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All-rounder's golden summer continues with peerless performance.
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Ben Stokes’ heroics have not only kept the 2019 Specsavers Ashes Series alive, but he has catapulted into second position in the PCA Test Match Most Valuable Player Rankings.
One of the greatest individual innings ever witnessed brought England back from the brink of an unassailable 2-0 deficit to level the series at 1-1 after three games. The all-rounder had already displayed a lion-hearted effort with the ball before it was a tale of two styles with the bat.
He began playing exceptionally watchfully against high quality bowling which saw him score just three runs off his first 73 balls. However, as wickets tumbled at the other end, he raced through the gears to end with an unbeaten 135 off 219, which included smashing the winning runs to the boundary.
The 28-year-old was rightly awarded the MVP with 45 points, which has seen him soar into second position in both the Test and Overall MVP Rankings.
Headingley is a ground steeped in Ashes history and in 2019, it delivered once again. England’s one wicket victory was the country’s highest ever run chase to win a Test match, the hosts reached their target of 359 in dramatic circumstances which was also the 10th highest run chase in Test Match history – some achievement in the 2,357th Test.
Stokes saw the job home with Jack Leach providing fantastic assistance with an unbeaten one off 17 balls with his single coming to level the game. Their remarkable partnership of 76 entered the record books as the third highest 10th wicket partnership to win a game in first-class history. Of the 76, The Durham man hit 74 off just 42 balls in an astonishing assault on the Australian bowlers who had been in outstanding form.
It was not just the tourists who performed with the ball, Jofra Archer lit up a rapturous Leeds crowd on the first day by taking six wickets to skittle Australia out for 179. The paceman, on just his second Test appearance, showed his skill rather than speed in removing both opening batsman, which scores highly in the MVP algorithm, as well as blowing away the tail.
The MVP formula was designed by the PCA in conjunction with the players to reward match-winning performances. On top of traditional batting and bowling averages, bonus points are awarded, as in Archer’s case, for taking top order opposition wickets.
Players also benefit from hitting a high proportion of their team’s runs and scoring quickly which cemented Stokes’ position as the performer of the match due to his second innings display. Taking catches in the field, amongst other important disciplines are accounted for to give a statistical player of the match.
The reason Stokes had to dig his nation out of a hole was due to a day two disaster with Joe Root’s men bowled out for just 67 with only Joe Denly (12) reaching double figures. A solid start to Australia’s second innings proceeded until Stokes entered the fray. The seamer bowled with great pace, accuracy and hostility to bowl a blistering spell of 14.2 overs for two wickets to keep the hosts in with the smallest of chances.
Stuart Broad backed up two wickets in the first inning with another two in the second to remain as the now narrow leader of the Test MVP. He has taken 14 wickets in the series, added to seven against Ireland, Broad has 99.79 points and leads ahead of Stokes who has 96.54 points.
England bowled Australia out for 246 in the morning session of day three and despite the early wickets of Roy and Burns, Root and the 2018 Overall County MVP Denly played phenomenally, both reaching half centuries to bring the hosts back into the game. With Denly out for 50, Stokes started his marathon innings and batted out until the close with Root.
Root played the perfect captains innings until he was unlucky in coming down the wicket and the ball ricocheted off his bat onto his leg to a flying David Warner at first slip for 77 on Sunday morning. However, the wicket brought a change in tempo with Jonny Bairstow playing a crucial role in hitting a breezy 36 that was enough to see him remain in fourth position of the Overall MVP.
By this point, it was written in the stars that Stokes would be England’s hero once again, just six weeks after the World Cup final. As the wickets of Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Archer and Broad fell, the pressure of the nation was on his shoulders and he was in no mood to hang around as hit 74 off his final 42 balls to level the series going into the Old Trafford Test.
With comparisons to Sir Ian Botham’s 1981 feat of hitting an unbeaten 149 on the same ground, many pundits claimed it topped that and is even being discussed as one of the greatest Test Match innings of all time.
View the England Men’s Test MVP Rankings here.
View the England Men’s Overall MVP Rankings here.
Keep up-to-date with all the latest MVP news by following the @pcaMVP on Twitter.