Ben Stokes hits half-century as England build lead of 165
Ben Stokes reached his half-century as he and Jos Buttler safely negotiated a shortened morning session on the final day of the second Ashes Test at Lord’s.
The fifth-wicket pair came together in a tricky position on the fourth evening, with England 71 for four, but by the time lunch arrived on day five they had moved the hosts along to 157 and a lead of 165.
Stokes was 51 not out at the interval, with Buttler 31no, going a long way to giving their side the edge in what still looked a likely draw.
The big news of the day was the concussion withdrawal of Steve Smith, who showed delayed symptoms after being hit in the neck by Jofra Archer’s 92mph bouncer on Saturday afternoon, but both sides arrived at the ground knowing there was a vital result still to play for.
Early morning showers were still engulfing the ground at the scheduled start time of 11am, but once the clouds shifted play was able to get under way at 12.10.
That left an optimistic maximum of 88 overs in the day, with Australia going wicketless in the first 21.4 at a cost of 61 runs.
Australia might have fancied their chances of removing Stokes early, given a torrid outing during the previous evening. The all-rounder had already used up a healthy portion of luck early in his innings, surviving a sound lbw appeal that was rejected then not reviewed as well as edging Nathan Lyon three times in an over without being caught.
Buttler has also struggled for red ball runs since the World Cup but between them, the fifth-wicket pair held out.
Stokes, resuming on 16, picked up back-to-back fours in Pat Cummins’ second over, one racing off the outside edge and the other more decisively struck. Lyon, meanwhile, was struggling to recreate his day five heroics from the series opener at Edgbaston.
It took the introduction of Josh Hazlewood to shift gears, his first ball drawing a big lbw appeal against Stokes. DRS indictated bat before pad and Stokes remained in place.
Australia were probing – a sharp turner from Lyon here, a play and miss to Hazlewood there – but there was nothing concrete.
Stokes moved to fifty in 106 balls, tapping Lyon for a single, before his partner clubbed the next ball through the covers.