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Ashes alive: England knock off record chase as series scoreline stands at one-all

73 runs to win on a weary fourth day wicket of a Test match and you’re left with the 11th man against the strongest bowling attack in the world. Somewhere the fear of loss overcomes all the possibilities of winning yet, you continue to conquer the unconquerable and perhaps in the middle of the journey you realise that it is achievable, so, why not give it a go?

Ben Stokes, England’s World Cup hero, scripted an unforgettable history at Headingly by scoring a stunning century and stitching an unbelievable 76 runs stand with Jack Leach. It was the second-highest tenth-wicket stand to win a Test match. Stokes’ 135 not out guided England’s highest-ever successful fourth-innings run chase.

How did it all happen?

Getting all-out for 67 runs in the first innings, England was thrown to the backseat by the Aussies. The dream of a comeback in the third Test was all but shattered. On the other end, Australia, as usual, was marching ahead to conquer another battle which they almost won. Marnus Labuschagne’s gritty 80 run knock in the second innings took Australia to a reasonable total of 246 runs. England had an uphill task on hand with a target of 359 runs.

Carrying the first innings’ demons, England lost two early wickets in Rory Burns and Jason Roy for a mere 15 runs. England were already on the backfoot and Aussies were on the top. English captain, Joe Root struggling with his form had to come out of all the insecurities and play the brand of cricket England is known for. Awaiting a captain’s knock in the dire situation, England desperately needed a solid partnership for the third wicket. Fortune favours the brave. Joe Root and Joe Denly put up a 126 run stand.

218 runs shy from the target, Denly (50) holed out to Tim Paine and 18 runs later, Joe Root (77) went. The dreams were shattered and the Ashes was slipping from the hands.

The Heroics of Ben Stokes

Not certainly in a great position, England were crumbling from one end. With Bairstow, Buttler, Woakes, Archer and Broad, all back in the pavilion, Stokes was only left with Leach to take England over the line. Not so bad with the bat in hand, Leach scored 92 against Ireland last month. So, England to stand a chance, both had to bring their A-game.

Cricket might be cruel at times. Chasing the improbable with Aussie bowlers attacking from all possible angles, there was no way you can survive that long. But, going back to the hotel and pray to rain gods to wash out the last day’s play was certainly not in the mind. So, nothing to lose for Leach and Ben Stokes from there, Stokes took the onus and started smashing whatever came in his way.

Ben Stokes is no ordinary character. He has made England victorious on many occasions. World Cup 2019 is still fresh in our memories. Something unbelievable was needed to pull of this heist and if someone could? Ben Stokes should be his name.

Ben didn’t turn back and kept launching the red cherry until the game stopped. Out of 76 runs, Stokes scored 74 of them while Leach made the contribution of 1 run facing 17 balls. Stokes pulled off a game from Australia’s jaws. He has done it before and today it was special as Ashes 2019 is locked at 1-1.

Test cricket has been on a decline for last couple of years but games like this represents the beauty of the format. Every format has its charms still, nothing comes close to Tests when it comes to the ebbs and flow. It’s brutally amazing.

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

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