. 

After England’s first-innings 67, people rightly moaned that white-ball cricket had damaged Test techniques. But without white-ball cricket, Stokes would not have been able to bat like he did on Sunday. It was a very modern piece of genius.

Stokes' range of strokes on Sunday rivalled the out-and-out cojones of Kevin Pietersen in 2005

Stokes’ range of strokes on Sunday rivalled the out-and-out cojones of Kevin Pietersen in 2005

Hussain: That was the best innings I’ve seen by an Englishman, especially when you consider that he’d already climbed one Everest already this summer at the World Cup. 

He must have been mentally drained, so to play like that was remarkable. In terms of overseas innings, everyone’s been talking about Kusal Perera’s knock against South Africa at Durban earlier in the year. 

But I also think back to VVS Laxman’s 281 at Kolkata against Steve Waugh’s Australians in 2001, when India won after following on and he had to bat on a turning pitch against Shane Warne.

Lloyd: There have been a few. Graham Gooch’s unbeaten 154 at Headingley in 1991 was one, and there was Brian Lara’s 153 not out against Australia at Bridgetown in 1999. 

But I’ve picked a couple that can compare with Stokes. One was in a draw: Mike Atherton’s 185 not out in nearly 11 hours to save England at Johannesburg in 1999-2000. 

Then there’s Sachin Tendulkar’s wonderful 103 to help India chase down 387 to beat England at Chennai in 2008-09. It came after the terrorist attack in Mumbai, and just felt like the right result in an emotional game.

Newman: No, again. In the dizziness of the moment, I said it was the best innings ever played in Test cricket, and countless viewings of the highlights don’t reduce the hyperbole. 

The greatest innings I’d ever seen before this was Graham Gooch at this same Headingley ground in 1991 against West Indies at their best, with Derek Pringle playing the supporting role. This has to be better because the Ashes were on the line. It was perfect from Stokes in every way.

Stokes is now on the patch to cricketing greatness and being the best all-rounder in the world

Stokes is now on the patch to cricketing greatness and being the best all-rounder in the world

Where does Stokes go from here?

Lloyd: I hope he packs his bags and takes his family to a secret hideaway for a few days. He just needs to get away from it all and come back refreshed for Manchester. 

His life took a wrong turn not so long ago, but this summer has been all about redemption: first that World Cup win, now two hundreds in the Ashes. 

He did the right thing by going away and getting fit, and now he has to stay that way. We’ve always talked about Botham and Flintoff, but the chat from now on has to be all about Ben Stokes.

Newman: To cricketing greatness. To become the best all-rounder in the world and the best England have ever had. To fulfil all that potential he was in danger of throwing away on that dark night in Bristol. 

To inspire children to take up the game, as Ian Botham did to me and so many others all those years ago. And to create that same sense of awe I still feel whenever I bump into Sir Beefy in various media centres around the world, because ‘it’s Ian Botham!’ Stokes is capable of all this now and more.

Booth: Onwards and upwards. He’s still only 28, but he’s kept himself in better physical shape than England’s two other larger-than-life all-rounders, Botham and Flintoff, and he has a real love for the game and his team-mates. 

Stokes is the real leader in this Test team, but vice-captain is where he should remain: imagine how many overs he would bowl if he was in charge. 

Now that he’s got Bristol out of his system, he can be as good as he wants to be — or, possibly, as good as the ridiculously packed schedule allows.

He is still only 28 and has kept himself in better shape than predecessor Andrew Flintoff

He is still only 28 and has kept himself in better shape than predecessor Andrew Flintoff

Hussain: I think Stokes will carry on doing exactly what he’s been doing. He’ll train just as hard, and he won’t get big-headed. He’ll remain an incredibly popular team man. 

The only question is how he gets looked after, which will be a debate for the ECB and his management company. Yes, he deserves to make big bucks at the IPL, and he’s probably just added another ‘0’ to his contract, but they will need to keep a careful eye on his workload. 

He’s an all-rounder in all three formats, and we have to make sure he doesn’t burn out, like Botham and Flintoff before him.

What should England do now?

Hussain: The big question is the fitness of Jimmy Anderson. If he gets through enough overs before the fourth Test, and both he and the medical staff think he’s fit to play at Manchester, then he fits into the equation ahead of Chris Woakes. 

But we can’t afford a repeat of Edgbaston. In terms of the batting, I’ve said all along that I’d like to move Joe Denly up to open, promote Stokes to No 4 and allow Jason Roy to go in at No 5.

The big question ahead of the fourth Test at Old Trafford is the fitness of Jimmy Anderson

The big question ahead of the fourth Test at Old Trafford is the fitness of Jimmy Anderson

Lloyd: Will Anderson be properly fit? It’s a risk, especially after Edgbaston. What he needs is proper mileage in his legs, not some two-day second-team exhibition game. 

And if Jason Roy was good enough two Tests ago, he’s good enough now. We can’t just keep jettisoning players. The only possible change I’d consider is bringing in Dawid Malan for Joe Denly, but I’m inclined to stick with the same side.

Booth: Two players are looking a bit weary: Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes. They’ve both had emotionally draining summers, and there’s no shame in giving them a game or two off ahead of the winter. 

I’d give Ollie Pope a go at No 6 (not at No 4, where he batted in two Tests last summer against India), and Sam Curran at No 8. 

There’s talk about Jimmy Anderson, but are they going to risk him after Edgbaston? Plus, the tail would then consist of two No 10s and two No 11s. That could prove costly.

Chris Woakes has looked a bit weary and could make way for Anderson in Manchester

Chris Woakes has looked a bit weary and could make way for Anderson in Manchester

Newman: We cannot just think everything is rosy in the England garden now. Yes, they can bat properly, but they have to go on to win the Ashes now and I’d make some tweaks. 

The experiment with Jason Roy at the top of the order was worth a go but it hasn’t worked and I’d move him to the middle order. Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler still look to be suffering from a World Cup hangover and I would take them out of the firing line. 

And, sorry Jonny, but Ben Foakes to come in and take the gloves. He is a proper Test cricketer and deserves another shot. Ollie Pope and Sam Curran’s time will come.

What about the Aussies? How do they recover from Headingley?

Booth: Captain Tim Paine talked a good game on Sunday evening, saying Australia could have won all of the first three Tests. And he’s right. So the fact that it’s 1-1 may leave them with the kind of sinking feeling they experienced in 1981 and 2005. 

Nathan Lyon, in particular, will have to pick himself up, though not many English cricketers will be shedding a tear for him. The return of Steve Smith changes the dynamic once more, and he should replace Matthew Wade, who has only a help-yourself hundred in the second innings at Edgbaston to his name.

The return of Steven Smith to the Australian batting lineup changes the dynamic once more

The return of Steven Smith to the Australian batting lineup changes the dynamic once more

Newman: It will be very tough for Australia to come back from this, and England’s job is to make sure they don’t. 

Who knows whether Steve Smith will be quite the same when he comes back but there are two clear candidates for him to replace in Usman Khawaja or Matthew Wade. All the pressure is on the Aussies and a captain in Tim Paine whose leadership was as dodgy as his batting in Leeds. 

Mitchell Starc will play on the quickest pitch in the series, which is not over yet. But I stand by what I said the moment the Lord’s Test was drawn. And what I wished I hadn’t said when they were bowled out for 67 on Friday. England will win the Ashes.

Lloyd: Australia will be reeling. They messed up a run-out and used up their reviews, although I still think that lbw shout against Stokes was sliding down the leg side. Hawk-Eye doesn’t seem to have picked up the fact that it deviates after hitting his front pad. 

As for Nathan Lyon, people will think back to the moment when he dropped the ball on AB de Villiers after he was run out in a Test in South Africa. For me, Smith comes in for Khawaja.

Matthew Wade could make way for Smith despite a help-yourself hundred at Edgbaston

Matthew Wade could make way for Smith despite a help-yourself hundred at Edgbaston

Hussain: Australia’s issues will be psychological. They still have a fantastic bowling attack, and they know all about England’s batting frailty. But they have to put Headingley behind them. 

Mitchell Starc should come in on what is expected to be the quickest pitch in the series, probably for James Pattinson, although they may decide that Pat Cummins needs a rest. And Steve Smith plays instead of either Travis Head or Matthew Wade. 

Usman Khawaja has enough credit in the bank to survive. Tim Paine’s a problem — both because of his lack of runs and his poor reviewing — but they’re not dropping the captain.



Source link