LEEDS, England (Reuters) - England captain Joe Root praised “freak” Ben Stokes for one of the greatest of all match-winning test innings and believes the all-rounder’s epic has helped instil fresh belief in his side that they can now go on to regain the Ashes.
Stokes plundered eight sixes in his astounding innings that fashioned a wholly unlikely one-wicket win for England, bringing the five-match series level at one-all, with everything to play for in the final two tests.
Stokes produced all manner of gloriously improbable shots, from a reverse sweep for six to a flick over wicketkeeper Tim Paine’s head for another maximum, with Root struggling to comprehend just how he had worked his wonders.
“It was ridiculous, wasn’t it?” Root said, with a smile. “Ben Stokes is a freak, he’s incredible.
“After Stokes got to 60, 70 he looked like he wasn’t going to get out. To win a game on your own from there is just amazing. He does have recent experience of doing it. Just incredible to watch unfold.
“He’s the ultimate team man, will do everything for every single player - that’s why he’s a brilliant vice-captain.
“He drags people with him, so much respect in the dressing room. He stood up, that’s exactly what you want from your leaders.”
Having bowled England out for 67 in their first innings — their 12th lowest test innings total ever — Australia looked sure to take a 2-0 lead in the series which would have ensured they retained the Ashes.
“The win gives us a huge amount of belief in this series,” Root added. “We always feel we should never give up. It is important to have faith and belief in each other.
“Hopefully now we can ride that into Old Trafford (the venue for the next test), and play like the second innings and not the first.
“It was an incredible game of cricket, an incredible atmosphere and test cricket is alive and kicking. This Ashes is alive and kicking.”
Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Ian Chadband