Saturday 6 June 2020

Guest Review: Ben Stokes On Fire By Ben Stokes

Early evening on Sunday 14th July 2019. Lord's Cricket Ground in London. Something had just happened in the sport of cricket that had never happened before: England had won the Cricket World Cup for the very first time since the tournament's inception in 1975. 
At the epicentre of England's historic triumph was Ben Stokes, the talismanic all-rounder with an insatiable appetite for The Big Occasion. He contributed an absolutely critical 84 runs off 98 balls when England batted, a seemingly nerveless innings of discipline and maturity. Thrillingly, it was enough to tie the scores at 241 runs each, so the match reverted to a Super Over - just six balls for each side to bat in the ultimate in sporting sudden death. Stokes and his batting partner, Jos Buttler, saw England to 15 runs off their over. When it was finally confirmed that Martin Guptill had been run out off the very last ball of New Zealand's Super Over with the scores once again level, England had astonishingly won on the boundary count-back, and the nation could finally breathe again.
Early evening on Sunday 25th August 2019. A sun-drenched Headingley in Leeds. Having been bowled out for just 67 earlier in the Third Test, England were facing the prospect of failing to regain the Ashes. In their second innings England were still 73 runs short of victory with a solitary wicket remaining. Australia were near certainties to retain the Ashes there and then. Cue one of the most amazing innings ever witnessed as Ben Stokes thrashed the Australian bowlers to all corners of the ground, in the process scoring 135 not out, driving England to a barely believable one-wicket victory and keeping the series very much alive. The nation took another breath. 
In his brand-new book, Ben Stokes tells the story of England's electrifying first ever Cricket World Cup triumph as well as this summer's momentous Ashes Test series. It is the ultimate insider's account of the most nerve-shredding but riveting three-and-a-half months in English cricket history.  

Review: During a remarkable summer of 2019, the England cricket team won the Cricket World Cup and contested a memorable Ashes Test Match series with Australia, drawing 2-2. Ben Stokes played a major part in both the World Cup and the Test Match series. This book is his story of that summer, with particular emphasis on two Sundays, July 14th and August 25th.

At the start of the World Cup tournament, England were the favourites. They were in good form going into the tournament and were playing on home soil. After a bit of a wobble during the group stage of the competition, England entered the final two matches of this stage needing to win them both if they were to progress to the semi-finals. This they achieved and, after winning their semi-final, they went through to the final against New Zealand at Lord’s on Sunday 14th July. Batting second, they were losing wickets at regular intervals whilst chasing down New Zealand’s score. Ben had come in after the fall of England’s third wicket and was determined to be there at the end to see England home. He describes the excitement of facing the 50th, and final, over when England needed 15 runs to win. Off the final ball, England needed two runs to win, but could manage only a single, meaning that, after both sides had batted for 50 overs, the scores were level. This meant that, for the first time in the history of the World Cup, the game went into a Super Over. Each team would bowl one further over to be faced by two nominated batsmen to decide the winner. England batted first, with Ben as one of the nominated batters, and scored 15. It was now New Zealand's turn to bat for one over. Again, needing two to win off the final ball, they managed only a single. This meant that the scores were tied, but the rules of the competition stated that in this event, the team scoring more boundaries during their innings would be declared the winner and, on boundary count-back, England had won the World Cup for the first time.

Following such a pulsating World Cup, it would have been difficult to predict that the rest of the summer would throw up more drama. However, the World Cup was followed by a series of five Test Matches against Australia for the Ashes. These matches are always fiercely contested. After losing the first match and drawing the second one, England went into the third match at Headingley knowing that should Australia win, they would retain the Ashes. This was looking highly likely when England, batting second, were dismissed for 67 in their first innings. Following their second innings, Australia posted a target of 359 runs for England to chase. Ben went in after the fall of the third wicket on the evening of the third day and was there at the close of play when England had scored 156. The fourth day was Sunday 25th August. England applied themselves to their batting but wickets were starting to fall. When the ninth wicket went down and the last batsman came to the crease to join Ben, England still required 73 runs to win. The following phase of play is the stuff of legends and is up there with a previous sensational victory England pulled off at the same venue in 1981.

Following England’s win at Headingley to level the series, Australia won the fourth Test, thereby retaining the Ashes, and England won the fifth and final Test.

The book is the author’s personal recollection of a truly memorable summer, with particular attention being paid to the pivotal role he played on those two aforementioned Sundays. I found reading the accounts of these matches as exciting as being there. (In fact, I had a ticket for the fifth day’s play of the Test Match at Headingley, but the match finished a day early.) I would recommend this book to all cricket lovers.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

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