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.

THE VAGARIES OF SPORTS NEVER CEASES TO AMAZE

Even for someone who passionately follows Cricket and is fully aware of the unpredictability of this beautiful game, would still be amazed with how the result read after yesterday’s Cricket World Cup Final : “England won by virtue of hitting more boundaries“. The stipulated 100 overs of the ODI match couldn’t decide the winner as the scores were level and the match went down to the Super Over. It seemed the Super Over will decide the winner but there was more drama as both teams ended up scoring 15 runs and hence New Zealand was left with the agony of losing the match as they scored fewer boundaries than England.

England won the ODI title for the first time

New Zealand were outstanding to stretch the formidable batting line up of England while chasing a modest score of 241. It seemed as if England were destined to win the title after what transpired in the closing stages of the match. Trent Boult caught Ben Stokes in the last over but went over the boundary and it was a six. Then with 9 required off 3 balls something bizarre happened. The ball hit a diving Stokes’ bat and ricochet off it for 4 overthrows. It’s a part of game but to happen at that stage of the match was unreal. Jofra Archer who was no where on the International scene two months ago was entrusted to do the job for his team and he delivered under immense pressure. The result seemed cruel at the end but such were the rules set by ICC and it was too harsh for the Kiwis as they too deserved to be the winners. It again showcases that Cricket is a game of small margins and the match could have gone either way. Agony for one and ecstasy for the other as England won the ODI World Cup for the first time. Cricket again emerged as the winner in a hard fought match by both sides which was full of true sportsman spirit and that is what makes this encounter one for the ages.

Just a few distance away in the same city of London there was an epic clash between Federer and Djokovic in the Wimbledon Final. The level of Tennis played in this match was nerve wrecking and both of them had to dig deep and make use of every inch on the court to find the winners. It was the longest ever Wimbledon Final that lasted for 4 hours and 55 minutes but there wasn’t a dull moment as it was filled with high voltage Tennis from both the players. It was the first time the final was decided by a fifth set tie break after 12-12 in the last set. Djokovic won the crucial points as he won all the three tie breaks in the first, third and fifth set. Federer had his chances as he had two Championship Points but squandered both of them and Djokovic pounced back to eventually win his 5th Wimbledon title and 16th Grand Slam overall.

Hamilton after winning the British Grand Prix

It was a double delight for the British as Lewis Hamilton won the F1 Grand Prix at the Silverstone Circuit and extended his lead to 39 points. This eventful Sunday shall be remembered for a long time to come not only for the results but for all the minute details that went into making these contests so significant. The unpredictability and the thrill that is associated with sports is what makes it such a joyous affair and surely the events of Sunday, July 14th,2019 lived up to all the hype that surrounded these momentous clashes.

SUPER SUNDAY FOR ENGLAND

Sunday, July 14,2019 is going to be etched in history and could be a defining moment for England. Three major sports events take place on this day and all three of them occurring in England. With the Cricket World Cup Final, Wimbledon Final and British Grand Prix there can’t be a much better place to be this Sunday if you are a sports lover.

England who last played a World Cup Final match in 1992 are without doubt the favorites going into the final. After a horrendous campaign in 2015 they have turned around the tables and how. A complete overhaul and restructuring has gone into building this team who play an aggressive and fearless brand of Cricket. New Zealand on the other hand have been at their mercurial best by reaching the finals in back to back editions of the Cricket World Cup. One can afford to take them lightly at their own peril but still England seem to have all bases covered and are most likely to win. Whatever happens it’s a win win for Cricket as there’ll be a first time World Cup winner this time around and that is always good for the game.

In the Wimbledon Final, Federer will be pushing for his 21st Grand Slam win and add to his legend. If Federer is able to emulate the kind of tennis he played in the semi-final against Rafa then he’ll be hard to stop. Djokovic who hasn’t played his best tennis leading to the final however is a potential threat as he has a knack of raising the bar when it matters the most. Tennis fans are surely in for a mouth watering contest in this clash of the titans.

In the British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, Valtteri Bottas took the pole position by just 0.006 seconds by beating his team mate at Mercedes Lewis Hamilton who starts at second on the grid. Hamilton leads the driver’s standings by 31 points and the England fans will be routing for their local boy to win today’s race.

It’ll be a double delight for England if Hamilton wins the British Grand Prix and their men’s team lift the Cricket World Cup title. Irrespective of whatever happens fans across the globe are in for one great day of sports and surely it’s going to be one epic SUNDAY.