Stokes of Genius: England keep Ashes hopes alive
Ben Stokes and Jack Leach shared a tenth wicket partnership of 76 to keep the Ashes alive
LEEDS: Ben Stokes was the hero yet again as his incredible unbeaten century saw England to a thrilling one-wicket win in the third Ashes Test at Headingley on Sunday. 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 as they squared the five-match series at 1-1. “There’s nothing like being out there in the end and getting your team over the line. I didn’t get nervous till we needed single figures, I didn’t know what to do then,” admitted Stokes. Australia, who would have retained the Ashes had they won, missed a clear chance to run Leach out when Nathan Lyon failed to gather a throw and then paid dearly for squandering a review.
All-rounder Stokes eventually flayed fast bowler Pat Cummins for four to seal a famous victory arguably even more improbable than England’s celebrated 1981 Ashes Test success at Headingley when they won after following-on. This was only the fourth time a team had made more than 300 to win in the fourth innings of a Test at Headingley.
As Leach looked on, all-rounder Stokes went into one-day mode by driving off-spinner Lyon for two straight sixes and then produced a stunning reverse against him that sailed high over deep point.
Stokes’s extravagant scooped six off Cummins reduced the target to 40. Stokes pulled Hazlewood for four to complete a remarkable 199 ball-century, featuring eight fours and five sixes. Stokes then hoisted the next two balls for six. He rode his luck when a sliced two off Cummins was dropped by a diving Marcus Harris.
Stokes, however, commandingly pulled and drove Cummins’s next two balls for fours to leave England just nine runs shy of victory. But a single left Leach on strike with two balls left in the over.
The third ball of the over saw Stokes drive Lyon for a six that just cleared Marnus Labuschagne at long-on and England needed two to win.
Stokes then cut Cummins for a boundary to seal an astounding triumph. The left-handed batsman faced 219 balls in total, with 11 fours and eight sixes in a superbly paced five-and-a-half hour innings.