Shane Warne has been a part of Ashes cricket for almost 30 years.
He himself played in eight series and has commented on almost as many series since then.
But one performance stands out above the rest: Ben Stokes, Headingley, 2019.
While Warne (No. 2) and Steve Smith (No. 1 and No. 5) were featured in foxsports.com.au’s 20 biggest Australian appearances released on the eve of the 2021-22 series, the King says or Spin That Stokes’ match winning the century in the third Test at Headingley to level up to the five-match Test series at 1-1 is the best he’s experienced.
“When you think back to the best Ashes performances, it’s pretty hard to go past (the) 2019 Ashes series in England,” Warne says in his Summer of Spin supplied by McDonald’s.
“Steve Smith back-to-back hundreds in the first Test was absolutely outstanding when he was under a lot of pressure and Australia needed him at 2-17.
“But when I think back to that same series, when you think back to Headingley, Ben Stokes, probably the biggest innings in Ashes history.
“England was absolutely gone. You could stick a fork in it. They were cooked. They didn’t stand a chance; they needed so many runs (73 more) with one wicket in hand, beating together with tail-ender Jack Leach (and) Ben Stokes.
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Suddenly, Stokes went from defense to attack, going after spinner Nathan Lyon and fast bowling duo Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.
He brought out three figures with a typically powerful pull-shot, but New Zealand-born Stokes had one thing in mind: to win the match, while only punching teammate Jack Leach with his fist.
“Headingley rocks, it’s like he’s singing at a concert, it rocks so hard,” Warne says.
‘People are stamping their feet, they are going crazy.
“Now there are only a few runs that England need to win. Ben Stokes strikes, he takes a single, well we think it’s a single, there’s some confusion. There’s a throw to Nathan Lyon, he’s gone, Jack Leach is gone, this is the Ashes.
“Suddenly Nathan Lyon drops it. It was too hot for him and England will have another chance.”
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Moments earlier, Cummins put his Leach on the pads from across the wicket.
The decision is not out and seems to have always hit the left-hander from outside the line of the leg stump. Nevertheless, Australia is reviewing the decision.
“Pat Cummins comes steaming in, hits Jack Leach in the pads, huge scream lbw, the umpire says ‘not out’ with a bit of a grin on his face because he knows it’s a frivolous call,” says Warne.
“Suddenly the Aussies decide to appeal. This is the world’s worst review ever. So they go up, yes it’s a review and it comes back high, everyone starts laughing, even the referee.
“He finishes the over, Nathan Lyon bends again, he hits Ben Stokes on the pad again as he tries to sweep, right in front of the stumps, this is out, the referee doesn’t say out, but guess what, after the horrific review of the Australians, there’s no more, they can’t use it, the repeat is coming, it was plumb.”
It’s one that would eventually cost Australia.
“Ben Stokes is on strike again the next over, the scores are even, Pat Cummins as he came steaming in came with more steam from Ben Stokes’ bat as he knocked him through the covers. The west terrace is going crazy, Ben Stokes has his arms up with every person in Headingley with their arms up; England are back in the series with a win against the Aussies.
“And that’s probably by far the best performance ever in an Ashes series.”
It was an innings that will forever end in folklore as it is one of the Ashes’ greatest performances ever, with Stokes bringing England back from the point of no return.
Australia claimed the fourth Test and retained the Ashes urn after an unassailable 2-1 win with one game to go.
Smith, who had missed the third test after being felled by Jofra Archer at Lord’s, returned and scored a double century before Cummins sent Australia on their way.