A year ago, on August 25, Ben Stokes’ 135 not out brought England roaring back into the Ashes. Writers struggle to find enough adjectives for accounts of this innings.
At 0-1 down and 286-9 while chasing 359, England needed Stokes, its hero all summer long, to keep its hopes alive in the Test match.
Following the opening-game defeat at Edgbaston, and the first innings at Headingley where it was bowled out for 67, hopes of regaining the Ashes seemed to be up in smoke until one man, Ben Stokes, arrived at the crease.
Now, in an interview with Sportstar , Australian opener Marcus Harris relives the exhilarating ebbs and flows of the thrilling final hour.
At the break, before the run chase began, what was the message from coach Justin Langer and skipper Tim Paine?
The message at the break was just to be patient and stick to our plans. We had bowled them out cheaply in the first innings, but we knew it wouldn’t happen that easily in the second innings.
As the 10th-wicket partnership between Stokes and Jack Leach was playing out, was the plan to go after Leach or get rid of Stokes?
The way Ben Stokes was playing, we were obviously trying to get him off strike and give us a chance to bowl to Leach. But to his credit, Leach batted pretty well as well.
We also felt that Stokes could’ve easily hit one straight up in the air or made some sort of mistake, which he did, but unfortunately we didn’t take the opportunity.
Could you walk us through the final hour of the match? Where do you think the tables turned?
The last hour was a roller-coaster of emotions. Ben Stokes was batting very well, but we still all believed we could win. Once he started hitting the boundary more often and the crowd started really getting loud, it felt like it was going to be a close finish. Like I said before, it always felt like we could win.
But I think it was just one of those days where it doesn’t go your way. With having the home crowd on their side and Ben Stokes in the form of his life, I think that helped them get across the line.
Justin Langer wanted you all to sit down the next morning and watch the final moments on replay. What was the context of the meeting?
The main reason to have the meeting the next day was to review what had happened the day before. It was a tough meeting to sit in and review the entire last partnership. But it was also a good learning experience to review and see where we maybe could’ve done things differently.
I think, in hindsight, it was a good thing for us to sit through it straightaway the next day so that we could deal with what had just happened and put it to bed.
Do the Aussies feel that for all their collective effort in the Ashes, at times one great England all-rounder, be it Ian Botham, Andrew Flintoff or Stokes, dashes their plans?
No, I don’t think we have had our plans dashed by English all-rounders. Yes, at times in the history of the Ashes the English have had some great moments and series. But even in the latest series we still managed to retain the Ashes on their home soil and we should’ve won the series.
Lastly, what was the experience like for you, going through such a high-octane series and coming back home with the urn?
It was a great series to be a part of. As an Australian, (to win) the Ashes in England is as big as it gets for us, so to be a part of that was great. To watch the way guys like Steve Smith and Pat Cummins played in the series was great, and just to be a part of the team that retained the Ashes was brilliant and something I will cherish forever.
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