Leeds, England (AP) — Cricket World Cup hero Ben Stokes scored a stunning 135 not out as England kept its Ashes hopes alive with a dramatic one-wicket win over Australia in the third test at Headingley.
Stokes scored the winning four Sunday in the afternoon session on Day 4 as England finished on 362-9 in its second innings — chasing what seemed an improbable 359 — after an unbeaten 76-run stand for the 10th wicket with Jack Leach, who scored only 1 run in the partnership.
It’s the highest successful fourth-innings chase by England in a test match.
Stokes was dropped by Marcus Harris at third man off Pat Cummins and survived an easy runout chance and clear lbw decision close to the end. The allrounder finished with 11 fours and eight sixes overall in one of the greatest innings by an England batter.
“Today was incredible,” Stokes said. “I don’t quite know what to say. It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
The teams are now level at 1-1 in the series. Australia would have secured the famous urn with a 2-0 lead and only two tests remaining in the five-match series.
England started the day on 156-3, still needing 203 more runs to win and stay alive in cricket’s oldest regular international series. Captain Joe Root (77) was out early but Stokes and Jonny Bairstow (36) shared an 86-run stand for the fifth wicket, taking England from 159-4 to 245-5 when Josh Hazlewood (4-85) dismissed Bairstow.
England No. 11 Leach survived as Stokes’ final partner, with the pair coming together on 286-9. When their 50-run partnership came up, the spinner still hadn’t scored. His 1 not out — which leveled the scores — came off 17 balls.
Stokes was man of the match in England’s Super Over win over New Zealand in the World Cup final exactly six weeks ago.
“It’s one I’ll never forget,” Stokes said on Sky Sports after Sunday’s test win. “I’ve got to try and take it all in. I’m not sure it’ll ever happen again. It’s one of the two best feelings I’ve ever felt on a cricket pitch.”
Australia, which was missing injured star batter Steve Smith, scored 179 and 246. England was dismissed for only 67 in its first innings, making the final victory for the hosts even more remarkable.
Australia had two chances to snatch a famous win of its own in the 125th over of an epic innings, but they instead go down as footnotes in Stokes’ story. With England still one run behind, Nathan Lyon dropped a throw from Cummins at the bowler’s end when a clean take would have allowed him to easily run out the over-exuberant Leach with ease.
Stokes aimed a big slog-sweep at the very next delivery, missing but given not out leg before wicket by umpire Joel Wilson. Replays showed he was out but Australia had wasted its last review in the previous over on a hopeless shout against Leach.
Three balls later Leach fended Cummins to leg for one, guaranteeing a tie, leaving the stage for Stokes. He did not linger, planting Cummins through the covers for a winning boundary before letting loose a guttural roar.
The fourth test starts Sept. 4 at Old Trafford.
Australia won the previous Ashes series 4-0 Down Under in 2017-18.
ALIVE AND KICKING
Day 4 began with four maiden overs and the early dismissal of key man Root, who added just two runs to his overnight 75 before being brilliantly caught at slip by David Warner via bat and pad.
The second new ball was taken shortly after but Stokes joined Jonny Bairstow in a fine, counter-attack partnership worth 86 vital runs in 130 balls. Bairstow’s patience snapped on 36 and Stokes was involved in a careless runout of Jos Buttler for one.
Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer came and went before the unlikely figure of Leach soaked up 17 balls in an hour, allowing Stokes to pen his masterpiece.
“We’ve seen some freakish things already this summer in the World Cup but I didn’t think we’d see something similar in this series,” Root said. “It was an incredible game of cricket, an incredible atmosphere and test cricket is alive and kicking. This Ashes is alive and kicking.”