Australia’s Steve Smith was the first player on Sunday to offer England skipper Ben Stokes commiserations after the latter’s dismissal at Lord’s after a brilliant 155.
Smith knew the blunder he had committed soon after dropping Stokes at deep square leg when he was on 114.
Stokes was single-handedly taking the match away from the visitors, which might have brought back memories from the 2019 Headingley Test. Then, chasing a daunting 359 to win against the same opponent, Stokes had smashed an unbeaten 135 to register a one-wicket win for his team.
If that performance from 2019 was stupendous, his innings on Sunday was stupendous on steroids.
Resuming the day with the overnight score of 114-4, and needing 257 more runs to win, England would have needed a miracle innings from someone.
Stokes stepped up and led from the front. But this innings needed the fuel to ignite the fire, which came in the form of wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow’s dismissal.
In controversial fashion, Bairstow was run out by Alex Carey after he casually wandered out of the crease when the ball was still in play.
Words were exchanged between the competing teams, but third umpire Marais Erasmus rightly adjudged Bairstow out.
Stokes was livid and even held discussions with the on-field umpires, as the crowd got into it with one of the chants being “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, cheat, cheat, cheat.”
Batting on 62 at the time, Stokes vented his frustration at bowler Cameron Green smashing 14 runs in that over, including three boundaries. The southpaw took Green on again in his next over, this time hitting three consecutive sixes, the last one taking him to his 13th Test hundred.
Stokes had previously got another lease of life when he smashed one back at Pat Cummins, who could not hold on to the ball hit with such velocity.
Stokes, with Stuart Broad for company, seemed to be taking England to a historic win at Lord’s. But the dream was crushed soon after the drinks break when Stokes skied a Josh Hazlewood delivery, with the catch completed by Carey. At this point, England still needed 70 runs to win.
Australian bowlers ensured that the duration of the subsequent batters’ stay at the crease remained short.
The 2019 Test match at Headingley had a similar script written, with Stokes standing tall and later batting alongside Jack Leach. Leach would remain unbeaten on 1, scoring a run that would go down in history as the ‘greatest single ever taken’.