The accolades keep coming for Ben Stokes after his astonishing match-winning innings in the third Ashes Test against Australia with icon Ian Botham anointing him English cricket’s ‘Special One’.
Until Stokes lit up Headingley on Sunday with his series-saving 135, Botham’s titanic 149 not out in the second innings of the 1981 Test against the Australians had been the benchmark.
A full 28 years later, Stokes’ unbeaten knock secured England an unlikely one-wicket win in the third Test and in the process kept the Ashes alive by levelling the series at 1-1.
Botham, who is chairman of Durham where Stokes plays his county cricket, told the Daily Telegraph Stokes’s bold performance against the odds had earned him the special sobriquet.
“He is the ‘Special One’ and I intend to call him that for the rest of his career,” said Botham, 63. “He wants to be the best. He wants to be in the oven.
“He wants to be in the hottest place in the kitchen and he wants to take them all on. That is his character.”
Botham’s innings in 1981 after England had to follow on transformed the outcome of the match and transformed the rest of the legendary all-rounder’s life.
“It changed my life overnight,” said Botham. “I think Ben’s life will be the same. He will have no private life. He has to get used to that and so do the family.
“He is public property but it is a great place to be in for the long term. It will set him up for life.
“He will reap the rewards which he richly deserves and he is now a world, box-office attraction.”
Stokes, writing in the Daily Mirror, said he does not expect life outside the sport to change too much, saying his wife Clare, a school teacher, and two children, six-year-old son Layton and daughter Libby, four, are his rock.
“Clare has been brilliant and so supportive throughout the years,” said the 28-year-old all-rounder, who was born in New Zealand but moved to England aged 12.
“Getting home with Clare and the family whenever I can is so important to me and now this game is done I just cannot wait to be back home for five days and cut the grass.
“I love playing cricket, but you need to be able to get away from the game and that is where your home and your family keep you grounded.”
Botham — who also contributed six wickets in the Australians first innings in the 1981 Test and a half-century in England’s terrible first innings — would not compare his and Stokes’s performances.
“I don’t compare the two innings,” said Botham.
“There were different circumstances, different conditions and a different pitch.
“I was just delighted to have witnessed one of the greatest events in cricketing history.”