Ben Stokes played a brilliant knock as England registered a one-wicket win to level the Ashes. (Image credit: Getty Images)
Ben Stokes had played slightly out of character on day 3 when England were holding fort. Joe Root and Joe Denly had hit fifties but England were still some distance away from the target of 359. In his first 66 balls, Stokes had hit just two runs. He was hit on the helmet by a bouncer from Josh Hazlewood. It might have been a struggle but England were prepared to fight it out. The aggression shown by Jonny Bairstow helped and he raised his scoring slightly. However, with the quick departures of Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes, Stokes buckled down and reached his fifty cautiously. Jofra Archer slogged some boundaries but when he and Stuart Broad fell in quick succession, Stokes had to do something different.
Jack Leach had smashed 92 as a night watchman against Ireland opening the innings. However, this was a different level of pressure and opposition. When Leach played out four fot balls against a fired-up James Pattinson, the time was ripe for Stokes to display a mixture of audaciousness and caution. At 286/9, England were still 73 runs behind. It needed a miracle and Stokes chose his moment to turn the momentum.
With Tim Paine employing a spread out field and bringing the fielders in for the last couple of balls of the innings, Stokes knew what he had to do. With Nathan Lyon bowling into the rough in the 117th over, the left-hander blasted Lyon for a six down the ground and then nudged a single to the leg side. When Stokes hit three runs and exposed Leach to the final ball which he played out well, England were starting to believe.
Lyon was punished in the next over when Stokes hit two further sixes, one to long on and one a switch-hit to deep cover to bring the equation down dramatically. In the 120th over, Stokes took a single off the second ball and displayed enough confidence in Leach to hang in there. The No.11 duly did and England needed under 50. The pressure was right back on Australia.
When Pat Cummins came on at the other end, Stokes looked to pierce the gaps in the field and he did successfully, taking two braces. When Cummins missed the length, he was clobbered for yet another six. Stokes was now in the zone where he believed England could do it. Josh Hazlewood, who had taken nine wickets in the match and who took 5/30 to bowl England out for 67 in the first innings, came onto bowl.
This was surely Australia's moment. But, Stokes showed he was the big man for the big occasion. By targeting Australia's best bowler in these conditions, England were now surging towards the total. A six and two fours, combined with a couple and a single ensured England had knocked off 19 runs off Australia's best bowler. With 18 runs needed but only one wicket remaining, the momentum was surely with England.
The 124th and 125th over encapsulated the moment when the force was with England. Cummins was hoicked to long leg by Stokes but Marcus Harris put a tough catch down. Stokes made the Australians pay with two fours and the equation was down to under 10. When Stokes blasted Lyon down the ground, England needed two runs and then two incidents took place which cost Australia dearly. Lyon missed a run-out off Leach and then the next ball, Stokes missed a sweep and Australia appealed for an LBW. Umpire Joel Wilson gave it not out and Australia did not have reviews.
Australia's poor revieweing and poor umpiring bit them hard and the Test was almost gone. Leach, who had hung in, nudged Cummins to square leg. The Test was tied. Stokes then unleashed a vicious drive through cover and England had achieved their highest chase in Test cricket. Given the moment, given the situation, Stokes' audacity and Leach's one run in the 76-run partnership is surely the moment when England's golden summer is prolonged. Along with the World Cup win, this win could result in the Ashes coming back to England's shores.