HEIST AT HEADINGLEY

Running out of superlatives to describe that innings from Ben Stokes. The context in which he got England through to victory was nothing short of sensational. One can’t think of the kind of impact he has had on World Cricket over the past couple of months. He has been the shining star in the English summer. From his World Cup heroics to the Ashes saving innings he has grown leaps and bounds as a cricketer and his stature has risen to another level. To leave the horrific shadows of 2016 T20 World Cup Final in India where he conceded 24 runs in the final over which resulted in England losing the epic clash against West Indies and to being where he is at the moment personifies the character of the man. His sheer grit and indomitable spirit helped England level the series 1-1 with two matches to play.

Stokes exults after hitting the winning runs

This loss will haunt Australia for a long time as they were the firm favourites after bundling out England for a paltry 67 runs in the first innings. England faced an uphill task of scoring 359 runs in the fourth innings and the openers managed to contribute just 15 runs. It was left to two Joe’s to resurrect the innings, they survived a wonderful spell of pace bowling by the Aussie quicks and stitched a 126 run partnership for the third wicket to keep England in the game. Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow looked to run away with the game as they had a 86 run stand for the fifth wicket but soon after lunch on Day4 things changed dramatically as England was reduced to 286/9. Australia were just 1 wicket away from retaining the Ashes but Ben Stokes had other plans. He started to farm the strike and in between hit some delectable shots much to the delight of the capacity crowd at Headingley. Some of the outrageous shots he hit included a switch hit for six off Nathan Lyon’s bowling. More drama unfolded with just 2 runs left as Lyon couldn’t grab the ball to run out Leach and the very next ball there was a l.b.w. decision that went against Australia which replays showed was crashing into the stumps. Australia only had themselves to blame as they wasted the review on Leach that too on a ball that was clearly pitching outside leg stump and they ran out of reviews from there on. After what transpired in the closing stages of the match it seemed that England were destined to win.

This win has now made this Ashes series even more interesting with two matches to play. England can breathe a sigh of relief for now but have a lot of work to do if they want to win the series at home as Australia looks a better balanced side especially after Steve Smith set to return for the next game. This Ashes series has once again proved why Test Cricket is at the pinnacle of this beautiful game of Cricket.

LET THE TESTS BEGIN

The ICC has been mulling over the prospect of a Test Championship for several years. Finally it will manifest tomorrow when England take on Australia in the Ashes opener at Edgbaston. Surely there couldn’t have been a better way to kick start the Test Championship than this oldest rivalry in Cricketing history. The Test Championship promises to add a new lease of life to the toughest and purest form of the game which in recent times has seen dwindling interest amongst fans especially with the advent of T20 leagues across the world.

ICC TEST CHAMPIONSHIP MACE

The top 9 Test playing nations will be taking part in the Test Championship which will be played over the next two years. All the 9 teams will get to play 6 series, 3 home and 3 away. There would be a total of 27 bilateral series played with 71 matches in total. The top 2 teams at the end of these 27 bilateral series will be playing the final at Lord’s Cricket Ground in June 2021. One major criticism of the format is that each team will be playing only 6 other teams and not all the 8 other teams which undermines the value of the Test Championship to decide the winner eventually. But still this is a great initiative by the ICC to begin with as every match will be significant as there are points associated with the different results. The bilateral series will be of much context for the teams playing against each other as well as for the viewer. With three times the points up for grabs for a win as compared to a draw most teams will try to go for a win which will be exciting and thrilling to watch.

Test matches are surely the ultimate test of technique and separate the average from the greats of the game. Above all it is mentally challenging as well and tests the true character of every player. With this Test Championship all set to begin with the Ashes Series in England one can be hopeful that this form of the game will win the hearts of the younger generation which seem to be obsessed with T20 Cricket. It would be fascinating to watch which team endures over the next couple of years to win the inaugural Test Championship but irrespective of whichever team wins, Cricket will surely be the winner.