Ashes 2019: Ben Stokes leads England to miracle comeback to win third Test against Australia

Stokes and Jack Leach shared a tenth wicket partnership of 76 to see England over the line, with the all-rounder making an astonishing 135

Harry Latham-Coyle
Sunday 25 August 2019 18:54
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The Ashes in Numbers

An astonishing century from Ben Stokes secured England one of the greatest Ashes comebacks off all time against Australia at Headingley to level the series.

Chasing a mammoth 359 in the fourth innings, Stokes hit a flurry of boundaries in a remarkable last-wicket stand of 76 with Jack Leach, who scored only one run, from the penultimate ball, while Stokes racked up 135 runs to clinch victory.

England’s hopes appeared to be over as they lost five wickets for 31 runs to bring Leach to the crease with 73 still required.

But Stokes remained, and moved to his hundred with a quite magnificent display of power-hitting and innovation to pull off perhaps the greatest chase in Ashes history.

England’s day had begun badly when Joe Root, unbeaten overnight on 75, fell early, having added only two to his score.

Root charged down the pitch to Nathan Lyon, a curious action with the new ball due in two overs, and a thick inside edge took the ball onto his calf.

David Warner brilliantly claimed at slip to leave England four down with 200 runs still required.

But Jonny Bairstow and Stokes played positively against the new ball as Australia struggled for line and length, putting the bowling side on the back foot and accelerating the scoring rate.

Come lunch, England had added 80 morning runs for the loss of only Root.

However, Bairstow fell soon after the interview, chasing a wide one from Josh Hazlewood and skewing to second slip, Marnus Labuschagne taking a sharp catch.

England’s chances were diminished further as Jos Buttler followed Bairstow back to the hutches in short order, run out after a horrible mix-up with Stokes.

And when Chris Woakes chipped to short mid-off to depart for one, Australia’s retention of the Ashes seemed an almost foregone conclusion.

Yet Stokes had not given up hope. His fifty had come up in the over before Woakes’ dismissal, and in Jofra Archer he had a solid enough partner with which to rebuild.

What he could not bank on was some curiously loose swinging from Archer.

Thrice he got away with legside heaves but he would not survive a fourth, as a salsa dancing Travis Head on the deep square-leg boundary took an excellent catch to remove Archer for 15.

England were nine down two balls later as James Pattinson pushed through a quick yorker, Stuart Broad reviewing in hope rather than expectation. He was plumb LBW.

73 were still required, then, as Jack Leach strode to the crease, calmly rubbing his spectacles as Stokes welcomed him with warm words.

Leach knew the job was simple – survive, and give Stokes the strike.

And he took to task in fine fashion. He only faced the 17 balls, but he never looked like getting out, and allowed Stokes the freedom of stroke he required to pull off the remarkable.

The switch was well and truly flicked on Leach’s arrival, Stokes into white-ball death-batting mode, with Leach holding up his end when required.

It was truly sublime from Stokes. In the course of seven balls he reverse-swept Lyon into the stands beyond deep point and then scooped Pat Cummins, the world’s number one ranked Test bowler, for six to fine leg.

And when he crunched Hazlewood to the long-on boundary to bring up his hundred, he did not celebrate, no bat raise, helmet removal, balcony signalling. A simple nod of the head, and back into his batting stance, with more work to be done.

An exhausted Ben Stokes in the England dressing room after his remarkable innings

Consecutive sixes followed.

But there was yet more drama to come. Australia threw a review to the wind as Cummins struck the left-handed Leach on the pads from over the wicket, but it had pitched a foot outside of leg-stump, and Australia knew as much as they challenged the not out decision of Chris Gaffaney. The decision stood. Australia were out of reviews.

And then in two Nathan Lyon balls the game swung again.

Stokes chopped the first to short third man, Jack Leach ran, Stokes did not, and the England number eleven was halfway down as the throw bounced into Nathan Lyon’s hands. The off-spinner, with time to take, dropped the ball. Leach scrambled back.

That looked to be that, with just two required for victory, but it would not be. Stokes aimed something large to leg, missed and was struck in front. Australia roared. Joel Wilson shook his head.

Lyon collapsed to the floor. Australia no longer had that review. Ball-tracking showed three reds – it was plumber than plumb.

This was clearly England’s day, and when Leach got off the mark to level the scores, the baton was fittingly passed back to Stokes to bring them home.

Ben Stokes salutes the Headingley crowd

And bring them home he did, an emphatic crunch through the covers to seal victory by one wicket. It was England’s highest-ever fourth innings Ashes chase.

The win keeps England in the hunt as they look to win back the Ashes, with the score tied at 1-1 after three Tests.

Old Trafford hosts the fourth Test, which begins on September 4, before the series concludes at the Oval.

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