SIR DONALD BRADMAN. EDITH COWAN, ROD “ROCKET” LAVER, DAME EDNA EVERAGE, RUPERT MURDOCH, PAUL HOGAN, SKIPPY THE BUSH KANGAROO, AC/DC, DENNIS LILLEE, JOHN HOWARD, OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN, HAROLD BISHOP OFF NEIGHBOURS, ERROL FLYNN, JASON DONOVAN, NICOLE KIDMAN, JULIAN ASSANGE, NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS and NATALIE IMBRUGLIA, you will be “torn” tonight because your cricketers took one HELL of a beating…
• Australia 179 & 246, England 67 & 362
• Stokes hits unbeaten 135 as home side level the series at 1-1
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 farmed 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.
Stokes’s effort evoked memories of Ian Botham’s famous Ashes escape act with England here in 1981 and there will be discussion as to whether England’s modern-day all-rounder’s efforts here are even more impressive.
England will now go to Old Trafford collectively boosted by one of the great victories in Test cricket, and one of the best-ever individual performances by Stokes.
Home fans had dared to dream at times during a dramatic fourth day. At 156 for three overnight, needing 203 more to win, England had a glimmer of hope, although facing off-spinner Lyon on an increasingly worn pitch was a worrying prospect.
Sure enough it was Lyon who achieved Australia’s first breakthrough of the day, albeit in slightly freakish fashion.
Root had added just two runs to his overnight score of 75 when he inside-edged an attempted drive on to his pads. The ball squirted backwards over wicketkeeper Tim Paine’s head and David Warner, fielding at first slip, showed brilliant anticipation in taking a diving catch to his left. It was unlucky for Root but having removed England’s talisman, whose innings had so frustrated Australia the previous evening, the tourists scented blood.
However, Jonny Bairstow joined Stokes in the middle at 159 for three, with 200 runs still needed, and both batsmen dug in impressively.
By lunchtime, after a compelling morning session, Bairstow was 34 not out and Stokes 32 not out. They were batting in glorious sunshine and there was a hint of Australian concern as the scoreboard ticked over. The increasingly threatening Lyon was regularly beating the bat, bowling into the footmarks. But Stokes and Bairstow battled on.
Soon after lunch, Bairstow survived being given out caught behind off Josh Hazlewood thanks to a successful review, but was soon snared by the same bowler, caught by Marnus Labuschagne for a valuable 36.
That brought Jos Buttler to the crease, he and Stokes hoping to build the same sort of spirited partnership that steered England to glory in last month’s World Cup final at Lord’s.
But when Stokes called Buttler through for a quick single and then changed his mind, his batting partner was committed, and Head’s accurate throw to the bowler’s end, which clipped the stumps, left him well short.
Chris Woakes went for just one, caught at extra cover after being tempted to drive by Hazlewood, leaving England needing 98 runs to win but just three wickets left.
Jofra Archer provided a willing partner for Stokes, chipping in with 15, including a couple of swipes for four off Lyon, before he was well caught on the leg-side boundary by Head.
With one English wicket remaining, Stokes went on the offensive. One Josh Hazlewood over went for 19 before he was swiftly taken out of the attack, with Stokes striking the ball beautifully to all parts of the ground.
When Stokes chopped the ball to backward point and again changed his mind about a single, Lyon fumbled a straightforward chance to run a helpless Leach out at the bowler’s end.
Then, with Australia having just wasted their review for a hopeless LBW appeal against Leach, Lyon trapped a sweeping Stokes in front of the stumps. Although the umpire shook his head, replays showed a successful review would have ended the contest.
With two runs needed to win and Leach facing Cummins, the England No 11 deflected to the leg side for a single, tieing the scores.
Fittingly, it was left to the masterful Stokes to crunch a four through the off side and confirm England’s heroic, historic success.