England level series 1-1 after Stokes Headingley-heroics leaves Australia stunned
It’s right up there with some of the greatest run chases in history when it comes to the Ashes, possibly the greatest given where England found themselves on day two at Headingley. Just over a month after playing a big part in helping England win their maiden-World Cup at home, all-rounder Ben Stokes has once again managed to produce the goods when it mattered after digging England out of an almighty-hole they found themselves in during the recent third test. One of the reasons this match will be remembered as one of the more miraculous one’s for England stems from the fact that they were bowled out for just 67 runs in their first innings! Any team who can come back from that deserves a pat on the back, the Aussies continued to mount a lead before setting England a target of 359.
A loss in this third test would’ve resulted in Australia retaining the Ashes in England for the first time since 2001, that’s what made Ben Stokes innings so special. In a match that was expected to be completely-dominated by the bowlers after what went down on days one & two, Australian middle-order batsman Marnus Labuschagne’s grit & determination at the crease was proving to be the difference between the two sides. Scoring 74 in the first innings, Labuschagne backed it up in the second innings with a hard-fought 80. Star bowler Jofra Archer had some issues with cramp which forced him off the field, leaving all-rounder Ben Stokes to deliver a lengthy spell in warm conditions. His fast-mediums seemed to do the trick, working overtime to collect figures of 3/56 from his 24.2 overs.
Stokes workhorse-like efforts with the ball is just another reason why his efforts with the bat can’t be questioned, serious fatigue started to kick in while his teammates continued to fall around him. A significant-partnership between skipper Joe Root and No. 4 Joe Denly gave the home crowd reason the cheer, an unlikely-fightback was on the horizon. After both Denly and Root departed, Jonny Bairstow knuckled down alongside Ben Stokes as the target began to shrink. A wild-swing from Bairstow left the game swaying back in favor of the Aussies, he couldn’t help himself and paid the ultimate price. With Jos Buttler at the crease, Australia looked to be right in the game given his dismal-form in the series so far. It didn’t take long before Buttler found himself stumbling halfway down the pitch, only to be sent back by Stokes which gave Travis Head enough time to throw down the stumps.
6-253, Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer came & gone as Ben Stokes continued to chip away at the deficit. James Pattinson tried his luck with a yorker directed straight at Stuart Broad’s feet and succeeded, 9-286. With the target by no means out of reach, Stokes was running out of time (and partners). When Jack Leach walked to the crease, you sense that the Aussies could smell victory.
This is the point in the match where Stokes decided to flick the switch into overdrive. Quickly fatiguing after spending in excess of 5o overs at the crease including the 24 overs he previously bowled in Australia’s second innings, it was now or never. When Stokes started clubbing balls straight to the fielder and not running, he quickly opted for plan B which was taking the Aussie bowlers via the aerial route. Targeting veteran off-spinner Nathan Lyon was a dangerous task, but it was risk for reward as Stokes planted him over the rope three times in the space of three overs, SIX, SIX, SIX! From that point on, Stokes looked indestructible despite being dropped twice he just kept swinging.
Just 2 runs away from victory, Stokes went to sweep Lyon hard to the leg side but missed it directly in front of the stumps. HUGE APPEAL FROM THE AUSTRALIANS! The umpire shook his head, it proved to be the costliest decision of the match from Joel Wilson. A wasted review not long before that left Australia with 0 up their sleeve, Tim Paine making the wrong decision on that occasion. Australia could do nothing but watch Stokes hit the winning runs through the field and celebrate like there was no tomorrow. A man of the match performance saw the English all-rounder unbeaten on 135 off 219 deliveries after spending over five hours at the crease.
Australia managed to lose the unloseable! The series now stands at 1-1 with two tests remaining.
Zak Varik is an Australian columnist/writer who specializes in the sports category cricket. With over four years of experience covering all sorts of cricket tournaments around the world, Zak has gained extensive knowledge in International cricket as well as domestic.
“I’ve loved watching cricket since I was about 7 years old, my childhood hero was none other than Andrew “Roy” Symonds who probably enhanced my love of the game through the years”.
Zak is now an established writer for FCN (Fantasy Cricket News) and has also previously represented other Blogs during his time as a writer.