The Ashes 2019 – Third Test, Day 4: Humans, if

Australia 179 (M Labuschagne 74, DA Warner 61, JC Archer 6/45)
England 67 (JL Denly 12, JR Hazlewood 5/30, PJ Cummins 3/23)
Australia 246 (M Labuschagne 80, BA Stokes 3/56)
England require 359 runs to win
England 362/9 (BA Stokes 135*, JE Root 77, JR Hazlewood 4/85)



“You could not step twice into the same river”
Heraclitus of Ephesus, a Greek philosopher known for his doctrine of change being central to the universe.


This Ashes series has seen three river crossings now, three Tests of belief, resolve and capacity. Three Tests of adventure, hope and desperation. And change rains down.
Each river is the same, but each river is different. No person is the same as they were yesterday. Change is constant. We learn, we experience, we succeed, we fail.


In Australia, it is the day after the night before. After that early morning denouement of the Third Test at Headingley, 2019, England v Australia.
In which England was rolled in their first innings for 67.
In which England was set an improbable 359 in the fourth innings of the match.
In which England was 9/286 upon the dismissal of SCJ Broad.
That Third Test that will go down as a classic; the BA Stokes Test.


In a broader sense, the Test stands as a pure celebration of human fallibility. Cricketers are tested in Test match cricket in the same way that people everywhere are tested hourly, daily, in life.
We wake up, we have a crack, we make mistakes, we go to sleep. Repeat.
Mistakes are a given. Mistakes define the human struggle.
How we deal with hourly, daily setbacks makes the biggest difference.
Nothing is the same.


Personally, I am tired and awestruck after going to bed at around 2am with a resting heart rate of ~140 beats per minute. Sleep took a while to arrive. What a staggering climax.



It is 9/351 as NM Lyon is given the ball by TD Paine. NM Lyon, who has already arrested what threatened to be an England avalanche this today. NM Lyon, who pauses and remembers to breathe (each time, each time) at the top of his mark. BA Stokes is on strike on 129*; he rides a cresting wave of the Banzai Pipeline, he rides a dragon. Quite possibly he himself now breathes the very fire of dragons.

Eight to win.
Short. Whack. Cut to a distant fieldsman. No run.
BA Stokes has farmed the strike in this last wicket partnership for an hour.
My feet are sweaty. I feel blood pulsing around my chest.
Short. Whack. Cut to a distant fieldsman. No run.
With MJ Leach he is on the edge of something huge.
Breathe breathe. Even I must remember. And I am 16,904km to the south east; without much capacity to influence things.
Fuller. Whack. BA Stokes launches an audacious swipe; a crazy-brave full-blooded swipe at the wily off-spin of NM Lyon; NM Lyon, who earlier in this Test match moved to third place on the list of all-time wicket takers in Test cricket for Australia. Will it carry? Will it drop? At long on M Labuschagne orients himself with the boundary rope; he aligns himself with the ball’s trajectory. M Labuschagne watches the ball sail right over his head. Six!


It has come to this: one run to tie; two runs to win.
Captain TM Paine brings the field in.
Short. Whack. Cut to a close fielder.


Two balls remain in the over. BA Stokes coiled like a spring; throbbing like a nightclub. Doof Doof Doof Doof. He will look for a single; we all know it; MJ Leach knows it. All through this partnership of an hours’ duration BA Stokes has looked to protect MJ Leach from strike. Two balls remain in the over.

Short. Whack. Cut behind square; cut to that part of the wagon wheel where doubt ghosts into the communications of batting partnerships everywhere. MJ Leach, upright, bespectacled, of seemingly unflappable temperament, having defended 16 balls for no run (with aplomb) in this last wicket partnership of an hours’ duration, having helped his England to the very brink of an unlikely victory, calls from the non-striker’s end for the run. And he sets off.

But as fieldsman PJ Cummins moves to collect the ball, from the striker’s end BA Stokes sends his dependable partner back. BA Stokes conceives that no such run is available. PJ Cummins hears this and sees this and reacts to this and he thoughtfully throws the ball to the non-striker’s end; where MJ Leach will be stranded. The bowler stands to collect the incoming ball, needing only to gather the ball and break the stumps. But NM Lyon fumbles the ball and the ball runs free. MJ Leach survives. England survive.


Human errors: (i) MJ Leach in setting off for the run; (ii) NM Lyon in fumbling the ball.


One ball remains in the over. Two runs to win. BA Stokes on strike.
The next over will come from PJ Cummins. He will bowl to MJ Leach; the Number 11 caught at next over’s striker’s end like a rat in a trap.


NM Lyon, fresh from his fumbled effort, gallantly throws it up. Everything is on the line.
Fuller. Given the circumstances, BA Stokes attempts to hoick the victory; but he completely misses the ball. BA Stokes is struck on the body, smack-bang in front of his stumps. The Australians appeal. But umpire Joel Wilson decides in favour of the batsman. Australia have no reviews left, having spent their last on a speculative review in the previous over.


Human errors: (i) TD Paine in the previous over deciding to speculatively spend the last review; (ii) BA Stokes in missing the ball and being struck plumb LBW; (iii) Umpire JS Wilson in failing to perceive that all of the conditions for LBW were satisfied.


Next over. Two runs to win. One run to tie.
PJ Cummins to Number 11 MJ Leach, who has batted for an hour, faced 16 balls, for nought.

Short. Ducks underneath.

MJ Leach who as nightwatchman against Ireland in July made a Test match 92.

Fuller. Defends stoutly.

The crowd roars.

Fuller. Defends; and the ball squirts into a legside gap. They run. Scores are tied.

Scores are tied.

England cannot lose and BA Stokes has the strike.
BA Stokes, who inhabits the presence of the Himalayan mountain range.

Mighty PJ Cummins to mighty BA Stokes.

Whack. Mighty, mighty BA Stokes crashes through the cover field for four, sending pandemonium-laced cats among the pigeons of cricket history.




The denouement of this game stands as a celebration of the human condition.
Indeed, the whole game does.
Australians made mistakes.
English made mistakes.
Umpires made mistakes.
This Test again shows that there is no “deserve;” there is only what is.
The full human condition was on display at Headingley, all backed by the magnificent soundtrack of an emotional, pure, instinctive and passionate crowd.


What a magnificent story; a magnificent moment.
Well done England.

We entered that river at Headingley as one person; we leave it as another.
That river is crossed.
The next Test, the next river awaits.


“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same…”
Rudyard Kipling, “If”




Check out Smokie Dawson’s report – HE WAS THERE.



Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Daryl Schramm says

    Hear hear David. So much riveting drama in four days. The quote is apt and I suggest, has been applied already by the many learned in the tour group. Thank you.

  2. An exciting test match, an equally exciting summary David and a certain umpire that needs to go to SPEC SAVERS.

  3. Thanks D Schramm, Fisho.

    So impressed with TD Paine’s perspective. His reading of people.
    This immediately after play via cricinfo re: NM Lyon’s disappointment concerning the missed run out::

    “He’s a really important player in our side and I said to him that if our players see him dealing with it really quickly and moving on then our younger players are going to do the same thing and we turn up to Manchester or our next training session in a much better frame of mind, rather than have guys sulking or whatever you want to call it. It hurts, deal with it, move on.

    “Gazza is obviously extremely disappointed, but no one’s perfect, people make mistakes and that happens. The important thing is that when it happens you cop it on the chin, you hold your head up and you stick together as a team and you walk off together. We’ve got two more Test matches, we’ve been doing a lot right, instead of being caught up in the emotion of it we need to be able to deal with it.

    “Talk about where we went wrong, where we can do things better and turn up to Manchester full of confidence because we have been in a position to win every Test match and that’s a great position to be in. Yes, those losses hurt and you are allowed to show that but I don’t think you can get caught up in it, it’s right in the middle of a series.”

  4. good write up!

  5. A very nuanced piece ER. My first thought has been to consider the enormity of Stokes’ performance. But he does not exist independently. So much happening around him. And his presence/performance impacting those around him. He ‘defeated’ the Australians, in that he made them less than they would normally be. The beauty of competition. The nature of combat.

    I found Ian Chappell very interesting on this. Both at the time. And in his follow up reflections last evening on 3AW.

  6. Fine margins as you say ER. Came home from an excellent concert and chanced upon the last hour.
    Stokes was magnificent and gave the Australians enough rope for them to hang themselves. Mental disintegration as Australians used to chortle to themselves as Cullinan jibbered or Donald ran in circles. All the good things the Australian team had done for days fell apart in One Crowded Hour of trying to win the game off your own boot.
    Greg Norman leading the US Masters by 6 strokes into the final round. Beaten by Faldo or the ghosts of of the past? There was a telling moment 2 minutes from the end of the GF when my Eagles had seemingly dashed themselves against the Collingwood wall. Collingwood had chipped the ball across half back several times and Sidebottom had the chance to go, but he chipped again and we pressed up again to pressure the ball carrier. I remember thinking “we will get a chance because they are wanting to hang on now rather than put the knife in”. Treloar kicked on his left on the boundary and the rest is history.
    Greatness rests on such tiny margins of a thousand small moments until the wall breaks. “There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
    Move to Perth. You get 2 hours more sleep every night.

  7. Peter, your remembrances of last year’s AFL Grand Final brought back vivid memories of the 1 piont Norwood victory over Sturt in the incredible ’78 SANFL Grand Final.

    Trailing by 29 points at the start of the final quarter, the Redlegs mounted a charge and with about 5 minutes remaining hit the front by less than a goal when Phil Gallagher was awarded a controversial mark to kick a goal.

    Incessant attacking by Sturt for the final 4 to 5 minutes only resulted in points as Michael “Kingo” Taylor repeatedly turned them out. When the final siren sounded the underdog, Norwood had won by 1 solitary point.

    To this very day many Sturt supporters howl about the last Norwood goal. Well firstly, under tremendous pressure, Phil had to kick it and secondly, the Double Blues had numerous chances to snatch the lead back but weren’t good enough. The closing minutes were all played in Sturt’s attacking area.

    Being a Norwood fan (just like Rulebook) I’ll always cherish that match although I do have some sympathy for Sturt – bad goal kicking cost them dearly.

  8. Thanks mates.
    JTH – Thank you.
    I should have given far more weight to BA Stokes’ whole innings in this story.
    The stout resistance to begin things, the loosening of shackles, the outrageous explosion.
    There was probably no template for that innings. But he created one.
    I’m unaware of IM Chappell’s view on the England run chase. I am aware of somewhat of a pile-on occurring against TD Paine’s captaincy and various decisions that Australian players made.
    My view on this is – why rue anything? Of course we can all improve. But how about, instead, celebrate that you/ they/ we were part of something monumental?
    How would the stories read differently if MJ Leach had been run out?
    How would history see things, then? So fine.
    PB – it’s the same with the 2018 AFL Grand Final. It just was. As a Collingwood fan I was excited, I was disappointed, but in the end none of it matters. The sun comes up again and again. A game result doesn’t change anything. Except in people’s minds (Am I a failure? Does my identity now suffer because I have so intertwined my sense of self with the results of my cricket team/ footy team? Am I alright?)
    The thrill is in the event – not the result.
    We tell ourselves so many lies about cause and effect – D Cullinan a great example. A Donald another example. But all they did was make an error. Like everybody else does. It’s fine.

    In his poem “If,” Kipling speculated about TREATING triumph and disaster just the same.
    And importantly he insightfully called them (both) out as imposters.
    Because really – triumph and disaster ARE just the same.
    Both are figments of our imagination.

    The thrill is in the event. Well played BA Stokes. Well played NM Lyon, MJ Leach, PJ Cummins, TD Paine…. et al.

  9. DBalassone says

    The comparisons to the 2018 Grand Final are interesting. These comparisons were exactly where my head was at, when I switched the TV off at 1:45am on Monday morning. But while gutted at the 1-wicket loss, my rationalisation was: ‘It is over. We can’t change it. Move on.’ I also had nothing but admiration for Stokes.

    Unfortunately, I have not been unable to do this with the 2018 Grand Final and am still haunted by the last few minutes and still go over various scenarios in my mind of how we could have held on. For me these two very different reactions are the difference between barracking for the Australian cricket team and barracking for your footy team.

  10. ER

    I should have mentioned. I also had a physical response to that last half hour or so. Where does that come from? That nervy feeling. Those tingles in the legs. The sweaty palms.

    A telling point you make is the alternative history a successful run out creates. New narrative, Stokes: the tragic hero?

    All ultimately in the face of death.

  11. roger lowrey says

    Love your work David. A great read. RDL

  12. John Butler says

    ER, you brought those final moments back vividly.

    Like JTH, I was almost physically affected. And that was watching TV from 16,000 odd KM’s away. Imagine what it was like at the ground.

    In any assessment of the game, just allow that Stokes was absolutely magnificent. If I ever see a better innings I’ll be very happy.


  13. Thanks again for comments.
    DBalassone – that’s an interesting observation on investment in footy versus investment in cricket.
    It probably varies from person to person.
    Personally, I have not sought to watch any replay of any sporting event since I was a teenager – footy, cricket, anything. On a similar (but different) note – I have not sought to watch any AFL footy this year. That’s another story. But even when I was going to a few games each year, the result never really bothered me. Certainly I would never watch a replay (win or lose).
    Maybe I am insufficiently emotionally invested in the outcome.

    Perhaps it’s the same with the 3rd Test.
    Yes, Australia lost.
    But rather than feel flat, or feel “gutted,” as I know many said that they did, I felt amazed.
    Maybe I’m insufficiently emotionally invested.

    When I woke the buds on Monday morning with news that England had won, they each said: “But Dad – last night you said that England would not win.”
    My answer: “I did say that. I was wrong. You never know with sport.”
    Probably the same with life, generally. I was wrong because Ben Stokes and England put on an unbelievable show. It was astounding. And that’s sport to me.
    The show.
    Yes, I barrack and support. But the game is the thing.
    And then it’s over.

    JTH, JB – in the moment, my heart rate was through the roof.
    I don’t know where that comes from.
    The excitement is in our heads, for sure (a great place to be).

    Thank RDL. Very kind.

  14. Being gutted at sporting events is not new to me. Way back in ’72 I attended the Summer baseball grand Final at Norwood Oval. In a classic match that lasted 19 innings (a baseball game is supposed to go for 9 innings) Port Adelaide Magpies finally defeated my team, the Goodwood Indians 4-2.

    Indians southpaw pitcher, Neil “Supee” Page lasted the whole 19 innings (21 strike outs, 1 walk and 9 hits) before Magpies first sacker, Kevin “Lurch” Greatrex smacked him for a 2 run homer in the bottom of the nineteenth Port used 2 pitchers, Wayne Durbidge for the first 10 innings and Dave Mundy (not the Freo footballer)for the final 9. Page was, although the losing pitcher, declared man of the match.

    The match finished just after midnight. I was gutted especially since I had to face the music from Mrs Fisho when I went to collect her from my parents house where she was staying while I enjoyed myself at the big game. Fortunately i didn’t get the expected “tongue pie or cold shoulder” – well, not for long anyhow.

    There were several “what if” moments throughout – including both coaching and umpiring blunders to add spice.Over the years since, much has been written about this including books (written by me) about both page and Greatrex.

  15. Michael Viljoen says

    Beautiful summary.
    Enormous consequences. Great feats under pressure. Huge mistakes.
    The result, the heroes and the vanquished, ultimately determined by the Gods sometime before cricket’s dawn.
    Yet still, the armchair critics proudly scoff and condemn these mortals and their liabilities, proclaiming they would never have allowed themselves such costly errors.

  16. Very nice, e.r. Most enjoyable summary.
    I’ve always loved that Kipling quote at the end

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