Ashes 2019: 'Ben Stokes' Headingley 2019 tops Edgbaston 2005'

By Jonathan AgnewBBC cricket correspondent

I have said before that the Edgbaston Ashes Test in 2005 was the greatest I have witnessed, but what we saw on Sunday at Headingley - with all of Ben Stokes' brilliance - beats it.

That second Test 14 years ago was an amazing match and it was slow torture watching it.

This was a completely different situation but it will go down in history as one of the great finishes in history. It was truly, truly outstanding.

Everyone talks about the Headingley Test of 1981, with Ian Botham's batting and Bob Willis' bowling, and of course it is regarded as one of England's greatest Test victories, but now people can talk about Headingley 2019 because this was right up there.

When Stokes was joined by last man Jack Leach with 72 runs still needed, I gave them next to no chance of winning. It felt like the Ashes were staying with Australia.

Of its type, Stokes' 135 not out to take England to victory and level the series was the best innings I have seen.

The pressure on Stokes was total. There was no way England could win that match and keep the Ashes alive other than him doing it himself, with Leach blocking out at the other end.

There was no-one else to come. That is proper pressure - and it makes his innings all the more remarkable.

It began as a back-to-the-wall defensive innings with very sound technique and at the end it just became a wonderful exhibition of hitting - one I am not sure many people could have played.

Not only does Stokes have the strength to hit those sixes, like he did off Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon, but he had the confidence to do it when the boundary was completely ringed by the fielders.

Stokes hits the ball so hard, so cleanly and confidently and that innings was a one-off. We will not see the like of it again for some time.

After watching something like that it is obvious to say Stokes is an incredible cricketer.

He is very focused, is a very clear thinker, makes good decisions and is ferociously fit. He works harder on his fitness than anyone I have ever known.

Technically he is a very fine defensive batsman and also an outrageously effective one-day batsman. We have seen that twice now this summer, following on from that World Cup-winning performance last month.

To have the two thrilling finishes we have had this summer, at Lord's and now at Headingley, will do wonders for cricket in this country. Stokes has been right at the centre of both.

He is the complete, modern cricketer. He can play resolute, defensive innings and can also take attacks apart. That is what makes him the best all-rounder in world cricket.

At the end of the match I do not think Stokes or his captain Joe Root could comprehend what had happened.

Root has not smiled like he did after play since the World Cup final. I have interviewed him a lot over recent weeks and this win - his first in the Ashes as England skipper - will have a huge impact on him.

He has had a difficult time with his own batting and with his team going 1-0 down in the series. He was under a lot of pressure and he was wearing that pressure - you could see it.

After the game Root had a big smile on his face, even though he was still trying to digest everything.

A huge amount of credit has to also go to Leach, who was outstanding.

He was so brave and was not ruffled at all. Before he faced an over he took off his helmet, wiped his hands, cleaned his glasses, went to business and afterwards did it all over again.

Stokes could not watch at the non-striker's end but Leach held firm.

As England got closer you could see the pressure pile up on Australia. They made some bad mistakes.

There were fumbles in the field that cost runs, the dropped catch by Marcus Harris off Stokes and the disastrous missed run-out by Nathan Lyon when he fumbled the ball with Leach stranded down the pitch.

For a man of Lyon's experience it was a howler.

You could see him on his knees at the end when he knew what he had done and that is sad. You do not wish that on anyone.

You have to also mention the lbw decision at the end when umpire Joel Wilson gave Stokes not out when replays showed the ball would have clearly hit the stumps.

Wilson showed at Edgbaston, when he had a number of decisions overturned, that he is not Test class and that was just a bad decision.

The rub of the green cost Australia. England had luck in the World Cup final against New Zealand and they seem to be being smiled on at the moment.

From here England should go marching on and win the series.

You look at the way Australia came off that field and you know their backroom team will have a big job on to get the players right for the fourth Test at Old Trafford, starting on 4 September.

When you lose a game so narrowly it is exhausting. It is very emotional and it takes you a while to pick yourself up.

Australia have the huge disappointment, while England have the impetus.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's Matthew Henry.

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