Ian Hart: England Ashes hero Ben Stokes surpassed the achievements of Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff in one afternoon

Ben Stokes was England's Ashes hero at Headingley
Ben Stokes was England's Ashes hero at Headingley

I thought I’d already seen the ultimate sporting comeback when Tyson Fury lifted himself off the canvas in the 12th round against Deontay Wilder. Then I watched a Test match on Sunday.

With England nine wickets down and still needing 77 to keep the Ashes series alive, my column was all but written in my mind.

It was to include the ECB concentrating on the financially lucrative white-ball cricket at the apparent expense of the traditional red-ball game. Although as an aside when the ECB were awarded the World Cup around six years ago, they were advised not to have an Ashes series, however financially beneficial it would be, in the same summer as that would put tremendous pressure on our top players.

The apparent ‘hangover’ from the England World Cup victory.

The pool of top English Test players not playing enough domestic red ball cricket in the County Championship.

But what unfolded on Sunday afternoon consigned the mental draft forever to my memory banks.

Many far more qualified than myself are saying that the third Test at Leeds was one of the greatest games of red ball cricket in history. It had everything, agony, ecstasy, stress, right across the spectrum.

Ben Stokes, ably supported by the bespectacled Jack Leach whose own contribution will never be forgotten, surpassed the achievements of Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff in one afternoon.

Like the Fury moment nine months before, I’d been fortunate to witness one of the greatest moments in the history of British sport, but did England’s unforgettable comeback and the heroics of Stokes, one of the greatest cricketers this country has ever produced, merely paper over the cracks of English cricket? Joe Root’s side, including Stokes, were humiliated in the first innings at Headingley and bowled out for 67.

Selection wise there are clearly more questions than answers, but is the real crux of the problem as previously stated the neglect of developing red ball cricketers concentrating more on the flash, bang wallop style of the limited over white-ball game? All will be revealed next Wednesday at Old Trafford when the fourth Test starts as in 1981 and 2005, can England come back from losing the first Test to win an Ashes series?

In their favour is without doubt a below-par Aussie side, captained by a player in Tim Paine who history will perhaps later remember only got the job because of a piece of sandpaper. That said, we can only live in hope. A fit Jimmy Anderson returns, Surrey’s Ollie Pope is rewarded for excellent form in the County Championship (there might be a clue there) and perhaps the key thing and the one thing no-one can really control, is that Manchester’s world famous rain stays away for at least five days.

It would be insulting to football fans everywhere to pass comment on the plight of both Bury and Bolton in a couple of paragraphs.

So I will go into more detail next week, when unfortunately we could have two clubs expelled from the EFL, rather than just Bury at this time. However one comment I can pass is how, regardless of it being football, can a businessman buy a company for a £1 then try and sell it nine months later for £850,000.

The same businessman who has has seen 51 of the 43 companies he has been associated with liquidated. I thought the EFL had ‘fit and proper’ guidelines to stop this sort of thing happening?

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