After Ben Stokes' scintillating knock at Headingley helped England level the Ashes, we revisit some of the greatest batting performances in cricket's oldest rivalry.
Cricket World Cup hero Ben Stokes scored a stunning 135 not out as England kept their Ashes hopes alive with a dramatic one-wicket win over Australia in the third Test at Headingley.
Stokes scored the winning four on Sunday in the afternoon session on Day 4 as England finished on 362/9 in their second innings — chasing what seemed an improbable 359 — after an unbeaten 76-run stand for the last wicket with Jack Leach, who scored only 1 run in the partnership.
It turned out to be the highest successful fourth-innings chase by England in a Test match.
Stokes' unbeaten 135 should undoubtedly find itself in the list of greatest Test knocks ever. The Ashes rivalry, the oldest in the sport, has witnessed some incredible performances over the years.
In light of Stokes' incredible feat in Leeds, we list some of the best batting performances in the Ashes. Take a look:
Ian Botham, 149 at Headingley, 1981
Stokes’ comparisons with the legendary English all-rounder only grew after his stunning innings on Sunday, for it was Botham was registered one of the greatest displays of courage and determination in the game, and played a major role in what is one of the greatest comebacks in sport.
England had conceded a 227-run first-innings lead, and were facing the prospect of an innings loss after crumbling to 135/7 in their second essay, before Botham took the attack to the Aussies in remarkable fashion, remaining unbeaten on 149 to help set the ‘Old Enemy’ a 130-run target. The fairytale was then completed by Bob Willis, whose haul of 8/43 took England to an 18-run triumph.
Mark Butcher, 173 at Headingley, 2001
Another Headingley entry in this list; Leodensians sure have witnessed some classic moments, including the finest moment of Mark Butcher’s 71-Test career, as well as England’s only bright moment in an otherwise disappointing campaign for hosts England.
Australia had already clinched the series in the third Test at Trent Bridge and were well on their way towards going 4-0 up after setting a 315-run target, and dismissing the English top two early on the final day. Butcher, however, turned the tide and made the tough chase look like a cakewalk, forging a 181-run stand with captain Nasser Hussain and helping the team win with six wickets to spare.
Ricky Ponting, 156 at Old Trafford, 2005
Another Ashes classic for the ages, one that served as a primary example of Ricky Ponting’s grit and steely resolve. After the stunning result at Edgbaston, Australia were faced with the improbable task of chasing 423 down with a little over a day to bat, and were 182/5 by the time Adam Gilchrist was dismissed.
Ponting rallied the middle and the lower order while batting for more than 400 minutes in a 275-ball knock, standing in the way of the Englishmen who were beginning to visualise their long-cherished dream of holding the coveted urn in their hands once again. The Aussie skipper departed with another four overs left for the close of play, with Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath stepping up and blocking away the remaining deliveries to secure a hard-fought draw.
Kevin Pietersen, 158 at The Oval, 2005
Kevin Pietersen was starting to make a name for himself around the time Australia toured England in 2005 for what turned out to be a historic series, but his 158 at the Oval was what made him a household name in the country, as well as an integral member of the English batting order for the next decade.
The hosts were 2-1 up heading into the final Test, and needed to bat the entire fifth day out in order to salvage a draw and regain the Ashes for the first time in 16 years. Instead of stonewalling his way through, Pietersen produced one of the most outrageous knocks, smashing 158 off 187 balls, his innings laced with fifteen fours and seven sixes, launching the nation into celebrations.
Alastair Cook, 235 at The Gabba, 2010
One of the defining moments of England’s victorious campaign in the 2010-11 Ashes Down Under — the last time a touring side won the Ashes — was Alastair Cook dominating the Australian attack on the fourth and the fifth days in the company of Andrew Strauss, and later Jonathan Trott.
England had conceded a 221-run first-innings lead at the Gabbatior — a venue notorious among touring sides as Australia’s fortress over the years — with a little more than two days left in the opening Test of the series.
Cook, however, made full use of the Brisbane pitch that had eased out after three days, and took full toll on the Aussie attack once he settled himself at the crease. England went on to pile a mammoth 517/1, with the each of the England top three recording three-figure scores.
With inputs from AP
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