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Aussies 2-0 up despite sensational Stokes ton as Lord's erupts over run out controversy, cheating accusations

2nd July, 2023
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2nd July, 2023
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Australia have withstood another extraordinary Ben Stokes onslaught, and a furious crowd at Lord’s, to take a 2-0 Ashes series lead, taking the second Test by 43 runs after a fifth day as dramatic as any in cricket’s history.

Stokes’ stunning 155, single-handedly bringing England back into the match with nine sixes and a century partnership with Stuart Broad for the seventh wicket, was the headline act: demolishing the Australian attack in a repeat performance of his infamous heroics four years ago, the only blemish on his latest masterclass that this time, he wouldn’t see his team home.

But the day’s biggest talking point was Jonny Bairstow’s dismissal, the wicketkeeper stumped for 10 when he wandered out of his crease after ducking a Cameron Green bouncer, only for Alex Carey to throw the stumps down.

The incident would light a fuse in an already raucous crowd, with the Marylebone Cricket Club forced to issue an apology after the Australians copped a cavalcade of abuse on their way back through the Long Room for the lunch break.

Ending with a Mitchell Starc yorker that took out Josh Tongue’s leg stump, a spiteful day’s play was at last done: but the repercussions will likely reverberate through the rest of the series, especially in light of the short-ball tactics used to an unprecedented degree by both teams throughout the five days at Lord’s.

Speaking after the match, Stokes said he would have withdrawn an appeal had something similar occurred while England were bowling, while a furious coach Brendon McCullum told the BBC’s Test Match Special he ‘can’t imagine we’ll be having a beer any time soon’ with the Australian team.

“If the shoe was on the other foot… I would have to have a deep think around the whole spirit of the game,” Stokes told the BBC after the game.

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“For Australia it was a match-winning moment, and would I want to win a game in that manner? I think the answer for me is no.”

However, Australian captain Pat Cummins staunchly defended both the run out and the decision to uphold their appeal.

“It’s a rare dismissal. There was nothing untoward or sneaky,” he said during the post-match presentation. 

“Jonny was leaving his crease every ball. He did it four or five balls. You’re meant to stay in your crease in cricket. Bairstow has tried it with a lot of our guys.

“I thought it was fair (play). You see Jonny do it all the time (when keeping), he did it day one to (David) Warner, he did it in 2019 to Steve (Smith), it’s a really common thing for keepers to do.

Ben Stokes is consoled by Steve Smith after being dismissed for 155 runs.

Ben Stokes is consoled by Steve Smith after being dismissed for 155 runs. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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“Alex Carey, full credit to him. He saw the opportunity a few balls beforehand and rolled at the stumps, Jonny left his crease and we’ll leave the rest to the umpires.”

After all the drama, though, it is one of Australia’s greatest Test victories of the modern era; having lost the toss and been dealt the worst of the batting conditions throughout the match, as well as losing frontline spinner Nathan Lyon midway through the first innings, to secure a second consecutive win is every bit as magnificent an achievement as the thrilling two-wicket escape in the third Test at Edgbaston.

With England resuming on 4/114, still needing 257 for victory, Stokes took no time to take the fight to Australia.

Taking Starc for a pair of boundaries in the day’s third over, he and Ben Duckett continued on from their evening partnership to take the deficit under 200, the captain bringing up his half-century along the way.

With Duckett looking untroubled on his way to 83 – the only hairy moment a Stokes LBW wrongly given by umpire Ahsan Raza and immediately overturned – the opener would fall, for the second time in the match, to the short ball.

Gloving a Hazlewood bouncer behind, Carey – who had set up down the leg side rather than the traditional wicketkeeper’s position outside off – was perfectly placed to pluck a one-hander, his latest moment of magic.

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But a more extraordinary moment was soon at hand: with Bairstow on 10, a Cameron Green bouncer was ducked under, with the England keeper striding down the wicket – only to be left shocked when Carey, anticipating such an act, threw down the stumps from behind.

There was no doubt about the wicket, nor its legality, but with a fuming Bairstow forced to depart, an already animated crowd turned ferocious, with debate raging everywhere about the spirit of the game.

Arriving to the crease, Broad was quick to get the point across to the Australians in heated verbal exchanges with Cummins and Marnus Labuschagne, but it was the other end where the greater headaches were being felt.

Riled up by Bairstow’s dismissal and out of recognised batters, it was time for Stokes to go. On 62 at the fall of the sixth wicket, with 178 still required, the English talisman would, for the second time in his career, rain fire down on the visitors.

Taking on the continued short-ball barrage with three fours off Green, but the more explosive onslaught was an over away. With the all-rounder continuing to dig them in, Stokes’ pull was imperious, twice mowing him into the mid-wicket stands on either side of a top edge down to fine leg that Starc was unable to take cleanly or keep inside the ropes.

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The third would bring up Stokes’ hundred, his fourth against Australia and third in the fourth innings; with 136 needed, the crowd began to believe – especially with the visitors handing hittable balls on a platter as half-tracker after half-tracker went the distance.

Lunch arrived at a badly needed time for Australia to regroup, though hopes of an incident-free lunch were dashed when Usman Khawaja was confronted by a member walking through the Long Room, the most vocal of the legion of booing supporters as things officially got ugly.

Any thoughts, though, that lunch would break Stokes’ concentration were swiftly dashed; he’d deposit Hazlewood over long on second ball back, then add two more in the right-armer’s next over.

Flashpoint came two balls later: Stokes once again looking to leg but miscuing, the ball hanging in the air for seemingly an eternity… and Smith, of all people, would shell a simple chance running in from deep backward square.

The crowd rejoiced, the Australians despaired; unlike at Headingley in 2019, this was a golden chance to see the back of Australia’s greatest nemesis, squandered.

With Starc bafflingly absent from the attack, Broad too joined the fun, helping a Hazlewood bouncer down to fine leg to conclude a 17-run over; the runs required down to a more than gettable 103.

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With every fielder on the boundary, the runs began to dry up; it would take Stokes another six overs to add to his maximum tally, the runs whittled down via singles as he took care to farm the strike.

The Australians, all at sea early in the onslaught, worked out a plan: dry bowling, wide of the stumps and mixing up lengths and pace, would do as they couldn’t four years ago, and stop the rot.

Two more leg side hoicks off the recalled Starc, though, brought the required runs into the 80s, then the 70s, as the hundred partnership was raised – Broad’s contribution 11.

Stokes’ 150 was brought up with a clever dab through point, perfectly placed into the deep for two; a milestone greeted with rapturous applause from the crowd and the England balcony, and barely acknowledged by the captain himself.

In the end, it wasn’t the bowling, nor the wicket, that brought the masterclass to an end, but fatigue. With Stokes appearing to cramp and the Australians sticking to the cause with tight lines restricting his ability to hit to leg, the exhausted champion would make his fatal mistake.

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With 70 still to get, a Hazlewood lifter caught Stokes’ top edge looking to hook; where previously even his mishits had sailed majestically into the stands, this would only go up, with Carey moving around to safely pouch the chance.

Smith’s show of support for a disconsolate Stokes summed up the mood; the England great defeated, but unbowed until the end.

There were still three wickets to get; Ollie Robinson, though, would manage only one run before skying a top edge taken by Smith in the deep, the chance far trickier than his earlier one to drop Stokes.

Celebrating accordingly, the Australians were now just two wickets away and back in the driver’s seat; having resisted gamely for two hours and 36 balls, Broad would fall next.

Top-edging a Hazlewood bouncer at last, Green would take the catch low down at fine leg; remarkably given the start to the day, three wickets had fallen for just one run.

Anderson and Tongue would delay the inevitable, wearing body blows to hold off Australia’s victory – Anderson wearing the most brutal blow when he charged into a Starc bouncer that hit him flush in the helmet.

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What would follow are 20 of the most maddening minutes any Australian supporter will ever witness; as the quicks continually bowled short at Anderson and Tongue, the pair would wear multiple body blows, back away and swing wildly, adding 25 hair-tearing runs.

One Tongue clip for two was played almost off the pitch, such was the distance he had backed away expecting the short ball – and despite all three stumps exposed, it seemed Green didn’t get the memo.

With Australia also inexplicably not taking the new ball, Starc would finally end the torment, at last targeting the pegs as Tongue, once again backing away, was castled.

It was controversial, it was dramatic, it was farcical, and it was extraordinary: but Australia, after two of the craziest Tests in Ashes history, are 2-0 up in the series, and need only to win or draw once more in the final three to retain the Ashes.

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