A sensational batting performance from Ben Stokes. PA Wire/PA Images

Stokes stars as England beat Australia by one wicket to win third Test and keep Ashes alive

England required perfection to keep their series afloat and got just that courtesy of the 28-year-old’s performance.

BEN STOKES PLAYED an Ashes knock for the ages as England pulled off one of the greatest ever comebacks in the third Test to level the series against Australia at 1-1.

England, bowled out for a dismal 67 in an appalling first innings, looked dead and buried at 286-9 in their pursuit of an unlikely 359 on day four at Headingley as Australia had one hand firmly clasped on retaining the urn.

But Stokes clubbed eight sixes and 11 fours in a memorable unbeaten 135 that will go down in the pantheon of great knocks in Test cricket, as England completed their record run-chase in five-day cricket.

It evoked memories of Stokes’ heroics in the Cricket World Cup final just a month ago, when England defeated New Zealand in a Super Over thriller at Lord’s.

Just as in that game, there were several near misses in a nerve-wracking encounter that left a raucous crowd holding its breath.

Jack Leach – who gutted out 17 balls for just one run – should have been run out when a throw back to Nathan Lyon was dropped by the spinner with England’s number 11 well out of his crease.

Stokes himself looked pinned in front by Lyon, but the on-field decision was not out and with no reviews left Australia had no avenue to contest the call. But the day belonged to Stokes – who soaked up the adulation of an adoring Leeds crowd – as England kept the Ashes alive in the most remarkable and thrilling of circumstances.

Such scenes at Headingley seemed little more than a wild dream just two days ago when England were embarrassed by a rampant Australia.

england-v-australia-third-test-day-four-2019-ashes-series-headingley England's Ben Stokes and Jack Leach celebrate winning the third Ashes Test match at Headingley. Mike Egerton Mike Egerton

The stoic 126-run stand from Joe Root and Joe Denly on Saturday gave England the glimmer of hope they needed, but they were still facing a monumental task when play resumed the following day.

It was an even bigger mountain to climb when Root charged Lyon and saw an inside edge loop off the pads and lead to an unreal catch from David Warner diving to his left. Stokes and Jonny Bairstow batted through valiantly to lunch, the former needing 83 balls to reach double figures, but England fell apart early in the afternoon.

Bairstow, having moments earlier successfully overturned a caught behind, wastefully tried to cut a wide Josh Hazlewood delivery that picked out second slip.

Jos Buttler (1) trudged back not long after as a careless mix-up with Stokes led to a run out from Travis Head, before Chris Woakes (1) chipped to cover in the tamest of dismissals and Stuart Broad made a duck.

Jofra Archer (15) put in an entertaining cameo but it appeared just a matter of time until Australia were to be celebrating retaining the urn. However, Stokes further etched his name into England folklore.

Lyon was given the treatment by the all-rounder, including an unbelievable reverse slog-sweep into the stands and Hazlewood was smashed over the ropes twice in consecutive balls.

England hearts were in mouths when Stokes sliced Pat Cummins to third man, but Marcus Harris could not cling onto the ball on the run.

In the next over, Australia missed the run out on Leach and had a great shout for lbw against Stokes turned down having already wasted their second review.

An emotional Stokes made Australia pay, clubbing Cummins through the covers for four to complete the most stunning of turnarounds.

Brief scores

Australia 1st innings 179 (M Labuschagne 74, D Warner 61; J Archer 6-45)

England 1st innings 67 (J Hazlewood 5-30, P Cummins 3-23)

Australia 2nd innings 246 (M Labuschagne 80; B Stokes 3-56)

England 2nd innings 362-9 (B Stokes 135 no, J Root 77, J Denly 50; J Hazlewood 4-85)

Result: England won by one wicket

Series: Five-match series level at 1-1

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