In a finish more dramatic than the 2019 World Cup final (imagine topping that), Headingley witnessed a spectacular Test match and one of the greatest innings in Test history. England headed into the last day needing 203 runs with seven wickets in hand. A regular fall of wickets dimmed hopes until Ben Stokes decided to produce a miracle. The World Cup hero ultimately smashed a boundary to complete a spectacle.
England tumble after steady beginning
English captain Joe Root, batting on 75* overnight, was England’s major hope. He fell in the sixth over of the day. Dancing down the track against Nathan Lyon, Root’s edge flew off his pads and went over wicketkeeper Tim Paine’s head but Warner snapped a great catch to end the innings. This brought Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow at the crease.
The duo steadily accumulated the runs and added 86 for the fifth wicket. At 245/4, England were just 114 runs away from the victory with six wickets at disposal. However, the Australians cruised back in the game soon enough. Bairstow gifted his wicket away. He was followed by Jos Buttler who got run out thanks to fielding brilliance from Travis Head. The tail vanished in quick succession to leave England reeling at 286/9. Still, 73 runs away from an improbable victory.
Stokes and Leach battle on
With last wicket remaining, Stokes decided to attack Australia whenever possible. He smashed Lyon for three sixes in the next two overs with one of them being a crazy reverse-sweep slog. The all-rounder followed it up with another six off Pat Cummins. He then brought up his magical hundred with a boundary off Hazlewood. Stokes did not celebrate at all, he was eyeing the bigger prize.
In the same over of Hazlewood, Stokes slammed two more sixes to lower the target below 20 runs. Marnus Labuschagne dropped a difficult catch to give the all-rounder another chance. Stokes managed two more fours bringing the target into the single figures. Next two overs were chaotic.
As Lyon stepped up to bowl, the script was clear. Stokes was going to go big against him. He tried hard on the first two balls and then managed to strike a straight six on the third ball. A dot ball followed. On the next ball, Stokes-Leach recreated Klusener-Donald from the 1999 World Cup semifinal but Lyon failed to collect the ball and missed the run-out.
On the final ball of Lyon’s over, Stokes was plumb in front but Joel Wilson decided to give the batsman another chance. Australia had burned a review needlessly just six balls ago thus rendering them helpless against the calamity.
Leach faced Cummins with the victory two runs away. He fended off first two deliveries and took his first run on the third ball, thus securing a positive result. As heroically as possible, Stokes smashed the winning runs to clinch one of the most memorable results ever. Leach finished with 1 not out from 17 balls while Stokes achieved an immortal status in cricket history with his 135 not out that included eight sixes.
Stokes stood and roared at the crease after hitting the winning runs. It was an innings to savour and celebrate. The Ashes 2019 now stands level at 1-1 after three matches. The fourth Test begins at Manchester on 4th Septemeber.