LEEDS, Aug 25: Ben Stokes steered England to a sensational Ashes Test victory by one wicket at Headingley as he struck an astonishing innings of 135 not out to help square the series at 1-1.
Set 359 to win, England lost wickets regularly throughout an intensely dramatic final day, against an increasingly confident Australia team who would have retained the Ashes with a win here.
When England’s last batsman, Jack Leach, joined Stokes at the crease they still required an unlikely 73 for victory. However, Stokes rotated the strike expertly with his 10th-wicket partner and struck the ball sweetly, once finding the crowd with an outrageous reverse sweep, and on another occasion stepping outside off stump to scoop Pat Cummins to fine leg for six.
Earlier, Stokes and Jonny Bairstow maintained England’s bid for an extraordinary comeback win in the third Test against on Sunday.
At lunch on the fourth day England – bowled out for just 67 in their first innings – were 238-4, needing a further 121 runs to reach a victory target of 359 that would see them level the five-match Ashes series at 1-1. But on another sun-drenched day in Leeds, Australia’s four-man attack managed just one wicket between them on an increasingly docile pitch during Sunday’s first session, with the fast bowlers unable to break through with the new ball.
England’s hopes of achieving a victory that would rival their celebrated Headingley Ashes successes of both 1981, when they won after following-on, and 2001 when Mark Butcher’s 173 not out saw them chase down a target of 315, suffered a setback early on Sunday 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.
But the ball deflected off his back leg, looped over Australia captain and wicketkeeper Tim Paine, with David Warner taking a superb diving catch at first slip.
The end of Root’s 205-ball innings left England at 159-4 in the 78th over.
England resumed on 156-3, with Root, like Bairstow playing on his Yorkshire home ground, 75 not out after sharing a partnership of 126 in 53 overs with Joe Denly (50) on Saturday.
Australia 1st Innings: 179
England 1st Innings: 67
Australia 2nd Innings: 246
England 2nd Innings: RJ Burns c Warner b Hazlewood 7, JJ Roy b Cummins 8, JE Root c Warner b Lyon 77, JL Denly c Paine b Hazlewood 50, BA Stokes not out 135, JM Bairstow c Labuschagne b Hazlewood 36, JC Buttler run out (Head) 1, CR Woakes c Wade b Hazlewood 1, JC Archer c Head b Lyon 15, SCJ Broad lbw b Pattinson 0, MJ Leach not out 1. Extras: (b 5, lb 15, nb 1, w 10) 31. Total: (For nine wickets in 125.4 overs) 362. Fall of wickets: 1-15, 2-15, 3-141, 4-159, 5-245, 6-253, 7-261, 8-286, 9-286. Bowling: PJ Cummins 24.4-5-80-1, JR Hazlewood 31-11-85-4, NM Lyon 39-5-114-2, JL Pattinson 25-9-47-1, M Labuschagne 6-0-16-0. – Agencies