Posted

August 26, 2019 03:24:23

In most Test matches, which last for up to five days and include thousands of deliveries, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint a moment or two as decisive.

But this was not just any Test match.

As Ben Stokes plundered his way through an innings for the ages, Australia’s grip on the game weakened rapidly — but the tourists crucially still had opportunities to snatch victory from the ever-closing jaws of defeat.

In the space of 12 balls, four incidents conspired to help Stokes and England over the line, and potentially cost Australia the Ashes.

Harris drops Stokes

One of the many amazing parts of Stokes’s knock was that it was, for the most part, completely chanceless. There was an edge squirted wide of slip off Nathan Lyon long before the chase became interesting, but aside from that he didn’t give Australia a sniff.

Well, almost. The first ball of the 124th over, bowled by Pat Cummins, saw Stokes go for yet another lofted drive back over the bowler’s head, and in a rare error of skill, get a thick outside edge down toward third man.

Marcus Harris was in position, and rushing in as quickly as his legs would take him. He dived forward, got a good pair of hands to it … but spilled the ball.

It was a moment scarily reminiscent of Edgbaston 2005, when Simon Jones dropped Michael Kasprowicz in nearly identical fashion with Australia requiring 15 runs to win with one wicket in hand — England needed 17 at this point.

The chance was tough, but still a chance. Jones said he felt “the worst I’ve ever felt in my life” after his Edgbaston drop, so spare a thought for Harris now.

Australia wastes its last review

Just five balls later, the last of that same Cummins over, the Australians got a rare chance to bowl at number 11 Jack Leach.

After sending down a myriad of short-pitched and length balls, Cummins finally fired in a yorker. It hit Leach on the foot, but well outside the leg stump, and the ensuing appeal was half-hearted at best.

And then, inexplicably, Cummins and Paine decided to review the not-out decision. It was the last review Australia had available.

Naturally, a brief glance at the replay showed the ball had pitched outside leg, struck Leach outside leg and probably would have continued on to miss leg — a terrible review, optimistic at best and unforgiveable at worst.

It meant Australia now had no recourse should a poor decision go against it in the final phase of this compelling game.

Lyon blows the run out

The following over, the 125th, Lyon bowled a beauty. He had Stokes largely bamboozled — well, aside from the six he launched down the ground to bring England within two runs of victory and one run of tying.

The pressure of closing the deal seemed to be getting to Stokes a little, and never more so than the over’s penultimate delivery. Stokes lapped a reverse sweep behind point and, instinctively, Leach took off for the single to try to get Stokes on strike for the next over.

But the run was never on. Stokes tried to tell Leach to abort, but it was surely too late. Hazlewood gathered the ball, and threw it to Lyon at the non-striker’s end perfectly. Leach was well short of his ground.

And then … nothing. Lyon, in his haste to return the ball to the stumps and spark wild celebrations, fumbled. The ball went clean through his hands and Leach got back safely.

It was a moment that conjured up images of another Edgbaston classic, this time the 1999 World Cup final, when a crazy running mix-up handed Australia a tie when South Africa was certain to win. Only then, Adam Gilchrist managed to hold on to the ball.

Umpire Wilson strikes back, and there’s nothing Australia can do

The run-out was the moment, right? That was the chance, the big event Australians will dissect and bemoan and lament for a generation.

Nope, that came the very next ball.

Lyon pitched up, on about leg stump, and Stokes attempted to sweep aggressively, so much so he just about lost his balance and fell over himself.

Stokes was struck on the pad by a ball that pitched in line, and was straightening with Lyon’s natural off-spin. He hadn’t hit it, and it wasn’t too high. The appeal could be heard back Down Under.

But umpire Joel Wilson shook his head. Before Lyon had even turned to beg the question, Wilson was already turning him down.

Lyon collapsed to the turf in the sudden realisation that not only had the decision gone against him, there was no higher authority he could turn to — the speculative review six balls earlier had taken that opportunity from him.

Replays confirmed Australia’s fears. Stokes was out. As stone-dead leg before wicket as you could possibly be. What Wilson had seen, nobody knows, but if not for a moment of complete recklessness the over before, the DRS would have handed Australia a one-run victory.

Instead, the images of glory are of Stokes lashing Cummins through cover and raising his arms, triumphant. An innings for the ages got the result its quality deserved, but not without some serious help along the way.

Topics:

ashes,

cricket,

sport,

england,

united-kingdom

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