World reacts to pure Ashes madness
Nobody, not even Ben Stokes himself, could believe what the all-rounder pulled off in Leeds in the early hours of Monday morning (AEST).
The England cricket star played one of the greatest innings international cricket has ever seen to single-handedly power England to its highest successful run chase in Test history, defeating Australia by one wicket when it had no right to.
Chasing 359 for victory in the third Ashes Test, the hosts were no hope when they crashed to 9/286 but Stokes went ballistic, dominating a 76-run 10th wicket partnership with No. 11 Jack Leach - who finished on one not out - to seal the stunning result.
Here's how everyone reacted to the absolute madness at Headingley.
'OF COURSE I THOUGHT IT WAS OVER'
Fast bowler Jofra Archer's Twitter timeline has gone viral this summer as old tweets perfectly describing current events resurface and while there were some items in the bank that fit this occasion perfectly, he grabbed his phone and gave the internet some new material after the Stokes masterclass.
Archer's pace partner Stuart Broad was equally amazed by what he witnessed in the middle after he was the ninth man out with England still 73 runs short of the target.
This is by far the most intense game I’ve ever seen In my life— Jofra Archer (@JofraArcher) August 25, 2019
"The emotions of that last hour were outrageous. Cricketers don't go through that in careers - so for some of these World Cup players to go through that twice in six weeks is outrageous," Broad told Sky Sports.
"The belief has always been there in this game. But nine down, one ball finishes the Ashes series. Of course I thought the Ashes were over.
"It was absolutely spectacular. I don't think anyone in this ground will see a better innings. It had everything. He struck the ball beautifully.
"The bloke has got the heart of a lion. Everything he does is for the team. He is the perfect teammate. He didn't celebrate his 50; he didn't celebrate his hundred. He deserves everything that comes his way because he's an incredible cricketer and an even better bloke."
England captain Joe Root was in awe of his matchwinner, telling BBC radio: "He's a freak. He's unbelievable."
CRICKET WORLD REACTS
Stokes' teammates were stunned and so too were past players.
There was no shortage of former stars lining up to whack England's batting after it crumbled for 67 in the first innings of this Test, questioning if enough of the batsmen had the temperament and technique to play the five-day format.
Stokes is an absolute world-beater in white-ball cricket and he showed he's just as effective in the whites as legends like Geoffrey Boycott, Michael Vaughan and Mark Waugh heaped praise on the superstar. "When Geoffrey Boycott says it's the greatest Test innings he has seen in 60 years watching the game you know it's the GREATEST," Vaughan tweeted.
I’ve seen some remarkable cricket moments in my life but that is the best I’ve seen in over 50 years. @benstokes38 saved the Ashes and gave a magical inspirational innings. Even better than his World Cup performance.— Geoffrey Boycott (@GeoffreyBoycott) August 25, 2019
Well done @ECB_cricket
On Twitter, Waugh wrote: "No words can do justice to that game and that innings by Stokes. Unbelievable!"
"This match showed how Test cricket can be the toughest and most entertaining format in cricket," added Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar. "Ben Stokes keeps getting better and better. An innings that people will talk about for a long time."
"Wow, just Wow," wrote former South African cricketer Alviro Petersen. "The Ashes is something else. England and Australia keeping test cricket alive. The rest of the world MUST come to the party now."
That was pretty special! @benstokes38 , that was ridiculous! Well done. Ashes alive and well.— AB de Villiers (@ABdeVilliers17) August 25, 2019
HERO WRITES A NEW CHAPTER
Few thought Stokes could outdo his performance in the World Cup final, when he scored an unbeaten 84 to help England tie with New Zealand before stepping out in the super over to help clinch a famous victory.
But this has to rank as an even better knock. Stokes was two off 50 balls at stumps on day three and struggled to rotate the strike early on day four as Australia's bowlers strangled the life out of the England innings.
Stokes' last 74 runs came from just 42 balls as he flicked a switch to produce a memory he will cherish forever, and his class act continued after the win as he paid tribute to Leach's contribution.
"It probably matches the World Cup, to be honest," Stokes told Sky Sports. "Unbelievable, it's one I'll never forget. I'm not sure that'll ever happen again. I just had to try to take it all in. It's never over until it's over.
"When Leachy came in it was pretty clear what had to be done. I was just saying, 'Five and one' - I'll take five (balls) and you take one (each over). There were a couple of times I thought we were getting two but it was only one, but Leachy's done it before.
"He's a super nightwatchman, he's got a 92, and I backed him knowing what he had to do. I couldn't watch at the end, I was just waiting to see what happened.
"When it got down to 20 (runs needed to win), I started thinking I could rein it in a little bit, but when it was 70s, 60s, 50s, I thought I had to really try and go. I was so in the zone as to what I had to do."
Stokes said he twinged his glute during his epic innings but the sense of occasion helped him block out the pain as he set his mind to one thing.
"I was a little bit heavy-legged, but when you're out there in the middle and you know what's on the line, adrenaline keeps you going," Stokes said.
"We had to win this game to stay in the Ashes. We've managed to do it, we've got to move on to the next game, we've managed to keep our hopes alive of doing the double, and we're going to take a lot of momentum in."
TIM FEELS THE PAINE
Australian captain Tim Paine had the best - or worst - seat in the house for the Stokes show and was powerless to stop the left-hander from brutalising his bowlers to all parts of the ground.
When Leach came in as the last batsman and the runs required kept dropping, Paine set every fielder back on the boundary for Stokes. The plan was to limit his boundary options or give him an easy single so the Aussies could have a crack at Leach.
But Stokes didn't play ball. He either found the gaps or cleared the fence and when the field came up for the last ball of an over to force a dot ball and keep Leach on strike for the following over, the New-Zealand born star always seemed able to scramble through for a single so he retained the strike.
Paine said Stokes played an "unbelievable innings" and tipped his cap to the England miracle-worker.
"At times you've just got to give credit to some pretty good play. I thought Ben Stokes was unbelievably good," Paine said after play. "It was one of the great innings.
"A bit of individual brilliance today from a world-class player - they were just too good."
Despite the crushing nature of the defeat Paine remained upbeat and said it was vital his teammates didn't get too down on themselves. He's been happy with much of the cricket his side has played this series, having put itself in winning positions in all three Tests, and said he was confident going into the rest of the series.
"I thought it was an amazing game of cricket. We finished up on the wrong side of it. In terms of an advertisement for Test cricket, I think that was bloody exciting. It was great to be involved in so I can only imagine what it was like to watch," Paine said.
"We've got two more Test matches, we've been doing a lot right, instead of being caught up in the emotion of it we need to be able to deal with it, talk about where we went wrong, where we can do things better and turn up to Manchester full of confidence because we have been in a position to win every Test match and that's a great position to be in.
"Yes, those losses hurt and you are allowed to show that but I don't think you can get caught up in it, it's right in the middle of a series.
"We don't talk about emotion, you have got to stick to the facts and the facts are, like I said to the boys, we have been in a position to win every Test match so we are clearly doing something right."
Btw .. that has just bettered the World Cup Final ... never thought I would be saying that ... This is the summer that is going to inspire a whole new generation of Fans & players ... #Ashes— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) August 25, 2019
Ben Stokes is one hell of a cricketer !!— Nasser Hussain (@nassercricket) August 25, 2019
I have no sister but if I did I’d want her to marry Ben Stokes.— Graeme Swann (@Swannyg66) August 25, 2019
Hi, my name is Ben, Ben Stokes!— Kevin Pietersen🦏 (@KP24) August 25, 2019