Stokes “very valuable to cricket, not just England”, says Botham; Warne, Hussain, Ponting and Atherton salute Headingley hero
Last Updated: 25/08/19 7:01pm
Sir Ian Botham hailed Ben Stokes as ‘the Special One’ after the all-rounder struck a remarkable unbeaten 135 to lead England to a one-wicket win over Australia in the third Ashes Test at Headingley.
The hosts still required 73 runs on Sunday afternoon when last man Jack Leach strode to the crease following Stuart Broad’s two-ball duck but Stokes, having played within himself, went on the attack.
In a remarkable 62 balls after the fall of Broad, Stokes struck three fours and seven maximums – bringing up his 10th Test century in the process – and crashed the last ball of the match to the boundary to seal a memorable victory.
“It takes a remarkable man to do that and I said this morning that someone needed to front up and be strong,” said Botham.
“I’ve banged the Ben Stokes drum for a long time now and I know when other players see him, they think there is something special about him. He is the ‘Special One’.
“He is very valuable to cricket, not just England; he will sell the game worldwide. He should enjoy every moment. It was a really remarkable performance.”
With Australia having won the first Test of the series at Edgbaston before fighting out a draw at Lord’s, victory in Leeds would have seen Tim Paine’s side retain the urn after they beat Joe Root’s side 4-0 down under in 2017.
However, Stokes’ remarkably cool head saw him turn an overnight score of two from 50 balls into three figures and former Australian spinner Shane Warne praised the England all-rounder’s control throughout the match.
“It was unbelievable stuff – high octane cricket,” Warne added. “The atmosphere and the intensity of the crowd was off the scale. To control the game as Stokes did was just amazing.
“It was super special to be here to witness something like that. Stokes is one of those guys who you want in the trenches with you; he’s one of the guys who trains harder than I’ve ever seen anyone train.
“He’s an amazing cricketer and special talent. But when the opportunity presents itself, you still have to take it. There is nothing like Test cricket that brings out this sort of drama.
“The World Cup final was magnificent and set the country alight. But this type of cricket, with the ebb and the flows, is unbeatable.
“If you get bowled out for 67 in 50-over cricket, it’s game over but in Test cricket, you always get another chance – and you know what, the best team will always win in a Test. Today showed what one man is capable of doing. He needed people to hang with him, but Stokes is a special cricketer.”
Stokes’ summer had seemingly already peaked after his heroics during the World Cup final, in which his unbeaten 84 led England to a super-over against New Zealand before he then helped power Eoin Morgan’s side to their first 50-over trophy.
Nasser Hussain pressed home how crucial Stokes’ decision-making was in the final stages of another match-winning performance.
“That was unbelievable from Stokes,” Hussain explained. “What struck me was that Stokes never seems to know when to give up. He is exhausted; he’s done the World Cup, he bowled a superb spell yesterday. He must be so tired.
“So to have the clarity of thought that he did when you are so tired and under so much pressure is superb. He took the right decision at the right time – every time.”
Meanwhile, both Ricky Ponting and Michael Atherton added that Stokes’ century was one of the greatest innings they had ever witnessed.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen anything better than that on a Test ground, to be honest,” Ponting said. “Some of that hitting today – when it was 73 to win and nine down – he had to go there and then and he pulled it off. That was brilliant.”
Atherton added: “On this ground, great English innings in recent years, you’re thinking Botham in 1981, Graham Gooch in 1991, Mark Butcher 2001… and Ben Stokes has to top all those. Playing against Australia, Ashes at stake, this has reignited Ashes after England were dead and buried.
“This has to be one of the greatest Test innings. It was a combination of all sorts of things, craft, skill, versatility and most of all, an ‘over my dead body’ attitude without which you are not a great player.”
Watch day one of the fourth Ashes Test live on Sky Sports The Ashes from 10am on Wednesday, September 4.