Ashes 2019: Ben Stokes is England’s greatest allrounder – Moeen Ali
Moeen Ali on Ben Stokes: "He is the best cricketer I have played alongside." © AFP

He wasn’t part of the unforgettable scenes at Headingley on Sunday as Ben Stokes hit an unbeaten 135 to take England to a one-wicket victory over Australia in the third Ashes Test, but Moeen Ali has no doubt that his team-mate is the most special English allrounder.

Moeen watched from the Lord’s balcony six weeks ago as Stokes scored 84 not out in the World Cup final against New Zealand, and was batting for his county Worcestershire on Sunday while Stokes and England’s No 11 Jack Leach chipped away at a record target of 359.

(READ: Stokes’ Headingley heroics thrill a nation and underline his immense belief)

He didn’t see the final over of an epic Test, but having played with Stokes, Moeen termed him the greatest England allrounder after his twin heroics in the World Cup and in the Ashes.

“He is the best cricketer I have played alongside and while it might be a massive shout – and admittedly he is a very close friend – I would argue he is now the greatest all-rounder this country has ever produced,” wrote Moeen in The Guardian. “To deliver an innings like the one he played at Headingley, just six weeks after winning us the World Cup final, and with the Ashes on the line, is what seals it for me.

(READ: Bob Willis rates Stokes’ heist as greater than Ian Botham’s 1981 heroics)

“I know there are past greats like Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff but we’re watching another legend in the making here. When everyone woke up on Sunday morning there was a sense that England could do something very special.”

ben stokes 135
The miracle of Leeds: Ben Stokes has kept the Ashes alive. © AFP

Moeen – who was dropped by England after a poor outing at Edgbaston – narrated the way he followed the riveting fourth day at Headingley.

“I followed the run chase throughout the day but with two runs to win I had to be peeled away from the TV screen in the dressing room to go out and bat for Worcestershire in our T20 game against Lancashire,” he wrote.

“The match actually paused for a good minute or so when a huge roar went up – it must have been Jack Leach levelling the scores with that textbook nudge off the hip – and then soon after this it was followed by an even bigger one when Stokesy smacked that four. He was literally stopping games around the whole country.”

(READ: ‘I f****** love Test match cricket’ tweets Headingley hero Stokes)

For Moeen, what Stokes has achieved is testament to his obvious talent but also his immense self-belief.

“The thing is, none of it surprised me. Stokesy has always had the talent and potential. My beliefs are that good people who work hard get their rewards. There will be struggle at times and hurdles along the way – life throws up all sorts – but in the end, you will prevail if you stick to the right path,” wrote Moeen.

Ian Botham 1981 Ben Stokes 2019
Headingley heros: Ian Botham in 1981 and Ben Stokes in 2019. (Image: Twitter/@TheBarmyArmy)

Moeen has known Stokes for several years and felt that the hardships the Durham allrounder has been through have shaped his character.

“Stokesy first came on my radar when I saw him hitting an 88-ball century against India in the Under-19s World Cup in 2010. We didn’t become teammates until 2014 on a one-day tour to the Caribbean and he was going through a rough patch at the time, with some low scores and then a busted hand when he struck a locker,” he wrote.

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“Just before the incident in Bristol in 2017 I really thought he was coming into his own as a cricketer. That set him back a bit but since then he has become more aware of his surroundings and responsibilities. He has the Test vice-captaincy back now but he doesn’t need a label, because he leads any team he plays in regardless.

“What we witnessed on Sunday wasn’t a fluke, it was the result of the hard work I mentioned. Seriously, you will not find a cricketer more dedicated to self-improvement. He trains at 100mph and is just unrelenting with it. And over time it has made him into the player you see today. Those mammoth bowling spells at Headingley are testament to that.”