England basks in glorious Ashes comeback

Heart of a lion: Stokes is “beyond compare”, according to sports journalist Jonathan Agnew.

Is Ben Stokes England’s greatest sportsperson? Stokes led the England cricket team to a thrilling, improbable victory against Australia on Sunday. It is his second spectacular feat in six weeks.

“A horror show.” “Calamitous,” howled the press. In the third test match of the Ashes on Friday, England’s 10 batsmen were bowled out by Australia with just 67 runs. It was the England cricket team’s worst innings at the Ashes — one of sport’s most iconic rivalries — in 71 years. Only one batsman, Joe Denly, scored more than 10 runs.

Needing 361 runs from their second innings, England’s hopes of winning back the Ashes from Australia were fading fast. They had already lost the first test and held on for an unconvincing draw in the second.

But as the country basked in its hottest August bank holiday on record on Sunday, the unthinkable began to unfold.

After an unsteady start, Ben Stokes — the man who single-handedly carried England to its first World Cup title last month — took his place at the stumps.

As his runs began to build up, so did English hopes. By the last few balls, and with nine men out, the tension reached fever-pitch. Could he hold on? Stokes himself could not bear to watch where his shots went.

But hold on he did — to take a huge 135 runs. England had conjured victory from the depths of despair.

English bowler Stuart Broad’s comments captured the elation and disbelief of fans moments after the match.

“It was one of those ‘I was there’ moments. I don’t think anyone in this ground will see a better innings,” he said. Ben Stokes, he gushed, has “the heart of a lion”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed, saying that Stokes deserves a “dukedom” for his efforts.

“Go urn my son!” “Land of heat and glory!”, read yesterday’s front pages in a marked reversal from those of previous days.

Things did not always look so bright for Stokes. This time last year, he came close to losing his place on the England team after he was charged with affray over a fight outside a nightclub. He was later cleared.

If last month’s World Cup final win was Stokes’s moment of redemption, then this victory has catapulted him to the level of national treasure.

Is Ben Stokes England’s greatest sportsperson?

Howzat!

He has a strong claim to be, say some. He has shown super-human focus and mental strength to perform under pressure. Has anyone else single-handedly turned around a seemingly hopeless situation on the biggest of stages — not once, but twice? In just two months, two of his performances have been touted as the greatest in his sport’s history. That speaks for itself.

But it’s not so simple, say others. Stokes’s achievement would not be possible without the smart defensive playing of batsman Jack Leach, or the brave bowling of young Jofra Archer. Cricket is always a team game, as Stokes himself says. Besides, it’s impossible to measure Stokes’s successes against those of Andy Murray, Lewis Hamilton or Steve Redgrave, who have all reached historic heights in their respective sports.

You Decide

  1. Is cricket the best sport?
  2. What qualities does a good sportsperson need?

Activities

  1. Choose your favourite sportsperson and create a timeline of their life and achievements. You can illustrate it with drawings.
  2. Now, write a one-page speech to convince the class that your favourite sportsperson or athlete is the best in the world. Use persuasive language.

Some People Say...

“Cricket to us was more than play. It was a worship in the summer sun.”

Edmund Blunden (1896-1974), English poet

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
England beat Australia in the third of five test matches that make up The Ashes, a head-to-head series which takes place between the two sides, every four years. England lost the first match to Australia and drew the second, so they needed to win this game in order to keep their hopes alive. The star of the match was Ben Stokes, who had 135 runs out of the huge 359 England needed to win.
What do we not know?
Whether England will win The Ashes. England and Australia have now won one test each, with a draw in the second test. England must win the best out of five to win the series. If the result is a draw when the five tests are completed, then Australia will retain The Ashes as they won the last series in 2015.

Word Watch

Test match
A style of cricket with the longest matches. Each team gets two innings, which ends when all 10 of their batsmen are caught or run out. At the end of the two innings, the team with the most runs wins. Test matches typically last three to five days.
The Ashes
Every four years, England and Australia play a best-of-five cricket series of test matches.
Runs
The equivalent of points or goals in cricket.
World Cup
England beat New Zealand in the Cricket World Cup final on 14 July this year. The match was technically a draw, which rarely occurs in cricket. It was decided with a super-over of six balls, in dramatic fashion.
135
When a batsman scores more than 100 runs in an innings, it is called a century.
Redemption
When you make amends for a past mistake.
Jofra Archer
Who bowled in the super-over to beat New Zealand under huge pressure.

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