Former captain Michael Vaughan says English cricket’s eventful summer seems to be “written in the stars”.
After the monumental World Cup triumph in July, Ben Stokes played another starring role as England won by one wicket in a stunning Headingley Test.
The all-rounder hit a magnificent unbeaten 135 to level the Ashes at 1-1.
Vaughan told BBC Radio 5 Live: “We all felt the World Cup final was never going to be beaten, well yesterday it was; it was absolutely extraordinary.”
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Having been bowled out for just 67 in their first innings, England began Sunday’s fourth day at Headingley needing a further 203 to win.
When last man Jack Leach came in to join Stokes, who was on two at the start of Sunday’s play, 73 were still needed.
Leach held out for 17 deliveries for his one not out and Stokes, who made 84 not out in the World Cup final, smashed the winning runs with his 11th four.
“You think this summer of English cricket is just written in the stars,” Vaughan said during his BBC Radio 5 Live show Tuffers and Vaughan.
“Headingley is a wonderful venue, it’s had great history but at 11am I don’t think I have ever seen it absolutely chock-a.
“It was almost as if the crowd realised something was happening, in the commentary box we thought England might get close but lose by 40 or 50. That crowd kind of dragged Stokes over the line.
“You talk about cultures around teams and ethics and togetherness. Well that one player I honestly believe has probably saved a couple of players’ careers potentially.”
‘Paine’s team lost a game they had won probably three times’
Australia were left to rue a dropped catch by Marcus Harris in the deep to reprieve Stokes with 17 needed and with just two needed and Leach way out of his ground, Nathan Lyon fumbled the ball and the chance to run him out.
In addition, replays showed Stokes would have been lbw but captain Tim Paine had no reviews left, having used up his final one on an optimistic lbw appeal.
“He will be absolutely killing; his team lost a game they had won probably three times,” said Vaughan, England’s winning captain in the famous 2005 series, when his team won another of the all-time great matches, a two-run epic victory at Edgbaston.
“That review of Jack Leach, it was such an obvious one that it pitched outside leg so he didn’t have that review left for Nathan Lyon. A few of his tactics, he will be tossing and turning for at least this next week or so.
“You get judged on those as skipper, I was in a similar position in 2005, I wouldn’t have come back from Edgbaston because we’d have certainly lost the Ashes, I’d have gone a few months later.
“Tim Paine is a great guy and he’s done a wonderful job in difficult circumstances with what happened to [Steve] Smith and [David] Warner and [Cameron] Bancroft [relating to the ball-tampering controversy in South Africa] but that is going to hurt him for the rest of his career.”
Legendary ex-Australia fast bowler Glenn McGrath revealed he went into the visitors’ dressing room after the defeat at Headingley. “They were devastated, none more than Nathan Lyon,” he said.
“He would have taken that [run out chance] 99 times out of 100 but pressure does funny things.
“I hope these boys remember this, how bad it feels and it motivates you to do whatever you can try not to get in this situation again.
“A few guys were saying try not to remember it but they need that moment – use it as motivation for the rest of their career, let alone just the next Test match.”