Ben Stokes’ power hitting keeps England in the hunt at Headingley
Ben Stokes’ power-hitting and Stuart Broad’s dominance over David Warner kept England in with a shout on the second afternoon of the third Ashes Test at Headingley.
Just five days after from taking his side close at Lord’s with a brilliant 155, the captain once again carried the innings with a muscular 80, clubbing five sixes and six fours as wickets tumbled around him.
He was last man out as England made 237 all out, just 26 behind despite a flimsy showing from the top five. Broad then nicked off Warner for the second time in the match and the 17th time overall, as the tourists reached 29 for one in their second innings.
Australia captain Pat Cummins had earlier banked six for 91, standing tall despite the boos that have followed him to Leeds following last week’s stumping controversy. England’s bowling, meanwhile, was hampered by the absence of Ollie Robinson due to back spasms.
There was a sense of expectation in the air at the start of the day, with local heroes Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow unbeaten overnight with a fragile score of 68 for three.
Both men have two Test hundreds at their home ground and conspired to drop four catches between them on Thursday. Add in Bairstow’s much-discussed grievance over his stumping at Lord’s and the scene seemed set for the pair.
Instead, they barely left a dent. Root nicked the second ball of the morning to slip, too eager to play as Cummins left him no width to work with, and Bairstow was not far behind. Tempted to drive away from his body as Mitchell Starc slanted it towards the cordon, he was unable to exact any kind of revenge.
Stokes was fighting through the pain barrier to keep the contest alive, moving awkwardly as fresh niggles apparently added to his existing left knee problem.
At 87 for five, Stokes set himself for a rescue mission just five days after nailing 155 in a losing cause at Lord’s. He admitted at the pre-match press conference that the innings had taken “quite a bit out of me” and the evidence was there for all to see.
His movements were stiff and uncomfortable, with his longstanding left-knee issues apparently compounded by further problems, and he required treatment midway through the session.
But he stuck to the task, putting on a careful 44 with Moeen Ali before Cummins finally drew the latter into a careless hook. Chris Woakes was also undone by the short ball in the last over before lunch, leaving England with a sorely underpowered 142 for seven.
A 40-minute break allowed them to reassess and they came out with all guns blazing. In just 10.2 overs they piled on 95 runs and lost their last three wickets as the game romped along at speed.
Mark Wood got the show on the road, launching Starc for six over midwicket off the first ball of the session. The second was slashed for four, the third for six more and when he top-edged Cummins over fine-leg he had 24 off just six deliveries.
That was where his fun stopped, chipping straight up in the air looking for more of the same, but the tone was set. Starc dropped Stokes on 45, unable to hold on low after making good ground, and it was Starc himself who paid the price as Stokes guided him for three successive boundaries to pass 50.
An outstanding boundary catch from Steve Smith saw Broad become Cummins’ sixth victim, but the emergence of Robinson at number 11 merely raised Stokes’ temperature.
He blitzed Australia’s second-choice spinner Todd Murphy for five sixes in 14 balls – three back down the ground, one swept behind square and another picked up from outside off into the leg-side. He holed out going for another big hit, Murphy going flatter and wider.
Broad ensured England got a quick breakthrough in response, plowing a familiar furrow against the left-handed Warner and earning an equally familiar edge to slip.
Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne ensured no further losses, stretching the lead to 55 by tea.