By Paul Edwards

As these words are being written, journalists are still striving to rank the 2019 Headingley Test Match which finished less than three days ago. I’m not sure any of it matters. If it wasn’t the best game in the history of cricket, we can surely agree it was one of the finest and reach a comparable judgement regarding Ben Stokes’ innings. The excitement, the joy, the disbelief require no consensus; they are particular to each individual who was at Headingley last Sunday or watched the game on television or – my particular favourite – listened to Test Match Special at a garden party in Galway.

The reports are being presented as they were filed over six unforgettable days from the morning before the game to the dawn following its conclusion. If one or two inaccuracies or incautious judgements have not been corrected, I hope the immediacy remains and also the arc of an extraordinary Test match. For in order to appreciate what happened on the final day, you really need to understand what took place on the first two.

A week today the fourth Test begins at Old Trafford with the series poised at 1-1 and the Ashes in the hazard. My rather obvious prediction is that Stokes will get a standing ovation when he comes out to bat. His life is changed utterly. In the meantime, let’s scroll back another seven days to a distant time when Australia led the series 1-0, Yorkshire were about to beat Nottinghamshire at Scarborough and no one cared what Jack Leach used to wipe his specs.

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