England v Australia - 3rd Specsavers Ashes Test: Day Four
England v Australia - 3rd Specsavers Ashes Test: Day Four

An Ashes thriller to make World Cup final seem tame

Ben Stokes was the hero for England as his incredible unbeaten century saw the hosts to a thrilling one-wicket win in the third Ashes Test at Headingley that is being widely hailed as one of, if not the best Test match ever.

England - all out for a woeful 67 in their first innings - were 286-9, still needing 73 more runs to reach a victory target of 359 when bespectacled No 11 Jack Leach walked out to bat to join Stokes at the crease.

Leach, however, held firm with World Cup final winning batting star Stokes's astonishing 135 not out seeing England complete their highest successful fourth innings chase ever as they squared the five-match series at 1-1.

 

 

 

STRANGLING START

Australia started day four with four maidens after conceding just 11 runs from the final 11 overs on day three.

West Indies great Michael Holding lashed England's batsmen for being too defensive. Holding said it allowed captain Tim Paine to set attacking fields, whereas if Joe Root and Ben Stokes flashed the bat every now and then, an attacking fielder would have to be relocated.

Stokes scored just three runs from his first 73 balls (strike-rate of 4.1).

England started their innings in defensive mode, with even Ben Stokes keeping shots to a minimum.
England started their innings in defensive mode, with even Ben Stokes keeping shots to a minimum.

 

WARNER'S SCREAMER

The Aussies had eight overs to bowl before the new ball was due, and they used them to remove Joe Root (77).

Nathan Lyon claimed the wicket, moving past Dennis Lillee's 355 Test scalps, but it was David Warner who stole the moment with a diving catch. Make that six slips catches for Warner this match.

 

STOKES, BAIRSTOW GO BONKERS

With the new ball doing less than embattled opener Jason Roy, Stokes and Bairstow flipped the match in an hour of power that left the Aussies with a sick feeling in their stomachs at lunch.

They plundered 55 runs from 10 overs at one stage as Bairstow crunched back-to-back boundaries of Hazlewood and Stokes cracked the game's first six off Cummins.

Australian legend Ricky Ponting accused the three seamers of "trying too hard" and looking for a "miracle ball" as James Pattinson lost his line and sent down five wides.

At lunch England required just 121 runs with six wickets in the sheds, and the Aussies on the ropes. Root's men were searching to become the first team since Australia in 1888 to win a Test after being bowled out for less than 70.

 

WOAKES, BAIRSTOW REWIND THE CLOCK … TO DAY TWO

It appeared England remembered how to play Test cricket on Saturday. But the madcap batting returned in one game-changing flash shortly after lunch.

Jonny Bairstow's attempted cut shot was gobbled up by Marnus Labuschagne as Josh Hazlewood struck after a delivery that, it's fair to say, was far from his best.

It was the fifth time Hazlewood got Bairstow in Tests, with Joe Root (six) and Hashim Amla (seven) the only players he's had more success against.

Bairstow contributed 36, whereas Chris Woakes made just one run before he bunted Hazlewood to Matthew Wade. Woakes might be a tailender, but he also owns 10 first-class tons. A disappointing way to go, particularly with Ben Stokes looking every bit a match-winner at the other end.

Hazlewood's 2/9 (six overs) restored Australia's grip on the urn.

 

SHOES OFF IF YOU LOVE BEN STOKES

Jos Buttler had been run-out for one, but the Headingley crowd started to erupt. A deafening roar rang around the Yorkshire ground when the runs required dropped below 100, while a chant of "Shoes off if you love Ben Stokes" then got the fans out of their seats and waving their footwear.

Leeds Festival was on down the road, but it was Headingley that was really rocking.

 

STRIKE THREE AND YOU'RE OUT, JOFRA

With about 140 overs left in the match and just 80 runs required, Jofra Archer bizarrely decided it was time to hit out.

Archer struck back-to-back fours against Lyon, but the spinner kept pitching it up to tempt the Test rookie. The crowd then applauded Archer's pair of leaves, but Archer couldn't help himself on the final ball of the over, opting for one more big swing.

This time the slog-sweep was grasped by Travis Head, who threw it in the air before he stepped over the rope and then coolly completed a routine white-ball catch but rare red-ball catch.

 

England batsman Jofra Archer hit out at a crucial time to give Australia renewed belief.
England batsman Jofra Archer hit out at a crucial time to give Australia renewed belief.

 

When Stuart Broad went for a duck two balls later it was over … Australia looked certain to retain the Ashes in England for the first time since 2001, and celebrated accordingly.

 

STOKES SURGE. COULD HE?

Ben Stokes brought out the T20 weaponry and brought the crowd to life.

With one wicket remaining, Stokes shielded Jack Leach from the strike - rejecting singles - and looked to clear the fence whenever possible. The highlight came when Stokes, on one knee, played a reverse slog-sweep for six off Nathan Lyon.

 

Stokes reverse hit a ball for 6 runs as a truly special innings revealed itself at Headingley.
Stokes reverse hit a ball for 6 runs as a truly special innings revealed itself at Headingley.

 

Stokes plundered 13 from the over, lifting England over 300 runs and within 50 of victory.

It was Australia against Stokes and Stokes was winning. Suddenly, he started pulling out switch-hits and scoops, with England nine wickets down, in a batting display that belonged in the pale blue kits worn at last month's World Cup.

 

AUSSIES THROW AWAY CERTAIN VICTORY

Australian captain Tim Paine's failed gamble on a decision review cost his team a certain victory in the most dramatic finish to a Test match in recent memory.

Paine reviewed a half-hearted shout from Pat Cummins that pitched outside legside and then, with Australia out of reviews, Nathan Lyon had a plumb shout turned down in yet another Joel Wilson umpire error.

The Lyon shout should've removed Stokes for 131, delivering Australia a one-run Test victory. Paine said pre-game he had faith in Wilson to bounce back, but he didn't.

 

LYON DROPS THE ASHES

Nathan Lyon dropped the ball when all he had to do was grasp it to execute an easy run-out after Jack Leach bizarrely took off for a single that wasn't there. Pat Cummins threw the ball to Lyon and, somehow, he missed it. That followed Marcus Harris throwing to the wrong end and then dropping Stokes, when 17 runs were required.

 

STOKES THE SUPERHERO

Ben Stokes upstaged his own World Cup final heroics with an Ashes-winning century that kept the series alive and delivered England a historic victory that will forever last in the memories.

Stokes didn't raise the bat when he reached 100 but dropped to his knees and pumped his fists when he levelled the series at 1-1, finishing unbeaten on 135 (219), having bowled 24.2 overs of pace the previous innings.

 

 

Stokes crunched eight sixes - including two off Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood inside one of their overs - in an inventive innings that defied belief. A straight Stokes six off Lyon then cleared Marnus Labuschagne by just centimetres, leaving England with just two runs for victory.

Leach, who cleaned his glasses before every delivery he faced, was only required to block out only 17 balls deliveries as Stokes rejected singles to keep him off strike, ultimately closing out the win that keeps the series alive and utterly compelling.