Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 September 2019

'A knock-off Nando's and two bars of Yorkie': How England's Ben Stokes prepared for the most epic Ashes innings of all time

Allrounder's unbeaten 135 saw England turn certain defeat into a one-wicket victory against Australia to level the series at 1-1 with two to play

England's Ben Stokes has described his heroics against Australia to clinch an epic third Ashes Test is "one of the two best feelings I've ever felt on a cricket pitch" while also revealing a less-than-sportsman-like preparation to Sunday's play.

Stokes was on cloud nine after his match-winning century saw England snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at Headingley in what is already accepted by many observers as one of the great Test innings of all time.

The allrounder's unbeaten 135 saw England turn certain defeat into a one-wicket victory and garnered comparisons with the great Ian Botham's heroics at the same venue in the 1981 Ashes. Stokes' tactical nous in shepherding No 11 Jack Leach along as they chased down the remaining 73 runs together and bludgeoning brilliance with the bat guided England to their biggest fourth-innings chase of 359, the 10th highest of all time.

It follows hot on the heels of Stokes' epic performance in helping England clinch a first Cricket World Cupat Lord's six weeks previous when the 28-year-old again led his side to victory from what looked an impossible situation.

Stokes, who finished with eight sixes and 11 fours, reflected: "Walking off when the whole of Headingley was standing up and celebrating was a very special moment and something I had to try to take in because moments like that don't come along very often. It was deafening.

"It was incredible. In terms of where we were at in the Ashes series [1-1 with two to play], I'm obviously over the moon. We knew if we lost this game then the Ashes were gone so to be sat here still in with a chance of getting the urn back is an amazing feeling.

"It's one of the two best feelings I've ever felt on a cricket pitch."

Stokes' efforts in the middle might have been the stuff of heroes but he readily admitted his preparations were rather more prosaic.

Asked how he had geared up for the challenge in front of him having been two not out overnight, he replied: "I think I had a knock-off Nando's, two bars of Yorkie - biscuit and raisin - and a couple of coffees in the morning."

In the supporting role was Leach, who defied the Australians for 17 vitally important deliveries. On a fiercely hot summer's day, the England No 11 could be seen constantly having to clean his glasses as Australia's feared bowling attack turned up the heat with victory slipping from their grasp.

He survived a certain run out that Nathan Lyon botched at the bowler's end and together with Stokes put on 76 for the 10th wicket, with Leach contribution's a solitary run, but one that has made the offspinner a cult hero with the Barmy Army and earned him free glasses for life from series sponsors Specsavers.

"Those will be the most important balls Jack Leach has ever faced, or will ever face in his Test career," Stokes said.

"It takes two to tango in situations like that but for a No 11 to come out under that kind of pressure and to deliver when he needed to deliver was fantastic."

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Captain Joe Root was dismissed for 77 in the morning session, at the time a seemingly fatal blow, given England were always some way behind Australia's total of 359 following a first-innings collapse of 87.

Root said he watched his teammate's masterclass with the same awe as every other England fan.

"The emotions in the dressing room were all over the place, but once Ben started going we always believed," he said.

"He's a bit of a freak. We've seen some freakish things already this summer in the World Cup but I didn't think we'd see something similar in this series. For Ben to play like that? Wow.

"We were trying to work out how Ben was going to play it but got to the point where we thought it doesn't matter if he just trusts his instincts. It just shows what pressure can do to people and how different people react to certain situations."

Updated: August 26, 2019 01:03 PM

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