Moeen Ali believes that ‘legend in the making’ Ben Stokes is England’s greatest ever all-rounder.
Ali has ranked his England colleague above the likes of Sir Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff following Stokes’ third Test heroics against Australia at Headingley.
Stokes’ unbeaten 135 drove the hosts to a remarkable one-wicket victory as England posted their highest-ever Test match run chase to deny Australia and level the Ashes series with two games left.
“He is the best cricketer I have played alongside, and while it might be a massive shout – and admittedly he is a very close friend – I would argue he is now the greatest all-rounder this country has ever produced,” Moeen told the Guardian.
“To deliver an innings like the one he played at Headingley, just six weeks after winning us the World Cup final and with the Ashes on the line, is what seals it for me.
“I know there are past greats like Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff, but we’re watching another legend in the making here.
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“What we witnessed on Sunday wasn’t a fluke. Seriously, you will not find a cricketer more dedicated to self-improvement. He trains at 100mph and is just unrelenting with it.
“As a batsman, he has become excellent at judging scenarios. He now has the all-round game and technique to adapt.
“Refusing to celebrate personal milestones sums him up, too. It is team first, every time.”
Botham, meanwhile, has described Stokes as a “world box-office attraction” and says the Durham all-rounder’s life will never be the same again.
The 63-year-old former England captain told the Daily Telegraph: “He is the Special One, and I intend to call him that for the rest of his career.
“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 produced a similarly stunning batting performance to famously help England beat Australia at Headingley in 1981.
After England had been forced to follow-on and then reduced to 135 for seven in their second innings, the all-rounder scored an unbeaten 149 to help his side total 356.
That set Australia a target of 130 for victory but they were dismissed for 111 as Bob Willis claimed figures of eight for 43.
Botham said: “It changed my life overnight. 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 his 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’ match-winning efforts at Headingley have also seen him rise to career-high positions in the ICC Test rankings among both batsmen and all-rounders.
The 28-year-old is now 13th in the batting standings, a climb of 13 places, while he has moved up two spots to second in the all-rounders category, behind West Indies captain Jason Holder.