Day four of the third Ashes Test: Ben Stokes heroics lead England to victory
Ben Stokes produced his second ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ performance of the summer as his magnificent century powered England to an unprecedented, unthinkable one-wicket victory at Headingley, to keep the Ashes alive.
Stokes hit 135 not out, channelled the spirit of Sir Ian Botham in 1981 and even eclipsed his match-winning turn in the World Cup final to lead England to their record chase of 359.
Anything less and Australia would have retained the urn at 2-0 with two to play but what transpired was simply one of the most incredible roars of defiance ever seen on a cricket field, as he led last man Jack Leach in an unbroken stand of 76 for the final wicket.
Stokes hit eight sixes and 11 fours as he instantly laid claim to one of the greatest innings of all time, while Leach’s solitary run was the the one that levelled the scores.
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It could only be this. England were down and out on 286 for nine when Broad was dismissed, still requiring a further 73. Stokes’ titanic effort will be eulogised for generations to come but Leach’s contribution, keeping out 17 balls and scoring the single that ensured the hosts would avoid defeat, cannot be ignored. With this win, England eclipsed their highest successful fourth-innings chase of 332 for seven made in 1928.
Stokes picked up on Sunday morning where he left off on Saturday evening, where he had occupied the crease for 50 deliveries for just two runs. The object of self-denial with time no matter in the Test, Stokes would get to double figures from the 83rd ball he faced, the longest for an England batsman since Ian Salisbury against India in 1993.
Lyon goes past Lillee
Nathan Lyon is largely an unobtrusive character, eager to shy away from the limelight, so it was perhaps appropriate that the initial focus of his 356th Test wicket – which moved him past Dennis Lillee and up to third in Australia’s all-time list – centred on Joe Root’s impetuous dance down the track and David Warner’s stunning catch.
Boycott the brave
Stokes going along at a snail’s pace led to some minor criticism from a surprising source: Geoffrey Boycott, who opined on the BBC’s Test Match Special whether the Durham all-rounder was being “over cautious”. Boycott, whose reputation as a safety-first batsman in his career preceded him, would later admit his admiration for the tactic. A penny for the Yorkshireman’s thoughts now.
Broad may not be the force with the bat that he once was but he still has the potential to contribute runs. However, he fell for the old double-bluff from James Pattinson. Perhaps anticipating a short-ball, Broad did not get forward to a well-directed yorker and was struck low on the shin. It looked plumb on the field and a review confirmed as much.
Umpire Joel Wilson made a series of misjudgements in the Specsavers series opener at Edgbaston, prompting some trepidation about his return to the middle in Leeds. While Chris Gaffaney seemed to take the heat off his colleague’s shoulders – with six of his decisions overturned to Wilson’s one in this Test – the Trinidadian would be at the centre of another controversy when he turned down Lyon’s lbw shout off Stokes with England needing two to win. Australia had spurned their remaining review in the previous over, and ball-tracking showed three reds.
September 4: England v Australia, day one of the fourth Ashes Test, Old Trafford.