Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting said Ben Stokes' remarkable innings was as good as anything he has seen in Test cricket, as England levelled the Ashes in sensational circumstances.

England were 286-9 in pursuit of 359 at Headingley and staring down the barrel of a 2-0 deficit that would have seen Australia retain the urn with two matches to spare.

But Stokes played one of the great Test innings and his unbeaten 135 steered England to the unlikeliest of one-wicket victories in front a pumped-up crowd on Sunday.

Ponting was effusive in his praise when assessing Stokes' performance on Sky Sports and stated the all-rounder did not get one decision wrong.

"I'm not sure I've seen anything better than that on a Test ground, to be honest," he said. 

"He scored two off 64 balls, but we always felt that if he was there then England were going to be in with a chance to win.

"Deep down he knew that as well. He wanted to be the man to be there at the end regardless of how long it took.

"Some of that hitting today - when it was 73 to win and nine down - he had to go there and then he pulled it off. That was brilliant.

"Decision-making plays such a big part in any innings that you play. He got every decision right today under extreme pressure - the way that he hit the boundaries and maintained the strike."

The fourth Test begins at Old Trafford on September 4, with the series now locked at 1-1.

Joe Root says Ben Stokes' heroics against Australia must act as a marker for his team-mates in the remainder of the Ashes.

England levelled the 2019 series at 1-1 with a dramatic one-wicket win at Headingley on Sunday that owed much to a masterful 135 not out from all-rounder Stokes.

Captain Root had helped set the platform for the victory with 77 but, when Jos Buttler was run out following a mix-up with Stokes, England's hopes of keeping the series alive looked slim.

Australia were on the brink of retaining the Ashes when Stuart Broad fell to James Pattinson but last man Jack Leach made a gritty one not out as Stokes went into one-day mode to see England to their target of 359.

Stokes was also the star when England lifted the Cricket World Cup earlier this year at Lord's and Root wants England to take inspiration from his latest contribution with two Tests still to play.

"We said at the start of the day we just had to believe," Root said at the post-match presentation. 

"We have witnessed some freakish things this summer during the World Cup and I didn't think we would see something so similar happen during the Ashes.

"It was an incredible game of cricket, an incredible atmosphere, Test cricket is alive and kicking, as is this Ashes series. It is fabulous to be able to stand here, be 1-1 all in this series and take all of this in.

"To try and sum up Stokes' innings in words is impossible. He has got previous and he has got that in the bank, he had to call upon all that but to stay as calm and collected as he did in the moment it took a great amount of skill, courage and belief in his own ability. It is a fabulous marker for everyone.

"I am still trying to get my head around everything, it was just amazing. When you are on the right end of these sorts of results it carries a lot of weight. Hopefully it can make a big difference.

"Ben deserves all the plaudits and adulation that he gets given."

England and Australia resume the series at Old Trafford for the penultimate Test of the series, with the action starting on September 4.

Ian Botham hailed Ben Stokes as England's "special one" after his century heroics at Headingley kept the home team alive in the Ashes.

In a performance that evoked memories of Botham's vintage 1981 innings in Leeds, Stokes tore into the Australian attack to transform a match that looked lost.

England's hopeless 67 all out in their first innings left them well off the pace, and when Australia set them 359 to pull off victory it looked highly likely to be out of reach.

When Stuart Broad was ninth man out on 286, England were still 73 short, but Stokes rose to the challenge.

An innings that was built on a foundation of early patience transformed into a Stokes big-hitting masterclass as he repeatedly heaved Australian bowlers to the boundary, his 135 not out including 11 fours and eight sixes.

"It takes a remarkable man," Botham said on Sky Sports. "I said this morning that somebody had to front up and somebody has to be strong.

"I've banged Ben Stokes' drum for a long time now and I know other players, when they've seen him, you think there's something special.

"He's the special one, he is very, very valuable to cricket full stop, not just England."

Botham expressed his fear about the future of Test cricket, given the rise of the limited-overs game, but he believes performances such as that of Stokes can draw much-needed attention to the five-day format.

"Today and maybe every so often you need something really special like that," Botham said. "What he did today, the whole country will be up for it now. You'll see kids playing in every park corner."

Former England opener Geoffrey Boycott said the "magical" innings was a highlight for him of a life watching cricket, calling it "the best I've seen in over 50 years".

Shane Warne, Australia's former superstar leg-spinner, said of Stokes: "He's one of those guys you want in the trenches with you.

"He's one of those guys who trains harder than I've ever seen anyone train.

"He's an amazing cricketer. He's a special talent. You can have all that but still when the opportunity presents itself you need someone to take it.

"If you were to choose one guy in that England side to try to get it done like that, you would choose Ben Stokes.

"But you still have to get it done. It's easy to say all that but to get it done the way he did was just unbelievable."

Jack Leach joked he was distracted by Ben Stokes not being able to watch him bat as England completed one of the great Ashes Test wins against Australia.

Stokes made a magnificent 135 not out as England triumphed by one wicket at Headingley on Sunday, levelling the series despite making just 67 in their first innings.

Leach played a vital supporting role despite making a single run as part of the 76 partnership that saw England home in front of a raucous Leeds crowd.

While Stokes thrashed Australia's bowlers around the park to rapidly reduce the runs needed, Leach was able to survive - despite his nervous partner being unable to watch.

"It put me off a little bit!" Leach told Sky Sports of Stokes looking away.

"He said he couldn't watch one ball and then when another was coming in I could see he couldn't watch again. I was like, 'have a bit of faith!'

"It's a big boost, it's 1-1 now with all to play for. We were desperate to win the game and somehow we pulled it off so it was very special.

"It was a very special feeling. Stokesy was unbelievable. It was like nothing I've ever seen before. And the crowd was insane.

"[Stokes] didn't really say a lot. When I first went in it was about him having most of the strike and being ready to run two. Then when I had to face a ball I had to break it down and get through one ball at a time."

Leach, who made 92 against Ireland in another comeback win for England in July, became a cult hero with his idiosyncratic approach.

The spinner regularly paused to wipe his glasses clean before taking strike, earning a standing ovation from the Headingley fans every time he survived an over.

"I know I look stupid out there but we got the job done," Leach said. "I'd take back that 92 for one not out here."

Tim Paine admitted Ben Stokes was "too good" for Australia after the all-rounder played one of the great Test innings to help England claim a remarkable win at Headingley that levelled the Ashes.

Australia needed just one more wicket on day four to take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series and retain the urn with two matches to play.

But Stokes evoked memories of his heroics in last month's Cricket World Cup final with a scarcely believable 135 not out as England chased down 359 – their highest fourth-innings total in a Test win.

There were more than a few nervy scrapes along the way with Marcus Harris just failing to cling onto a catch when Stokes undercooked one and the England star was given not out when seemingly trapped lbw by Nathan Lyon with Australia out of reviews.

Australia skipper Paine conceded it was a tough defeat to take but played tribute to Stokes' knock and insisted his side can still get the job done in the remaining two Tests.

"It's hard to take, obviously, losing that from that position is difficult but you have got to tip your hat sometimes," Paine said at the post-match presentation after a day of high drama. 

"I thought Ben Stokes played an unbelievable innings and in the end it was too good for us. That's probably the best Test innings I've seen and the rest of the team thought the same thing.

"We thought we had enough runs. I thought our bowlers did a tremendous job [on Saturday] to get us in the position that we were. 

"We thought that if we continued that this morning we'd create enough chances to win the game. In the end we probably did but Joe Denly and Joe Root [who made a century stand on day three] were both excellent and kept them in the hunt.

"Overall I thought it was a terrific Test match. When Ben is at the crease you are always worried. 

"There are always probably things you could have done differently but cricket is a game of inches. But it's not the end of the world. 

"We are here to win the series and we've still got two opportunities to show what we're made of."

Ben Stokes said his match-winning century at Headingley was "right up there" with his role in England's Cricket World Cup triumph.

England kept the Ashes alive with a thrilling one-wicket win over Australia in the third Test - Stokes the hero after a brilliant 135 not out.

He was also England's key man in the World Cup final against New Zealand on July 14, and six weeks on from that success he was the toast of the team again, with the hosts drawing level at 1-1 with two Tests to play.

Asked how it compared to the World Cup experience, all-rounder Stokes said on Sky Sports: "It's right up there. We had to win this game to stay in the Ashes and we've managed to do it.

"We've got to move on to the next game now. We've managed to keep our hopes alive of doing the double.

"We're going to take a lot of momentum. It's nice having a break to get away and recharge the batteries and hopefully hit the ground running again in Manchester [in the fourth Test, starting on September 4].

"It's unbelievable, one I'll never forget. I'll just have to take it all in because I'm not sure that'll ever happen again. That was one of the top two feelings I've ever had on a cricket field."

Stokes said the key to his innings was the mindset to "just never give up really ... it's not over until it's over".

When last man Jack Leach came to the crease at 286-9, England were 73 runs short of their target.

Leach made one not out, as Stokes blazed boundaries around the ground, including one astonishing reverse slog-sweep for six.

Stokes said: "When Leachy came in it was pretty clear what had to be done.

"Leachy's done it before – a super nightwatchman, ended up getting 92 [in the Lord's Test against Ireland] – so I backed him knowing what he had to do.

"I couldn't watch the balls going down. I was just waiting to see what happened and ... phew, man.

"When [the victory target] got down to the 20s, I started thinking I could probably rein it in a little bit, but when it was up in the 70s, 60s, 50s, I thought I had to really try and go. I was so in the zone of what I had to do."

Ben Stokes played an Ashes knock for the ages as England pulled off one of the greatest comebacks of all time in the third Test to level the series against Australia at 1-1. 

Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow's unbroken 79-run stand had England believing they could keep the Ashes alive by recording an incredible win over Australia at Headingley.

Chasing 359 for victory in the third Test - a target which would represent England's highest successful chase in the longest format - only one wicket fell in the morning session as Stokes and Bairstow, unbeaten on 32 and 34 respectively, not only saw off the threat of the new ball but prospered.

The pendulum swung in Australia's favour when England captain Joe Root (77) charged at Nathan Lyon and an inside edge onto his pad looped over wicketkeeper Tim Paine before David Warner flung himself across to take a brilliant catch.

Just three runs had been added to the overnight total of 156-3 at that point but Stokes and Bairstow cut loose and darted between the wickets as Australia, seeking a victory that would ensure they retained the urn, became increasingly frustrated with England 238-4 at lunch, 121 runs from victory.

Stokes had made two from 50 deliveries on Saturday and was struck on the helmet by a Josh Hazlewood bouncer, the ball shattering the batsman's neck guard, during a 25-ball scoreless start to the first session.

However, after Root fell, both he and Bairstow looked to take the attack to Australia, with Stokes at one point pulling Pat Cummins for a maximum as England dared to dream.

Marnus Labaschagne joked he is "getting pretty good at answering the questions" in concussion tests after taking another Jofra Archer bouncer to the head in the third Ashes Test.

Labaschagne became the first concussion substitute in the second match at Lord's when star Australia batsman Steve Smith was unable to continue following a blow from England ace Archer.

The stand-in was himself then struck by Archer but battled on to prove his worth in a hard-fought draw, earning a place in the team for the third match as Smith failed to recover in time.

Labaschagne improbably took another whack from the fast bowler early on Saturday in Leeds and received his second concussion test of the series, later acknowledging an increasing familiarity with the process.

"I'm getting pretty good at answering the questions," he told reporters. "I remember the questions from two days ago.

"You don't like getting in the head but it wakes you up. To be fair, today was a bit stiff.

"It came back a long way, I kept trying to sway and sway and ran out of room - my back's not that flexible. You just want to make sure you're watching the ball.

"It's a bit of a laugh now. He comes on and I say, 'Doc, I'm fine'. He knows now. If I do get hit properly, there will be a clear difference. The last two have been glancing blows."

Asked how the concussion tests go, Labaschagne continued in good humour as he reeled off examples of questions.

"'Who's the bowler at the other end?' 'Who's the last wicket?' 'How was he out?' Who you're playing against," he said. "You don't want to get that one wrong.

"You're only playing one team; if you get that wrong, you're probably getting marched off!"

Marnus Labuschagne hopes Australia can make England melt in the Headingley pressure cooker on Sunday as the tourists seek to retain the Ashes urn.

A third successive half-century from Labuschagne (80) had helped Australia post 246 on Saturday, setting England a mammoth target of 359 - one that seemed all-the-more daunting given they were rolled for 67 first time around.

But the hosts - seeking their highest successful run chase in Test history - reached stumps on day three 156-3 with captain Joe Root unbeaten on 75 having shared a crucial third-wicket stand of 126 with Joe Denly (50).

It sets up a mouth-watering fourth day as England dream of an unlikely success, yet Labuschagne hopes Australia's bowlers can make them crumble under pressure, particularly with a new ball due after a further eight overs.

"You always find that there's big partnerships but then there's one, two, three wickets," Labuschagne said.

"It can happen very quickly, so that's why you've just got to make sure you shut that scoreboard down, make sure you keep the pressure on, because when you lose one or two wickets all of a sudden the scoreboard can look a lot different if you add two wickets to it.

"That'll be what we're trying to do tomorrow, trying to make sure we're shutting down the scoreboard and making sure we're bowling balls in good areas with that new ball."

One week ago Labuschagne was on the periphery of this series but, thrust into the line-up in the second innings at Lord's last Sunday as Steve Smith's concussion replacement, the 25-year-old has quickly become a key cog for a team still shorn of their leading batsman.

While the techniques of England's batsmen has been criticised following a heavy white-ball schedule, Labuschagne has thrived in the longest format thanks to a productive spell in the County Championship with Glamorgan, for whom he amassed 1,114 runs in 10 first-class games.

"Playing for Glamorgan helped a lot," he admitted.

"Obviously playing 10 first-class games in probably less than two months was very helpful. Playing against the swinging ball in different conditions - and just learning my game and learning to put big runs on the board - definitely helped me and built my confidence as well.

"Then transitioning to this - I think I didn't play many other formats leading up to this. My focus was really on red-ball cricket, so the lead up and preparation was really good."

Joe Denly rates England's chances of pulling off what would be one of the great Ashes victories to level the series "very highly" after he and Joe Root frustrated Australia on day three at Headingley.

England were set 359 to win the third Test when Australia were bowled out for 246 in the morning session on a glorious Saturday in Leeds, the in-form Marcus Labuschagne top scoring with 80.

The tourists rolled England over for an abysmal 67 on day two, but the under-pressure Denly (50) and captain Root (75 not out) showed the application that had been lacking on Friday with a third-wicket stand of 126.

Root's side were 154-3 at stumps after Josh Hazlewood (2-35) removed Denly, needing another 203 to have any chance of regaining the urn.

Australia remain strong favourites to go 2-0 up, but Denly thinks England can pull off an unlikely win.

"We were disappointed with the 67 and it wasn't good enough but it's about showing character and fight in this second innings. We believe. If we get one or two more partnerships tomorrow, we're in with a real shout." He told Test Match Special.

"County cricket does a little bit to prepare you for this, though. Australia's attack has three world-class seamers and a world-class spinner as well. You have to be up for it all the time.

"If you let up, you lose your wicket. I wasn't expecting that bumper from Hazlewood and it shows you have to be ready at all times.

"When you are up against an attack like that and they get momentum they take the opportunity. We needed more fight and character but we can't dwell on that. We've got to look forward to tomorrow.

"I rate our chances very highly, there are not too many demons in the pitch. Their bowlers are going to get tired. The new ball will be tricky but a few of our batters are due some runs. Hopefully we can start well tomorrow and get in a great position."

Joe Root and Joe Denly scored battling half-centuries but Australia remain on course to retain the Ashes after Josh Hazlewood struck twice on a glorious day three at Headingley.

England were humiliatingly bowled out for a pitiful 67 on the second day in Leeds and were set a highly unlikely 359 to level the series when the tourists were dismissed for 246 on Saturday.

The in-form Marcus Labuschagne showed great character and technique while riding his luck to make 80, with Ben Stokes taking 3-56 as England ended Australia's second innings in the morning session.

Captain Root (75not out) and the under-pressure Denly dug in to put on 126 for the third wicket after England were reduced to 15-2, but Hazlewood (2-35) removed the Kent batsman for exactly 50.

Root and his deputy Stokes were unbeaten at stumps, but England are still facing defeat at 156-3, needing a further 203 to win, with Tim Paine's side requiring seven wickets to go 2-0 up and keep the urn.

The tenacious Labuschagne was struck on the head by a Broad bouncer before being dropped by Jonny Bairstow off the same bowler on 60, having also been given three lives on day two as Australia's lead moved past 300 after they resumed on 171-6.

James Pattinson was caught by Root off Archer at first slip to end a seventh-wicket stand of 51 and Labuschagne soon required another check over from the doctor.

Archer rattled him on the grilled with a rapid bouncer, recalling the gripping battle the pair engaged in at Lord's last week.

Stokes saw the back of Pat Cummins and Labuschagne missed out on a hundred when he was run out by Denly, with Nathan Lyon chopping on to Archer to bring the innings to an end.

Rory Burns nicked Hazlewood to David Warner at first slip after lunch and the out-of-sorts Jason Roy followed in the next over, bowled by a brilliant delivery from Cummins that reduced England to 15-2.

The vast majority of a packed crowd would have been fearing a repeat of England's first-innings fiasco, but Denly and Root showed the resistance that had been so badly lacking on Friday to take tea on 90-2.

Denly took a blow on the helmet from Cummins but skipped down the track to dispatch Lyon down the ground for four and ran well with the busy Root, who drove the spinner to the cover boundary to reach his half-century.

Root successfully reviewed an lbw decision after inside edging a straight one from Hazlewood and Australia wasted a review for a Lyon leg-before shout against Denly.

He did not last much longer, though, falling caught behind after being rapped on the gloves by a hostile ball from Hazlewood after raising his bat for the second time in the longest format, leaving Root and Stokes to see England through to stumps.

 

 

Australia required eight further wickets to retain the Ashes as England finally showed some resistance through Joe Root and Joe Denly at Headingley.

Chasing a target of 359 - which would be the highest successful Test chase for England - the hosts went some way to making amends for their first-innings debacle by taking tea on 90-2.

Root, whose role as captain will be questioned should Australia emerge victorious, had made 41 having been out for first-ball and second-ball ducks in his previous two innings.

Denly, England's top scorer in their paltry 67 first time around with 12, survived three wafts outside off stump and being struck flush on the helmet by a Pat Cummins bouncer to reach 30 having made an unbroken 75 with Root for the third wicket in a partnership that had already lasted longer than England's entire first innings.

There was a sense of deja vu when Rory Burns (7) edged to first slip David Warner off Josh Hazlewood - the fielder having taken four catches in the first innings when the bowler returned 5-30.

England were then 15-2 when a rotten series from Jason Roy (8) continued, though he could at least point to a jaffa from Cummins that straightened and clipped off to leave the opener with an Ashes average of 9.50.

But Root and Denly finally restored some pride, even if a slice of history still appeared too distant with 269 more needed.

Steve Smith was back in the nets on Saturday with a view to returning to action for Australia ahead of the fourth Ashes Test.

Earlier this week, Australia's star batsman was ruled out of the third Test at Headingley having suffered a concussion when a Jofra Archer bouncer struck him in the neck during his first knock at Lord's.

Smith left the field following the blow in the second Test and though he returned to complete his innings later, he displayed concussion symptoms on the Sunday and was unable to bat second time around.

The 30-year-old has remained in Leeds around the Australia camp and he took his first significant step towards a return to action prior to play on day three, facing throwdowns in the nets, performing shuttle runs on the outfield and throwing balls to fielding coach Brad Haddin.

Cricket Australia explained Smith did not "face anything remotely fast or above waist height" and termed the session "a gentle hit-out".

Smith will need to pass assessments and face fast bowling before he can be cleared to make a comeback.

Australia have a three-day tour game against Derbyshire next week before they meet England in the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford, starting on September 4.

Smith has scored 378 runs in his three Ashes innings so far at an average of 126.

Marnus Labuschagne helped pile the misery on England as Australia set their hosts an improbable target of 359 to save the series at Headingley.

Having started the third day already 283 ahead on 171-6 after England were rolled for 67 first time around, Labuschagne (80) was the chief tormentor as Australia extended their advantage on a pitch still offering plenty to the bowlers.

Labuschagne had already been dropped - for the third time in his innings - by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow when England finally made their first breakthrough of the day, Joe Root taking a low catch at first slip to remove James Pattinson (20).

Ben Stokes (3-56) then found Pat Cummins' edge, Rory Burns taking a sharp low catch to leave the tourists on 226-8.

Labuschagne, who twice needed to be assessed by Australia's medical staff after bouncers struck his helmet and grille, was run out attempting to get back on strike as he failed to beat Joe Denly's throw from the deep following an initial fumble by the fielder.

Nathan Lyon chopped on to Jofra Archer to end the innings, but England were still left requiring a huge target at a venue where there have only been three successful chases above 300.

Burns and Jason Roy were at least able to negotiate the four overs before lunch – reaching the break 11-0 - though the former required treatment after a delivery from Cummins left him with a bruised and bloodied thumb.

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