LONDON: England accomplished one of the most remarkable victories in the history of Test match cricket after a team which had managed a paltry 67 in their first innings reached a record 360 with one wicket remaining at Headingley, Leeds.
Captain Ben Root called hero Ben Stokes a ‘freak’ after the latter’s unbeaten 135 kept England’s Ashes hopes alive in an astonishing third Test after they had lost five wickets for 41 runs and slipped to 286 for nine.
A stunning 76-run partnership with number 11 Jack Leach saw the hosts home over the line to level the series at 1-1 with the Old Trafford and Oval Tests remaining.
Root said: “Ben Stokes is a freak, he’s incredible. The message at the start was to just keep believing. If we had two people out there still breathing then we have a chance.
“After Stokes got to 60-70 he looked like he wasn’t going to get out. To win a game on your own from there is just amazing. He does have recent experience of doing it. Just incredible to watch unfold.”
Old superstars Shane Warne and Ian Botham, ran out of superlatives describing Stokes’s innings.
Warne said: “Unbelievable stuff, high-octane cricket. The atmosphere, the intensity of the crowd and to control the game the way he did was just amazing. To be here to witness something like that was super special.
“Getting to know Ben Stokes over the last couple of years, he’s one of those guys that you want in the trenches with you. He’s one of those guys that trains harder than I’ve ever seen anyone train, he’s an amazing cricketer, he’s a special talent.
“You can have all that but you still need somebody to take the opportunity and if you had to choose one guy in that England side like that you would choose Ben Stokes.
“You still have to get it done. It’s easy to say all that but the way he did was just unbelievable.”
Botham added: ‘It takes a remarkable man. I said this morning that somebody had to front up and somebody has to be strong and – I’ve banged Ben Stokes’ drum for a long time now – and I know other players, when they’ve seen him, you think there’s something special.
“He’s is the special one, he is very, very valuable to cricket full stop, not just England. He should enjoy every moment. Enjoy it, take it in but that was a really, really remarkable performance.”