Chasing 362 to win, England came to the wicket on Sunday morning requiring another 203, with eight wickets in hand, with Root on 73, and Ben Stokes with two to his name. With Root dispatched for 77, a dogged battle ensued, with Australia gaining the upper hand. When the bespectacled Joe Leach, the number eleven batsman and last hope, strode to the middle to join the defiant Ben Stokes, England, who had begun the day favoured by the bookmakers, still required 77 to win.  It was as good as over, and the engraver of the Ashes urn was standing by.

Ben Stokes

The Australians had not reckoned for the Ben Stokes Show. No one had, not even Stokes. As Stokes later disclosed, he decided to “give it a go.” And go he did. In complete contrast to the previous evening when he laboured over fifty deliveries for a brace, he now played like a man possessed and with an incredible display of controlled aggression Stokes smacked seven sixes, including a reverse sweep and a scoop over the wicketkeeper.

Stokes became the living embodiment of the opening line from Rudyard Kipling’s If poem; “If you can keep your head when all about you  Are losing theirs and blaming it on you”…

With the Headingley crowd roaring him on, Stokes tempered his shot selection while focusing on “five for me, one for Leachy” as he farmed the Australian bowling attack. Foregoing any celebration upon passing his eighth Test century with a boundary, Stokes remained focused on the task at hand; winning the match and keeping the Ashes alive. The next two deliveries from Josh Hazlewood were promptly dispatched for six and then a scrambled two brought up a remarkable fifty partnership in 6.1 overs.

Down at the other end, Leach, who appeared to spend more time cleaning his glasses, was the ideal foil, stoutly defending his wicket and scampering for quick singles. He had yet to trouble the scorers at this stage.

The gap was closing rapidly, and what had seemed a certain Australian victory had became an England possibility. The target was now less than twenty.

The Hollywood script was then unfurled. Stokes is dropped on the boundary, Australia wastes their last DRS review on an appeal for lbw against Leach, the third delivery of the 124th over is lofted for six by Stokes, just over the outstretched fingers of a leaping fielder, two required for the win. Two balls later, Leach scrambles down the wicket and should have been run out by a mile, only for Lyon to drop the return at the bowler’s end. The last delivery of the over brings an appeal for lbw, turned down by the umpire. Australia, regrettably are out of reviews, as the replay later confirmed that Stokes should have been given out.

Three balls later, as Stokes can barely bring himself to look, Leach pushes pass the short leg fieldsman, and sprints for his first run, as the scores are levelled. Stokes promptly whacks a boundary to complete the honours. The Australians, to a man, stride over to Stokes to congratulate him on his astounding performance.

It is only the fourth occasion and the first since the19th century that a team has made less than 70 runs and gone on to win a Test match. Stokes’ innings has naturally evoked memories of Ian Botham’s swashbuckling heroics also at Headingley, against the same opponents back in 1981, as the British media have labelled the victory ‘Miracle II at Headingley.’

Over in Antigua, the West Indians were far from evoking memories of their successful run chase at Headingley two years ago, crumpling to 15 for 5 in less than eight overs, before the last pair of Kemar Roach and Miguel Cummins added 50 to get the score to the century mark. It was India’s biggest away win as the West Indies suffered yet another embarrassing defeat, this time by the huge margin of 318 runs.

Let’s hope they spent Monday, which was the scheduled last day for the Test, looking at a tape of England’s gritty fightback to win the Test, paying particular attention to Stokes’ shot selection, an endemic problem for West Indian top order batsmen.

Feverish searches for superlatives and comparisons have been conducted to describe Ben Stokes’ innings. David Gower, the former England Captain, himself a participant in 117 Test matches and a television commentator of long standing, in a television interview the morning after summed it up as “… from the Realms of Fantasy.”