Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce was among the many who witnessed England all-rounder Ben Stokes staging a monstrous effort to win the third Ashes Test and level the series against Australia for England on Sunday.
Bruce went so spellbound over Stokes’ performance that he offered the cricketer the position of the centre-half in his squad. Meanwhile, Newcastle stunned Tottenham, one of the strong title contenders this season, 1-0 in the English Premier League on the same day. Speaking about the Test match, Bruce jokingly said to ESPN, “I don’t know what was more nervous. The last 10 minutes of the cricket or this (match). Ben Stokes can play centre-half for us next week that’s for sure.”
“How wonderful it was to watch. (The cricket) was just on. They (Newcastle) had gone for a warm-up and there’s nothing you can do then. I usually sit and read the programme. But how could I not watch? The kitman was running around … saying ‘We need 27, we’ve got to put it on. It was wonderful entertainment, worth watching. It was better than reading the programme that’s for sure,” Bruce said, suggesting the euphoria that every cricket fan went into after watching Stokes play.
England started the fourth day on a solid foundation laid the earlier day to prevent Australia from winning the match and retaining the Ashes. However, a failure from the lower-middle order saw England crumble to 296/9, still requiring 73 for what looked like an improbable victory then. Joined by number 11 Jack Leach, Stokes took the responsibility upon his shoulder as he started achieving the unachievable.
Understanding the situation, the Durham cricketer switched to a limited-overs mood and started looking for boundaries in as many deliveries as possible. From switch-hit to hook shot, he played it all to perfection to give the Australians a harsh reality check. It all came down to the wire and at a crunch juncture of the match he survived a plumb LBW shout and the visitors had no review left to turn the decision. Nathan Lyon missed another opportunity to seal the victory for the team from down under as he failed to grab an easy run-out chance.
Unlike the touring side, Stokes was in no mood to miss any opportunity coming his way and went on about his business. At the end, he hit the winning runs off a boundary through the covers and sent the crowd at Headingley to a pandemonium. “It was unbelievable and something I will never forget. I’ve got to take it all in. I’m not sure it will ever happen again. It’s in the top two feelings I have ever had on a cricket field,” the 28-year-old said at the post-match presentation.