The Ashes 2019 – Third Test Day 4: Wow!

It was finally going to go the other way.


Memories of Edgbaston 2005, of Trent Bridge 2013, came back to the fore. Australia, with a brave last-wicket partnership, crawl ever so close to the line and then are undone achingly short of their goal. Both of these losses are seen as milestones in those respective series. From there, Australia couldn’t bounce back after such a shattering result, and would not be taking the Ashes home with them. Last night, this enthused me, kept me holding on to hope until the early hours of the morning heralded a cruel fate.


England started day four in a healthy position, with Root closing in on that ton he needed badly and Stokes holding up an end. Root once more left the field rueing what could’ve been, falling to Lyon early and falling short of a century again. He is a terrific batsman, but he will fall short of his batting partner’s status due to his inability to convert half-centuries into memorable tons. But after the day’s play, even a century wouldn’t have matched Stokes’ effort.


Despite Lyon giving Australia an early boost, the rest of the session fell England’s way. Stokes couldn’t break his run of dots, plodding along to some tight bowling. Bairstow broke the shackles, playing with freedom and dare that belied the situation before the Poms. His flowing innings roused the building English crowd, who began to cheer every ball that was defended in the overs before lunch. The tide wasn’t just turning – it had flipped and was ready to break over the frustrated Aussies.


But this test match wasn’t going to stop changing. Australia, after an interview with Starc before play’s resumption, came out with a fire in their belly. They got their just reward, removing Bairstow and breaking the partnership. Stokes continued on his merry way, but still couldn’t hit the boundary. Instead, the game turned when Head exacted a game-changing run-out of Buttler, twisting his body and tossing the ball at the stumps to break English hearts. Woakes was pushed back, and then succumbed to a pitched up ball.


The game had turned, yet Archer was still in the Aussies’ way. Joffra was easily tempted into big shots, but managed to evade fielders and swat some vital boundaries. Stokes was still there, growing in confidence by the minute, while Archer took the amount required down by the over. But his plan was always going to be temporary – Lyon’s nous resulted in a terrific Head catch on the boundary. When Pattinson was brought back on and blasted Broad out quickly, the game was so close to being closed out. The Ashes were being precariously held by the Aussies. They just had to get through a bespectacled off-spinner and they would be creating history.


The only issue was Leach barely had to face a ball. The Broad wicket was the signal Stokes needed, and he unleashed a fierce barrage of slogs that cleared the boundary every time. From being timid and circumspect, Stokes played some unbelievable shots to quickly give the lethargic crowd something to hope for. Much like his World Cup heroics, Stokes had been fired up by the realisation they were close to losing, and was doing everything in his power to get over the line before it was too late.


This was epitomised by one Hazlewood over that went 4, 6, 6 in its first three balls. Hazlewood had been almost unplayable for the entire match, taking nine poles for the match and being incredibly difficult to score off. But Stokes made him look like a local bowler rolling his arm over on a Sunday, such was the venom in which he easily picked up the Duke and smashed it over mid-wicket. Head nearly ended the match with one of the best catches ever, but couldn’t hold the ball in his extended right hand after a heroic dive from third man.


This looked to be the last chance Stokes would give, as he continued to find boundaries and bring the equation down to single digits. This was suddenly getting to the pointy end, the Edgbaston/ Trent Bridge moment. We had endured two heartbreaking wickets, now was their time to feel the pain. The only problem was Leach barely faced a ball – Paine lacked in tactical nous and Stokes was in such good form that he could’ve told you what would happen before he faced the ball. Whenever Leach was on strike, Stokes squatted on his haunches, unable to look in case the unthinkable unfolded. Luckily for him, each time Leach cleaned his glasses he would consummately defend and give Stokes his chance at being the hero.


The Headingley crowd now full, people of both nations screaming for the result they desired. Every ball was being cheered like it was the winning runs of a World Cup final. Australia, through sheer effort, had their chance – Leach didn’t listen to Stokes’ call and would’ve been run out easily if Lyon didn’t fumble the chance to end the game. Just balls later, Lyon went for the attack off the final delivery of his over. Stokes went for the slog sweep to win the game, and missed it. The appeal ran all around the stadium, players begging for the dreaded finger to rise. It didn’t. Australian bodies, exhausted, slumped. Surely that was their final chance, and it had been ruined by some poor umpiring and a stupid DRS call just overs before. They were their own worst enemies.


Leach had to face the next over, but when he flicked his first run and brought the scores level, there was a sense of foreboding. No tie would be happening here – Stokes slammed it through the off side and England had come out on top once more in a close match.


Recently, I’ve witnessed my Pies lose the Grand Final by five points, and clearly remember the misery of 2005 and 2013. This was the chance for it to end, as I stared dumbfoundedly at my TV. I go to bed confused – mesmerised by the drama and theatre of test cricket once again surprising me, but also shattered that Australia couldn’t create their moment. Instead, chalk down this new one.


Edgbaston ’05. Trent Bridge ’13. Headingley 2019.


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  1. Ah yes, Ben Stokes, the man you cannot get out, even when he is out! The Brexit test match, full of magical thinking. Just believe and it will happen!

  2. There’s an old saying, “The Umpire’s always right” but in this test series that saying has been disproven.

    I’ve come to believe all reviews should come from the third umpire and not the players.

    Could Stokes be the next Sir Ian Botham for England?

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