Ashes 2019: Botham hails hero Stokes as Headingley celebrates stunning Test triumph

Getty Images

Ian Botham hailed Ben Stokes as England's "special one" after his century heroics at Headingley kept the home team alive in the Ashes.

In a performance that evoked memories of Botham's vintage 1981 innings in Leeds, Stokes tore into the Australian attack to transform a match that looked lost.

England's hopeless 67 all out in their first innings left them well off the pace, and when Australia set them 359 to pull off victory it looked highly likely to be out of reach.

When Stuart Broad was ninth man out on 286, England were still 73 short, but Stokes rose to the challenge.

An innings that was built on a foundation of early patience transformed into a Stokes big-hitting masterclass as he repeatedly heaved Australian bowlers to the boundary, his 135 not out including 11 fours and eight sixes.

"It takes a remarkable man," Botham said on Sky Sports. "I said this morning that somebody had to front up and somebody has to be strong.

"I've banged Ben Stokes' drum for a long time now and I know other players, when they've seen him, you think there's something special.

"He's the special one, he is very, very valuable to cricket full stop, not just England."

Botham expressed his fear about the future of Test cricket, given the rise of the limited-overs game, but he believes performances such as that of Stokes can draw much-needed attention to the five-day format.

"Today and maybe every so often you need something really special like that," Botham said. "What he did today, the whole country will be up for it now. You'll see kids playing in every park corner."

Former England opener Geoffrey Boycott said the "magical" innings was a highlight for him of a life watching cricket, calling it "the best I've seen in over 50 years".

Shane Warne, Australia's former superstar leg-spinner, said of Stokes: "He's one of those guys you want in the trenches with you.

"He's one of those guys who trains harder than I've ever seen anyone train.

"He's an amazing cricketer. He's a special talent. You can have all that but still when the opportunity presents itself you need someone to take it.

"If you were to choose one guy in that England side to try to get it done like that, you would choose Ben Stokes.

"But you still have to get it done. It's easy to say all that but to get it done the way he did was just unbelievable."