‘One of The Great Days,’ Ben Stokes Relives Breathtaking Headingley Knock

Seven months removed for his epic knock at Leeds in the third Ashes Test against Australia, England allrounder Ben Stokes sat down to watch his stellar hundred for the first time and called it a “great day”. In August last year, set 359 to win, Stokes smashed a breathtaking 135 allowing England to seal a nervy one-wicket-win in one of the most thrilling finishes imaginable and level the series 1-1.

“It’s always going to be great memories, one of the great days not just out on the field but memories we will always have together as a group,” Stokes told Sky Sports after watching himself score the winning runs.

“The changing room is sacred as a cricketer that evening after this day was just sensational. Us, as a group of players, the support group and team management, will always be able to look back at that day, on the field with what happened and then also memories we created in the changing room. It’s awesome, so good.”

England were bowled out for 67 in the first innings, and it would have taken many a brave men to predict them chasing down 359. Despite Joe Root and Joe Denly’s half-centuries and a defiant 36 from Jonny Bairstow, England were 286 for nine and pretty much staring at defeat. But last man Jack Leach held his nerves, adding 76 unbeaten runs with Stokes off just 62 balls of which the No. 11 batsman contributed 1 off 17 as Stokes carted the ball through covers to register one of England’s most memorable Test wins.

“Once Leachy came out to join me, it was pretty obvious what I had to do and what he had to do. I had to face as many balls as possible and Leachy knew he just had to survive. When something like that is put in front of you, in a tough situation like this, it weirdly becomes easier. Before, even that partnership with Jonny, it was still a case of what do we do?” he said.

Stokes revealed how he sensed a slightly different behaviour from Australia indicating they were equally under the pump to maintain their 1-0 lead from the victory at Edgbaston.

“They weren’t [sledging]. You could just feel their tension. Even though it wasn’t at each other, you could just sense from their body language. Even Lyon, when he was bowling earlier, he always walks facing you backward to his mark. But he started walking with his back to the batters. Little things like that, you start to sense,” he said.

The finish had every bit of drama involved. When Stokes was on 116, Marcus Harris put down a top edge at fine leg. Later, with just two needed to win, Leach ran half-way down the pitch to collect a run that never existed, but Nathan Lyon fumbled at the bowler’s end. Next ball, Stokes slog-swept and failed to connect as the Australians went up in a huge, loud appeal, but the umpire gave it not out. Had Australia were left with a review, victory was theirs since the replay showed the ball crashing into middle and leg. England survived and Australia paid the price.

“It doesn’t spin! One of the Australian players out there, I can’t remember who it was, said ‘they’ve got one [review] left’, basically saying ‘give it out and then let them review it’. That’s not how it works,” Stokes said seeing the close run-out chance.

He cleared the rope eight times, playing all sorts of shots a thump towards midwicket, a reverse sweep, slog sweep and one virtually on a single leg and each stroke Stokes went after, he did so not worrying about the outcome.

“It’s such a weird feeling. As soon as you hit the ball, you know if it’s gone for six by a foot or if you’re going to be caught on the boundary half a foot inside the rope. I don’t know why, but you just know. It was just because I was powerless. It got to the point where it was like ‘we’re so close to doing this’. Before, yes we could still do it but we were quite far away,” he pointed out.

“Eighteen to win and I felt powerless; I’ve said before, if one of us were to get out and we didn’t win this game, I would so much rather it have been me than Leachy. He would have been devastated but it’s not his job.”