Was it the greatest Test knock in a chase? Was it the greatest innings of all time? Was it the greatest Test of all time?
Ben Stokes’ outlandish 135 not out that clinched a series saving win in the third Ashes Test at Leeds for England is without doubt one of the finest ever efforts in Test cricket.
So where does Stokes’ innings stand among all-time great knocks in the fourth innings? Here are three equally, maybe even more, great knocks in a chase in Tests.
Brian Lara – 153*
WI v Australia, 1999
The Windies needed 308 to win the Barbados Test. The hosts’ batting was Brian Lara and nothing much else. Against an attack that had Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill at their peak, the Windies’ batting crumbled in the final innings.
No batsman apart from Lara crossed the 40-run mark. From 105-5, Lara carried the home hopes on his shoulders, hitting 19 fours and one six.
McGrath took 5-92 from 44 overs and Lara kept him at bay. He went after the leg-spinners, scoring half the required runs himself as the Windies clinched a one-wicket win. It was the ultimate one-man show as the Windies took an unassailable 2-1 lead in the four-match series.
Kusal Perera – 153*
SL v SA, 2019
In February this year, the odds were stacked against Sri Lanka when they took on South Africa in the Durban Test.
The islanders had been in disarray for some time and faced a target of 304 in the final innings against an attack of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and a red-hot Duanne Olivier. No other Sri Lankan batsman reached fifty in the chase; it was all about Perera.
Kicking into overdrive after the fall of the ninth wicket for 226, Perera ended up smashing an unbeaten 153 off 200 balls with 12 fours and five sixes. He added 78 runs for the last wicket. The stunning win laid the foundation of a historic Test series win.
Nathan Astle – 222
NZ v ENG, 2002
This one ended in defeat. But for the sheer audacity of the innings, Astle’s assault has to rank as one of the most incredible innings ever played.
It was an incredible game, with a quick double ton from Graham Thorpe setting hosts New Zealand a target of 550 to win the Christchurch Test.
With just one batsman reaching fifty and regular batsman Chris Cairns injured and forced to bat at No11, Astle launched into the most audacious knock ever played. Hitting 28 fours and 11 monstrous sixes, Astle hit 222 of just 168 balls to take the Kiwis to 451. It remains the fastest double century in history.