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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay – Ben Stokes stuns Aussies with Headingley masterclass, Ashes remains alive

England's Ben Stokes and Jack Leech celebrate winning the test
England's Ben Stokes and Jack Leech celebrate winning the test
©Reuters/Andrew Boyers

August 25, 2019 - The second test of The Ashes 2019 ended in a draw but Australia were still much better poised in the series, having won the Ashes opener comprehensively.

When England were bowled out for just 67 in their first innings, the 4th lowest total from which a team has gone on to win - all the others have come in the 19th century - they had little hope of pulling off the miracle that they did.

In fact, to begin with, England had the momentum after having dismissed Australia for 179 despite half-centuries from David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne. The charge was led by a six-wicket haul from Jofra Archer in just his second test, under what were perfect conditions for bowling.

Instead of taking a first innings lead, England conceded a 112-run lead, too big in the conditions to come back from. The English bowlers did their best to dismiss Australia for 246, with Marnus Labuschagne scoring his second half-century of the game. But with the target of 359, to the tune of which England had never ever chased down in the fourth innings of a test match, Australia were in the driver's seat.

 

 

England's collapse and the fate of the Ashes urn looked all but sealed when both England openers Rory Burns and Jason Roy were dismissed for single digits in the last innings. A 126-run partnership between Joe Root and Joe Denly followed.

When Denly was caught by wicketkeeper Tim Paine off Josh Hazlewood just after reaching his half-century and David Warner took a brilliant catch at first slip to dismiss Root off Lyon, England copped a solid blow.

It was then that Benjamin Andrew Stokes arrived at the crease. He hardly scored a run off his first 60-70 deliveries but with Jonny Bairstow taking the attack to the Australian bowlers, Stokes also began to come to his own gradually.

With the quick dismissals of Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes, England were down in the dumps. Archer spent 33 balls at the crease but his dismissal was followed closely by Stuart Broad and with the last man already at the crease, England were still 73 runs away from the total - a huge gap considering the conditions and the quality of the Australian bowling attack.

Little did we know that we were about to see what we had only seen a couple of times in test cricket before. Ian Botham at Headingley in 1981 and Kusal Perera taking Sri Lanka home against South Africa. But even those paled in comparison to the brilliance of Ben Stokes. 

Surviving misfields, dropped chances, umpiring errors and run outs, Stokes slashed Pat Cummins through covers to win it for England in iconic fashion and keep the Ashes alive.

"Never give up, not over till it's over. When it got down to 20s, I started thinking I could rein in a bit. I had to try and go when it was 70s, 60s, 50. I was so in the zone. We had to win to stay in the Ashes, we've got to move into the next game, we've got some momentum," Man of the Match Stokes said after his dazzling 135*.

This (76*) was the second-highest 10th wicket partnership in a successful 4th innings chase. Jack Leach's contribution was just one run but more importantly, he had survived for 17 deliveries.

After having guided England to a World Cup victory, just months earlier, Ben Stokes earned his BBC's Sports Personality of the Year award with the memorable Ashes victory. Although England could not regain the urn, Ben Stokes' superhuman effort made every bit of the series worth it.

 

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