Ben Stokes catch reignites memories of Andrew Strauss

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The date is the 27th August 2005. England are on top of what has already been a thrilling test match including a century from, man of the hour, Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff. After reducing Australia to 99-5 the previous day, thoughts of a follow-on creep into English heads. But no such ideals can be imagined unless a crucial partnership is broken: the Australian batting's rearguard, Simon Katich and Adam Gilchrist.

Flintoff is bowling and looking every bit the resurrection of legend Ian Botham, bowling reverse swing at 85+ mph. All series he's had one boot clamped firmly on Adam Gilchrist's chest, never relieving pressure, not even letting the world's best wicketkeeper-batsman get past 50. Gilchrist likes to attack but Flintoff won't let him, knowing sooner or later he'll crack.

And he does. The nick is a thick edge but goes out to around the third or fourth slip at catchable height. Things almost go slow-motion as Andrew Strauss, standing at second slip, launches himself in a full-length dive to catch the ball one-handed and cling on even as he tumbles. The crowd erupts and England are another step closer to a resounding victory in both the Test and the Series.


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However this moment, this snapshot of Strauss at full stretch to the reach the ball and the ensuing pandemonium as he is bodily lifted by a euphoric Flintoff, is almost as iconic as the all-rounder consoling Brett Lee after the England victory at Edgbaston.

Greatest catch?

Everyone's minds were suddenly thinking, "Was that the greatest catch ever taken?"

It was very much a cherry-on-top-of-the-cake moment as  suddenly all England realised that the Ashes, the treasured urn, coming home wasn't just a possibility but a distinct probability. The catch epitomised everything going England's way, with bat, ball and in the field. It was sheer theatre.

Ten years later, of course, and England have another Ashes victory by a single test, with another all-rounder entering the spotlight (although fielding this time) with England dominating proceedings and pulling off another sensational catch. 

Stunning Stokes

Ben Stokes' diving catch to dismiss Adam Voges didn't go into slow motion. It went at light speed. The camera, along with all spectators at home or at the ground and probably most of the players too, did an enormous double-take as no one quite believed what had happened.

Though a consummate athlete, he was never one who we'd never suspect was capable of such feats, deftly stuck out his arm, reaching behind him, to pluck the ball from the air when by rights it should have been at the boundary seconds later. 

In case you didn't catch the last part let me reiterate. The ball was behind him. Stuart Broad, bowling the spell of a lifetime (8 wickets for 15 runs - best figures at Trent Bridge and fastest ashes five-for) gets a nick off Australian number 5, Adam Voges and the ball whizzes away. We all groan inwardly and look to the boundary only to find the ball not there. Because Ben Stokes has caught it. Behind him.

He didn't have to dive full-length (not full-length anyway) but his feet certainly left the floor and his athleticism was tested to the full. And while the context of the series was different and the catches themselves weren't identical, they both lifted a nation to it's feet. It let everyone know the Ashes were coming home. 


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