Superb Stokes century levels Ashes series in dramatic fashion
Leeds — An extraordinary 135 not out from Ben Stokes earned England an exciting one-wicket victory in the third Ashes Test on Sunday to level the series against Australia at 1-1, with the home side chasing down a record target of 359 in dramatic fashion.
Starting the day looking to prevent Australia from retaining the Ashes, England got to 286/9, still 73 runs short of their target. The tourists needed only the win to ensure a series defeat was impossible and the urn would stay in their possession.
With one wicket left, England one-day World Cup hero Stokes knew everything depended on him and he smashed a remarkable eight sixes to all corners of the ground to get England within touching distance of their highest second-innings total to win a Test match.
Nathan Lyon missed an easy run-out chance to dismiss England No 10 batsman Jack Leach and Stokes survived loud lbw shouts, with Australia unable to review, before, fittingly, Stokes hit the winning boundary to spark euphoria at Headingley.
England began the day on 156/3, still 203 short of what would be the second-highest ever fourth-innings run chase at Headingley.
Captain Joe Root, who played brilliantly to give England a chance coming into day four, chased an aggressive shot down the pitch only to edge to David Warner in the sixth over of the day, departing for a valuable 77.
Runs remained in short supply before a flurry of boundaries from Jonny Bairstow got fans off their seats. A huge six from Stokes raised the decibel levels yet further on Headingley’s famous Western Terrace, with England going into lunch in optimistic mood.
Bairstow was given out in the second ball of the afternoon session, but the decision review system handed him, and England, a reprieve, before the batsman was caught in the slips for a hard-earned 36, with the partnership worth 86.
A mix-up between Jos Buttler and Stokes saw the former run out for one before Stokes passed his 19th Test 50 from 152 balls without even acknowledging the applause, such was his focus.
Chris Woakes did not last long as he was caught for one, before Jofra Archer (15) was out looking for the big shot. Stuart Broad was then out for a duck as all looked lost for England, before Stokes went into one-day mode, reverse sweeping for six, flicking another over wicketkeeper Tim Paine’s head — there was no section of the stands safe from Stokes’s hitting.
A big moment came when Stokes, on 116, hauled one out towards the boundary but did not get enough on it. Marcus Harris, on the dive, got two hands to it but put down the catch.
Leach’s job was just to stay there, and he played his part, blocking ball after ball, contributing one run to the 76-run final partnership.
Stokes, in that time, plundered a mesmerising seven sixes in that final partnership, smashing a four through the covers to win the most dramatic of matches.