Ben Stokes’ Record Breaking 135* in the third Test Keep the Ashes in Balance

Ben Stokes’ unforgettable century proved pivotal in England’s historic one-wicket victory against Australia, preserving their Ashes hopes.

Stokes’ unbeaten 135, coupled with Jack Leach’s nerve-wracking performance, guided England to their highest successful Test run chase.

Ben Stokes’ Record Breaking 135* in the third Test Keep the Ashes in Balance

England defeated Australia 179 (Labuschagne 74, Warner 61, Archer 6-45) and 246 (Labuschagne 80, Stokes 3-56) by one wicket with scores of 67 (Hazlewood 5-30) and 362 for 9 (Stokes 135*, Root 77, Denly 50).

Thanks to Stokes‘ game-winning century, England managed to save the Ashes on a day that started out full of hope but ended with an air of impossibility as probability turned again. With his undefeated 135 in the third Test at Headingley, England secured the improbable victory by one wicket, bringing the series to a 1-1 draw.

Two days after they had been humiliated for 67 in their first innings and were then set 359 to win, he and Jack Leach stood up against the odds and guided their side to their highest successful run chase in Test history. It was one of the most exciting finishes imaginable, well, since England’s World Cup triumph last month with, you guessed it, Stokes front and centre.

Australia had looked certain to win, and had even threatened to grab the last wicket, but time and again they failed to clear their lines.

At 116, Stokes was dismissed after he hit a top edge off Pat Cummins that was headed for third man, where Marcus Harris managed to grab hold of it but was unable to hold on. The ball was confirmed to have pitched well outside leg by the DRS after Cummins tapped Leach on the pad, wasting an Australia review that would later come back to haunt them.

The fans went crazy as Stokes effortlessly cleared the man on the rope for a six off Nathan Lyon, and England only needed two more runs to win. Leach went for a nonexistent single two balls later, but Lyon mishandled trying to retrieve the throw from backward point, which would have resulted in an out. With the ball pitched on middle and leg and appearing to be striking the stumps as seen by Hawk-Eye, Stokes ought to have been out lbw trying to slog-sweep, but Australia had run out of reviews and could do nothing.

When the hosts came back, on a sweltering summer’s day, at 156 for 3, with Joe Root at 75 not out and Stokes locked and loaded after facing 50 balls for his two not out, they had dared to dream.

Let the possibility begin. These two batsmen at the crease, Stokes, who had already claimed a fifty-run and Man-of-the-Match century in the previous two Test matches, and Root, who had a point to ram home after partially allaying critics of both his batting and his captaincy, were more than capable of pulling England within striking distance of the 203 runs required to secure victory.

Bring on the likelihood. Australia’s assault, while frustrated on the third day, had maintained the pressure on and, with the second new ball arriving after eight overs on day four, England had a tough assignment just to traverse the morning, let alone chase down the target. That became even less likely when, in the sixth over of the day, David Warner made an incredible slips catch off the bowling of Lyon, dismissing Root after he had added only two runs. It was Warner’s sixth of the match.

Also Read: Reliving England’s Epic 2019 Cricket World Cup Win: A Triumph Against All Odds

Stokes and Jonny Bairstow’s stubborn and menacing 86-run partnership turned the odds back in England’s favour. At number 36, Bairstow tried to cut Josh Hazlewood but instead sent the ball to Marnus Labuschagne at second slip, ending their partnership.

Ben Stokes’ Record Breaking 135* in the third Test Keep the Ashes in Balance

Let the impossible begin. In addition to skillfully farming the strike with his knock of 11 fours and 8 sixes, Stokes also showed off his nerves by partnering with England’s No. 11 Leach for 76 runs off 62 balls, of which Leach scored 1 off 17. In Test cricket history, a last-wicket partnership has only ever scored more to win victory once, and that was only a few months ago in Durban.

It appeared as though Stokes was out of partners. Jofra Archer holed out following a brief cameo, Stuart Broad was out lbw to a yorker from James Pattinson, Jos Buttler, who had been sent through at first but then sent back by Stokes, was run out to a direct his from Travis Head, and Chris Woakes chipped Hazlewood straight to Matthew Wade at short extra cover.

Hazlewood, who was one wicket short of claiming ten for the innings, came back into the attack as Stokes got closer to his century. Stokes went on to take 19 off the over, reaching his century with a four that sailed wide long-on, and then hitting two consecutive sixes.

Stokes said that there were times he couldn’t watch the action since he wasn’t a part of it. Leach struck a single off Cummins to tie the score. Stokes then brought up the victory on the following ball by laying Cummins through the covers to the boundary. Leach ran to embrace Stokes like the savior he was, and Stokes let out an enormous roar.

In Australia’s second innings, Labuschagne top-scored for the tourists for the third time in as many innings with 80, and it didn’t feel that long ago that Stokes had struggled with the ball for 24.2 overs to capture 3 for 56. It added to the wonder of Stokes’ batting exploits.

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