Ben Stokes. Nerveless, gifted, superstar Stokes.
A day that began full of possibility flipped and flopped and flipped again on the balance of probability and ended with an air of impossibility as England kept the Ashes alive, thanks to Stokes’ match-winning century. His unbeaten 135 handed England the most unlikely of victories, by one wicket, in the third Test at Headingley, allowing them to level the series at 1-1..
In one of the most thrilling finishes imaginable – well, since England’s World Cup triumph last month with, you guessed it, Stokes, front and center – he and Jack Leach stood up against the odds and steered their side to their highest successful run chase in Tests, two days after they had been humbled for 67 in their first innings and were then set 359 to win.
Numerous times Australia threatened to take the final wicket they needed for a victory that had seemed inevitable, only to fluff their lines repeatedly.
Stokes was dropped on 116 when he sent a top edge off Pat Cummins towards third man, where Marcus Harris got his hands to it but couldn’t hold on. Australia then wasted a review – which would come back to haunt them – when Cummins rapped Leach on the pad and the DRS confirmed the ball had pitched well outside leg.
When Stokes just cleared the man on the rope for a six off Nathan Lyon, the crowd went wild and England needed just two more to win. Two balls later, Leach should have been run out after going for a non-existent single, but Lyon fumbled as he tried to gather the throw from backward point. Stokes should have been out lbw attempting to slog-sweep the very next ball, which was pitching on middle and leg and shown by Hawk-Eye to be hitting the stumps, but with no reviews left, Australia could do nothing.
Summarized scores: England 67 (Hazlewood 5-30) and 362 for 9 (Stokes 135*, Root 77, Denly 50) beat Australia 179 (Labuschagne 74, Warner 61, Archer 6-45) and 246 (Labuschagne 80, Stokes 3-56) by one wicket