Ben Stokes played a historic innings (135 not out off 219 balls) as he pulled off a stunning last-wicket victory for England in the third Ashes Test against Australia in Headingley, Leeds on Sunday. Australia was just one wicket away with England still needing 73 but Stokes, playing one of the greatest Test innings of all time, had other things in mind. He stitched the second highest 10th wicket partnership of 76 runs with Jack Leach to take his side home, levelling the five-match Ashes series at 1-1.
England, bowled out for just 67 in their first innings, needed 73 more runs to reach a victory target of 359 when last man, the bespectacled Jack Leach came into bat. But Leach held firm before Stokes hit the winning runs by flaying Pat Cummins for four that saw the all-rounder finish on 135 not out.
Earlier on Sunday, England’s suffered a setback when England captain Joe Root was out for 77 after adding just two runs to his overnight score. Root, shortly before the new ball became available, went down the pitch to off-spinner Nathan Lyon’s third delivery of the day and tried to work it legside. After Root's wicket, Ben Stokes walked in and built a good 85-run partnership with Bairstow before the latter was removed by Australia’s first innings hero Josh Hazlewood.
After Bairstow’s wicket, it came down to Stokes and Buttler but the latter got run-out while trying to take a single that was never on. Buttler wicket put Australia on the driving seat and their grip on the match got even stronger after Hazlewood scalped Chris Woakes to claim his fourth wicket of the second innings.
The scale of the task confronting Root’s men was evident from the fact that only three sides have made more than 300 to win in the fourth innings of a Test at Headingley—Australia (404-3 in 1948), England (315-4 against Australia, 2001) and the West Indies with 322-5 two years ago.
From 245-4 to 261-7, England had almost thrown away their chances but Stokes was in no mood to give up. However, as they looked closing in, Lyon removed Archer (15 off just 33) to reduce England to 286-8. Stuart Broad, the next man in, went back to hut without adding anything to the scorecard and England were 9 down with 73 more runs to win.
It was then Stokes starting taking on the Aussies and accelerated his innings by scoring quick runs. He kept the strike to himself most of the time not giving Australia too many chances to attack Leach. However, in the 125th over, Lyon missed a run out chance when Leach came down halfway. On the very next ball, Stokes swept himself plumb but Umpire was not convinced and Australia didn’t have any review.
In the next over, Leach was on the strike but the left-arm spinner kept his nerve and took a single to bring Stokes on strike. Stokes then hit the winning boundary. The Ashes 2019 now stands at 1-1 with two more games remaining.