Sunday, 25 August 2019

Review of the best Test Match of all time

"Don't talk to me about culture, ah've been to Leeds", said Harry Enfield's Yorkshireman. Well this was cultural, this was oustanding and no amount of adjectives will do this match report justice. If Test match cricket is dying, this was Lazarus. English fortunes, along with Joe Root's chances of keeping his job, oscillated as they went from bleaker than an Alan Bennett play to jumping around my living room paying homage to Sir Benjamin Stokes. You get some classic Tests. Edgbaston 2005, Melbourne 1982, Headingley 1981, this pipped it. This is a review of the finest Test match that I have ever witnessed.

Handsome Headingley
It started under skies reminiscent of a Bronte classic. Headingley has had a new addition at the rugby stand end and looked excellent. The Aussies brought in Pattinson for Siddle, Labuschagne for the concussed Smith and Harris (Marcus not Rolf) for Bancroft. On a wicket that looked as if it was going to crack up, England won the toss and inserted the Aussies. Broad and Archer snaffled Harris and Khawaja early on. Bad light took the players off despite the floodlights, leading to the Yorkshire public getting grumpy and moaning about value for money. Nothing unusual there then.

It was then that England bowled poorly. Numerous misfields off the unfortunate Woakes didn't hide the fact that Stokes and Woakes fed Labuschagne around leg stump. Warner battled to 61, before Super Jof skittled the visitors. Six wickets for our new hero but they shouldn't have got much more than 100.

What was to follow was shambolic, or was it a load of bolics? It the worst display in Yorkshire ever seen since Nora Batty's tights made an appearance on Last of the Summer Wine. Or the comedy value of Last of the Summer Wine. Hazlewood and Cummins bowled superbly not allowing the batsmen anything but the usual mistakes were made. Jason Roy yet again nicked off. The distance between where he plays the ball and where his head is, can only be wished for by Prince Andrew with his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. Root got a good one, Stokes chased a wide one whilst Buttler chipped to cover. 67 might be a good score around a golf course but in Test match cricket it is a disgrace. Too many white ball cricket shots were on offer. I am sure introducing the Hundred competition next year will really help our Test side. Not. Warner was outstanding at slip.

Super Jof...slayer of Aussies, returner of beach balls

The Aussies batted again and looked to be taking the game away. Ironically, this is exactly what a steward did to a watermelon beach ball on the Western side of the ground before Super Jof took it off the jobsworth and returned it to his fan club. It wasn't long though before he limped off, Stokes running himself into the ground in a desperate effort to reclaim the Ashes. Root dropped a sitter and the kangaroo court of social media erupted with fury. We all love Joe Root. He is the finest English player of his generation yet he looked broken after that catch. The Aussies ended up 246 all out, Labuschagne 80, Stokes with threefer.

Just a mere 359 to save the Ashes then?

Roy opened and was soon on his way back to the pavilion. Never mind Jason Roy, Hodgson Roy has more of a chance of opening in the next Test at Old Twafford. Burns soon followed and England were a standard 15-2. If only for a Surrey player like Mark Butcher in 2001 hey? Enter the Joes. Each under huge pressure for differing reasons, they ground it out on a Saturday in Leeds that was the mere aperitif for what was to happen on this wonderful weekend. Just before the close, Denly disappeared but Stokes with 2 not out off 50 balls and Root, showed some northern grit. Never mind Alan Bennett, this was more Alan Bleasdale. This however, was exactly what England needed. Test matches are about staying in the game, not just thrashing one to the fence.

And so to super Sunday. Root got an inside edge and Warner completed a worldie. It was almost as if he had glue on his hands. Bairstow came in and at lunch with less than 200 to get, England were in with a shout. Cue, a collapse quicker than the finances of the football club of this city in the early 90's. When Archer was caught on the fence and Broad went second ball, the Headingley groundsman was about to start the mower. With just Stokes and Jack Leach left, 74 were needed. Never mind the Ashes being on their way to Australia, they had been checked in at Heathrow.

Not all heroes wear capes...

Suddenly Stokes had a little cameo and the Western side went mad. "Shoes off, if you love Ben Stokes" was the cry as they replicated the Life of Brian. A couple of sixes including an outrageous reversed one sent Stokes' disciples bonkers. Surely, he couldn't win this on his own? Meanwhile, Alan from Accounts aka Leach just cleaned his glasses. After his hundred, suddenly there were only 20 odd to win. Surely, another Stokes Sunday wasn't on the cards?

It was at this point that I tweeted "Please Jesus, if we win this I promise to go to church, give up all of my vices and go and do missionary work in Africa".

What happened next was divine intervention. Firstly Harris dropped a difficult chance to win the Ashes. Paine then reviewed a silly one off Leach that was so obviously missing leg, I'm surprised Paul McCartney didn't ask it out on a date. Lyon then fumbled a run out before having Stokes out and our good friend Mr Joel Wilson didn't give him, with the Aussies having used up their reviews. With Stokes having had us on the edge of our settees on a Sunday for the third time in six weeks, he smashed the winning run to make the series 1-1. Edward Woodward never starred in such a thrilling Equaliser. It was the highest total England have ever made to win a Test match.

Ben Stokes will take all the plaudits but here are a few others. Firstly, Alan from Accounts with the best 1 not out of all time. Next come the Headingley crowd. The atmosphere was electric all day on this Superb Sunday and they put pressure on the Australians. No doubt Tim Paine will have Headingley as 16th in his most intimidating grounds in Test cricket behind the empty seats of a concrete Gabba but just ask his off spinner if he felt pressure at the end? The Yorkshire public were outstanding. Joe Denly deserves a clap too. He got 50 and took a few blows. Bairstow was good and gave the England innings impetus. For the Aussies, Josh Hazlewood was superb apart from with the new ball this morning. Joel Wilson deserves a whip round too for THAT lbw.

The Yorkshire faithful were outstanding

There was however, one man who stood out and that is Sir Benjamin of Headingley. Ginger people in this weather take their life into their hands every time they step outdoors and he accumulated runs, freckles and he has saved our summer. It was the best innings I have seen at Test level, slightly pipping Lara's knock against the Aussies. Surely, Sports Personality of the Year beckons? This time last year, he was in Bristol Crown Court, today he floored the Aussies. He was absolutely superb and did it yet again for us in this vintage year for the ginger magician. In Yorkshire Bronte analogy, if England were Wuthering Heights, Stokes is our Heathcliff the bad boy who comes good, the Western Terrace being Cathy, hopelessly in love.

The Ashes roll on to the other side of the Pennines. Meanwhile, I'm off to do missionary work in Burkino Faso.

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