The Ashes 2023: Ben Stokes unable to give England win over Australia at Lord’s


Yet another staggering century from Ben Stokes was not enough to carry England to an astonishing second-Test victory over Australia at Lord’s in one of the most incredible and controversial finishes in the history of the game.

In an effort up there with his match-winning knocks against Australia at Headingley four years ago and in the World Cup final against New Zealand on this ground, England captain Stokes belted 155 in what threatened to become the greatest innings ever played in Test cricket.

Supported by the courageous Stuart Broad, Stokes added 108 for the seventh wicket in little more than 20 overs, but finally miscued Josh Hazlewood with England 70 adrift of their target of 371.

He left to a rousing standing ovation and, without their inspirational skipper, England were bowled out for 327 to give Australia victory by 43 runs and a 2-0 series lead.

Stokes and Broad, the fiercest of Ashes competitors, were fuelled by a hugely contentious stumping of Jonny Bairstow, which left England needing 178 runs with just four wickets in hand.

Believing the ball to be dead, Bairstow wandered out of his ground as wicketkeeper Alex Carey under-armed the ball at the stumps. Australia celebrated and Bairstow was given out by TV umpire Marais Erasmus.

As the furious Bairstow departed, Lord’s showered Australia with boos that would last for the rest of the day – some players were confronted by spectators in the Long Room, for which the Marylebone Cricket Club issued an apology.

On the field, Stokes channelled his frustration into some stunning hitting, hammering 38 runs from the next 16 balls he faced after the Bairstow dismissal and clubbing Cameron Green for three successive sixes to reach his century.

Stokes, who was dropped on 77 and twice on 114, made Australia pay with a total of nine maximums – a record for an Ashes innings.

But this was a miracle beyond even Stokes and Australia now need to win only one of the remaining three Tests to take victory in an Ashes series in this country for the first time in 22 years.

Somehow, players on both sides must regroup for the third Test at Headingley on Thursday.

Pace bowler Matthew Potts and leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed, who was called up as cover for Moeen Ali, have dropped out of England’s squad for the third Test.

Australia almost pay for poking the bear

Even by the standards of past Ashes dramas or daring Stokes feats, this was utterly sensational and will last longer in the memory than the eventual outcome of this series.

Whether or not the Bairstow decision was correct, or within the spirit of the game, Australia made the error of awakening Stokes and almost paid the ultimate price.

From England’s 114-4 overnight, Stokes had to overturn being given lbw to Mitchell Starc on 39 in a stand of 132 with Ben Duckett, who played one hook too many and was well caught by Carey off Hazlewood for 83.

The wicket punctured English hope and seemed to put Australia on course for victory, only for the Bairstow controversy to change the course of the final day.

With Broad’s determination to survive matched only by his eagerness to antagonise the Australians, Stokes slipped into a gear not seen since Headingley 2019.

When he belted a return catch through the hands of Pat Cummins, it felt like a personal blow directed at his opposite number.

Time and again he swatted enormous blows over the leg side. The three hits off Green, one of which was dropped over the boundary by Starc, were celebrated by increasingly loud cheers from a Lord’s crowd that had reached fever pitch. The third six gave Stokes his 13th Test ton – he had taken 35 from 10 Green deliveries.

The arguing continued as the players left for lunch, Australia jeered all the way. Usman Khawaja and David Warner confronted spectators in the Long Room.

The break could have derailed England’s momentum, but Stokes imperiously hit Hazlewood’s second ball after the resumption back over his head for six and, in the same over, Steve Smith dropped a sitter at deep square leg, while a diving Carey just missed a glove down the leg side.

When Stokes was on strike, Australia had all nine fielders on the boundary, so he hit the ball into the crowd – twice more off Hazlewood. The fired-up Broad was trusted with one or two deliveries each over, bravely fending off bouncers. Australia, without injured spinner Nathan Lyon, had their minds scrambled into poor plans with the ball and mistakes in the field.

Just as Australia were out of ideas and Stokes was in complete control, an error came out of nowhere. A miscue off Hazlewood looped up for Carey and the excitement and expectation in Lord’s was instantly deflated.

Ollie Robinson was out on the hook to Cummins, Broad in the same way to Hazlewood for 11 from 36 balls.

James Anderson, in what could be his last Lord’s Test, was cheered all the way to the crease and took a sickening blow to the helmet off Starc.

Anderson added 25 for the last wicket with Josh Tongue before Tongue was bowled by Starc and the victorious Australians were again barracked off the field.

Was the Bairstow decision correct?

The Bairstow decision has already become one of the most infamous incidents in Ashes history, a moment that incensed the usually genteel Lord’s crowd. On more than one occasion, there were chants of “cheat, cheat, cheat”.

The laws of the game state: “The ball shall be considered to be dead when it is clear to the bowler’s end umpire that the fielding side and both batters at the wicket have ceased to regard it as in play.”

Carey clearly did not think the ball was dead – he threw it as soon as he could. Bairstow did believe it to be dead, with the added variable being the end of the over.

The key seems to be standing umpire Ahsan Raza, who was not watching the action and preparing to return a cap to bowler Green as the ball hit the stumps.

Though the decision appears correct by the letter of the law, Australia could have opted to withdraw their appeal.

That they did not almost cost them the match. It may yet have longer ramifications in this series.

England on the brink despite Stokes heroics

This is already an Ashes series for the ages, but the fact remains that England have to come from 2-0 down in order to lift the urn – something they have never done before.

The heroics of the final day came too late at Lord’s. On the previous four they failed to take advantage of bowling on a dank first day and threw away wickets in their first innings with some infuriating batting. England dropped catches and, even at the beginning of Australia’s second innings, had favourable conditions in which to bowl.

Moving forwards, England have problems to solve. There are fitness doubts over Ollie Pope, Mark Wood and Moeen Ali, and there is a need to refresh a pace attack that includes a tired-looking Anderson.

But, what has the final day at Lord’s done to galvanise England and damage an Australia team that previously looked unstoppable?

The teams head to Leeds knowing England will receive fervent support and the Australians a hostile reception.

Headingley is the home of famous Ashes comebacks. England now need to start the most unlikely of them all. (BBC)

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