England captain Ben Stokes took the moral high ground over Jonny Bairstow’s controversial dismissal by Australia at Lord’s, insisting he would not want to win a Test in such divisive fashion.

The tourists took a 2-0 Ashes lead as they wrapped up a 43-run victory in the second Test at the home of cricket, but a gripping five-day contest seems destined to be remembered for the flashpoint – as well as Stokes’ magnificent century in response.

Alex Carey’s opportunistic stumping of Bairstow was the pivot point, with the wicketkeeper throwing down the stumps as England’s number seven wandered out of his crease in the belief that Cameron Green’s over was complete.

The letter of the law meant Bairstow had to go as the ball was not officially considered dead, but a capacity Lord’s crowd reacted in outrage to what they saw as an underhand tactic. Deafening boos and endless refrains of “same old Aussies, always cheating” dominated for the rest of the day as Stokes blazed a defiant 155.

The 32-year-old’s brilliant best was not enough as he fell short of completing a 371-run chase that may have trumped his Headingley heroics in 2019 and he could not hide his disappointment at the nature of the Bairstow stumping.

“The first thing that needs to be said is that it is out. But would I want to win a game in that manner? The answer for me is no,” he said.

“Jonny was in his crease, then left his crease to come out and have the conversation between overs like every batsman does.

“For Australia it was the matchwinning moment. If I was fielding captain at the time I would have put a lot more pressure on the umpires to ask them what their decision was around the (end of the) over. Then I would have had a real deep think about the spirit of the game.”

Asked if his approach would change for the rest of the series now that Australia had set the bar, Stokes said: “Would I do that back to them? No, I’m not looking to do something like that because they did it.”

Pat Cummins, long known for his sunny disposition and mild manner, appeared taken aback by the sustained jeers from the stands. More loud boos followed the final wicket of the match, drowning out the cheers of the touring group in green and gold, and Australia captain Cummins was barracked at the post-match presentation.

However, he made no apologies for upholding the appeal against Bairstow and said the England keeper had been looking for similar opportunities throughout the match.

“It’s in the laws, totally fair play. That’s how I saw it,” he said.

“You see Jonny do it all the time, he did it day one to (David) Warner and in 2019 to Steve (Smith). It’s what keepers do if you see an opportunity. All credit to Carey, he rolled it at the stumps, Jonny left his crease and you leave the rest to the umpires.”

Stokes did his best to block out the external noise while he was batting – a remarkable knock of controlled aggression, tactical strike rotation and brute force – but was taken aback by the unprecedented reaction at a ground known for its laidback ‘Lord’s hum’.

He expects more of the same at Headingley next week and expects the volume to be cranked up.

“I definitely think it’s going to be ramped up,” he said.

“When we go to Australia we get lambasted as well – 90,000 Australians at the MCG cursing at you. That’s part of the sport we play, you get thousands of people who want their team to win and they’ll just jump on something.

“I could see it was ramping up and getting a bit vocal, but it wasn’t until I got out and went out on the balcony to watch the remaining half hour…I was just like “I’ve never heard Lord’s like this”. It reminded me of the World Cup final in 2019.

“It was nice to see Lord’s (like that), a ground that’s not got a reputation for the atmosphere and noise. Today was one of the days where Lord’s showed up.”

England now need to show up themselves. After successive defeats to start the series they need to a hat-trick of wins at Headingley, Old Trafford and The Oval to reclaim the urn.

“We’ve won 3-0 against New Zealand and we won 3-0 against Pakistan, in Pakistan,” was Stokes’ defiant message as he looked back on past glories from his year as captain.

“We’ve won three games in a row twice. All we’re thinking about is winning the series 3-2. We have to win these three games to get this urn back and we’re a team who are obviously willing to put ourselves out there and do things against the narrative. So, these next three games are an even better opportunity for us than we have ever found ourselves in before.”

England named a 15-man squad for Thursday’s third Test, with back-up leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed dropping out alongside seamer Matthew Potts. Moeen Ali (index finger) and Mark Wood – overlooked this week due to fitness concerns – retained their places, as did vice-captain Ollie Pope, who injured his right shoulder while fielding.

England captain Ben Stokes questioned whether Australia had compromised the “spirit” of cricket in the wake of his side’s controversial 43-run defeat in the second Ashes Test at Lord’s.

England were furious over the manner of Jonny Bairstow’s dismissal, who was stumped by Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey after the batsman strayed from his crease believing the ball was dead.

Stokes told Sky Sports: “I think there’s quite a lot of factors you’ve got to take into that.

“At the end of the day it’s out, (but) if the shoe was on the other foot I’d probably just have a little think about the spirit of the game. It’s happened and we’ve just got to move on with what’s in front of us.”

Australia skipper Pat Cummins was unrepentant over the incident, insisting: “I think Carey saw it happening a few balls previously.

“There’s no pause, you catch it and have a throw. I thought it was totally fair play. That’s how the rule is – I know some people might disagree a lot.”

Fans booed the Australians and there appeared to be a number of flashpoints when the players exited through the famous Long Room during the lunch interval.

However, former England captains Andrew Strauss and Eoin Morgan, working as post-match analysts for Sky, agreed with Cummins’ opinion.

Strauss said he was “pretty comfortable with what Australia did there”, while Morgan added: “I don’t see it compromising the spirit of the game. He (Bairstow) was just being naive, it was almost like he was batting in his own bubble.”

Stokes admitted his thrilling knock of 155 was scant consolation for a difficult defeat but insisted the series was far from finished.

“Having experienced something like that before, you’re able to look back and have some kind of game plan, but unfortunately it just wasn’t enough for us today,” said Stokes.

“It got to the point where Australia changed their plans so I just had to change the way I was going about it.

“It’s a tough one to swallow going so close, but being involved in such a fantastic game was awesome. We’re 2-0 down but we’ve got three games left so we know we can do it.”

Australia batter Steve Smith, who pipped Stokes to the man of the match award for his first-innings knock of 110, hailed his England counterpart as a “freak”.

“He’s an unbelievable player, some of the things he can pull off on this ground and in this game of cricket, he’s a freak,” said Smith.

“The way he went about it, targeting that one side, smacking them down the hill and batting the other end. He’s a freak, an unbelievable player.”

Reflecting on his missed opportunity to catch Stokes earlier in his innings, Smith added: “It’s difficult giving guys like that lives. The way he plays chasing totals, the way he gets it done, it was an incredible knock.”

Ben Stokes produced another remarkable innings for England in what was ultimately a losing cause in the second Ashes Test at Lord’s.

The England captain walked in with his team on 45 for four and they were later reduced to 193 for six in pursuit of 371, but his explosive 155 kept them in contention before Australia finally managed to end his resistance and go on to claim a 43-run win.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of Stokes’ special innings with the bat for England.

Lord’s 2023

England headed into the final day needing an improbable 257 runs with only six wickets in hand, but with Stokes at the crease anything felt possible.

Jonny Bairstow’s controversial dismissal – stumped by Alex Carey after he left his crease early – reduced England to 193 for six in pursuit of a record-breaking fourth innings total of 371.

It saw Stokes click into gear with the England skipper going from 62 off 126 balls to his century in the space of 14 balls. He would launch a six-hitting onslaught, smashing nine maximums in total, during a spell of 93 runs from 88 balls before Josh Hazlewood ended his innings on 155.

Melbourne Cricket Ground 2022

Three early wickets in Melbourne hit England’s hopes of chasing 138 against Pakistan to be crowned T20 World Cup champions.

But with Stokes at the crease, England had the man for the big occasion and he timed the chase to perfection.

Harry Brook’s dismissal left England on 84 for four with 54 runs needed off 7.3 overs but Stokes hit 52 not out off 49 deliveries to guide his team home to ensure they became the first ever holders of both the T20 and 50-over World Cups.

Headingley 2019

With 357 runs needed to win the third Ashes Test at Headingley, Stokes produced a miracle to prevent Australia retaining the urn with two matches to spare.

Reduced to 286 for nine after the quick dismissals of Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad, Stokes unleashed a scintillating attack on the tourists alongside last-man Jack Leach in a 76-run partnership that saw the spinner contribute one run.

Stokes smashed 84 runs from his final 67 balls to finish 135 not out and lead England to one of the most memorable victories in Test history, with his celebration after his match-winning boundary an image for the ages.

Lord’s 2019

A month before Headingley and Stokes had guided England to a maiden 50-over World Cup title with an unbeaten 86 in the final followed by Super Over heroics.

When Jos Buttler got out, England needed 46 runs from the final 5.1 overs and despite the chaos around him, Stokes was able to get the hosts up to New Zealand’s total of 241 before last man Mark Wood was run-out from the final ball.

It forced a Super Over and Stokes and Buttler combined to score 15, with a boundary each, and New Zealand come up just short to ensure England clinched World Cup success at the home of cricket with the talismanic Stokes named player of the match.

Lord’s 2015

Stokes started his love affair with Lord’s during the infancy of his Test career when he blitzed his way to a hundred from only 85 balls against New Zealand.

A total of 15 fours and three sixes saw Stokes make 101 in eye-catching fashion in an innings that helped England secure a 124-run win.

Stokes’ century in 85 balls bettered the previous quickest Test hundred at Lord’s of 87 deliveries by India’s Mohammad Azharuddin against England in 1990.

Ben Stokes produced another astonishing Ashes performance at Lord’s, but his dazzling century was not enough to save England from defeat as Jonny Bairstow’s controversial dismissal sparked fury in the second Test.

The England captain embarked on a six-hitting rampage after Alex Carey pulled off a deeply-divisive stumping of Bairstow, making 155 as he sought to fashion an unthinkable sequel to his 2019 miracle at Headingley.

But this time a finish line of 371 was too far away.

England finished 327 all out as they went down by 43 runs to trail 2-0 in the series with three to play.

But this gripping fifth day finish will live long in the memory, not just for Stokes’ classic, but the unprecedented anger on show at the home of cricket.

Lord’s is renowned as one of the most polite sporting venues in the world – half arena, half artefact – but Carey’s opportunistic decision to throw down Bairstow’s stumps while the Englishman treated the ball as dead drew a visceral response.

A 32,000 crowd, who had snapped up day five tickets at £25, erupted in boos, jeers and repeated choruses of “same old Aussies, always cheating”.

Things even turned nasty in the Long Room, where Marylebone Cricket Club members exchanged heated words with the Australians as they walked off at lunch.

An apology followed from the MCC, but Cricket Australia requested an investigation into the incident.

The booing continued when Mitchell Starc sealed his side’s victory by cleaning up Josh Tongue and the bitter atmosphere seems likely to follow the contest to Leeds next Thursday.

England’s annoyance at the Bairstow wicket was told through the actions of Broad, who made his feelings quite clear as he arrived to join Stokes in the middle.

He was overheard on the stump microphone telling Carey “you’ll always be remembered for that” and “literally the worst thing I’ve ever seen in cricket”.

The 37-year-old, a longstanding Ashes antagonist, repeatedly made an exaggerated performance of grounding his bat at the end of the overs and asked on several occasions for confirmation that the ball was dead.

Ben Stokes smashed his way to an angry century at Lord’s after Jonny Bairstow was controversially dismissed amid febrile scenes on the final day of the second Ashes Test.

Stokes went on a six-hitting rampage as he set out for apparent retribution in the aftermath of Alex Carey’s highly divisive stumping of Bairstow, hammering his way to a jaw-dropping hundred.

By the time the lunch interval intervened, England needed another 128 runs on 243 for six, with Stokes looking imperious on 108 not out.

The home of cricket, renowned as one of the most polite sporting arenas in the world, erupted in a chorus of boos and chants of “same old Aussies, always cheating” after Bairstow was given out in bizarre circumstances at a pivotal point in the game.

England were 193 for five chasing 371 when Bairstow ducked under a bouncer from Cameron Green, tapped the crease and began to walk down to prod the pitch.

Australia wicketkeeper Carey sent an under-arm throw in after catching the ball, leaping for joy as he hit the stumps. There was confusion in the middle, Bairstow seemingly believing the ball was dead at the end of the over but Australia were happy to proceed with a deeply divisive appeal.

The umpires sent the decision upstairs for review by TV umpire Marais Erasmus, who had no option but to confirm Bairstow’s dismissal.

The Yorkshireman reluctantly stomped off to the pavilion as a crowd of almost 32,000 – taking advantage of reduced £25 tickets – poured out their anger on the touring team.

A bitter row about the ‘spirit of cricket’ will surely follow, while Bairstow’s lack of attention to detail is also liable to receive plenty of attention.

Stuart Broad threw himself into the row, seemingly picked up on stump microphone telling Carey he would be remembered forever for his actions, and later making an ostentatious show of grounding his bat behind the line at the end of an over.

But Stokes was the man at the centre of the storm. He was on 62 not out at the time, playing with notable maturity, but suddenly began a frenzied display of furious hitting with 46 runs off his next 21 deliveries.

He pulled Green for three muscular boundaries in his next over, then sent a rocket straight back at Pat Cummins, who could not hang on – attracting a few more words from Broad as the Australia captain lay on the ground.

Stokes then blazed 24 off the hapless Green’s next visit, with three consecutive sixes heaved into the on-side.

The session ended in unbearable tension, with television cameras apparently picking up Australian players exchanging words with members in the Long Room.

England will look to captain Ben Stokes on the last day of the second Ashes Test at Lord’s in their attempt to pull off another miraculous chase.

Day four had initially been slow going for most of the morning and afternoon session before a dramatic final few hours on Saturday night saw Australia all out for 279 and England reduced to 114 for four in pursuit of 371.

It only told half the story with bouncers aplenty and Nathan Lyon writing his name in Ashes folklore.

Opener Ben Duckett remains at the crease after he earned a late reprieve and the equation is now simple; Australia need six more wickets to move 2-0 up and England a further 257 runs to clinch a record-breaking Lord’s chase.

View from the dressing roomAnother record chase?

The Stokes and Brendon McCullum era kicked off last summer with a fourth-innings chase at Lord’s against New Zealand and it may take another to keep the wheels on track.

Critics are ready to pile in on England’s ‘Bazball’ approach, which has veered too far on the aggressive dial at times during this Test, but the skipper has been the exception to the rule with an impressive degree of patience in both of his innings so far.

When England chased 279 to beat New Zealand at Lord’s, it proved the catalyst for a memorable summer with an incredible 378 knocked off against India at Edgbaston but the true test of this free spirit style was always going to come against Australia. Defeat on Sunday will leave Australia with one hand on the urn and may land a telling blow on the confidence of a group who insist entertainment tops everything.

Limping Lyon shows heart

Lyon wrote his name firmly into Ashes folklore with a batting display of pure guts and determination. A “significant” calf strain for the Australia spinner on day two means he is unlikely to feature again in the Ashes, but he made sure there would be one final contribution in this series.

With Australia reduced to 264 for nine, a lead of 355, Lyon hobbled out to a round of applause. He had been on crutches since his injury on Thursday night and started his journey through the Lord’s corridors when the eighth wicket went down in fear of being timed out.

After he limped out, a crazy 25-minute period followed with Lyon able to middle a number from the bat but not in any fit state to take the runs on offer, although he did hop through for a single before his crowning moment arrived when he pulled Broad for four. He was out later in the over, but left to a standing ovation following a brave 13-ball knock of four that helped the Aussies add 15 more runs.

Amazing Ahmed acrobatics

The comical scene of Lyon hopping through for a single only happened because of an outstanding piece of fielding by substitute Rehan Ahmed, who somehow prevented Starc’s big heave off Broad clearing the boundary rope.

With Lyon unable to run singles and England continuously bowling bumpers, Starc took on the big shot but saw his pull clawed back by Ahmed in mid-air before Zak Crawley collected the bouncing ball to force Lyon to limp across the wicket from the pavilion end.

It was play of the day during a remarkable passage of cricket.

Safe hands Joe

When Joe Root took a sharp chance with his left hand at short leg to dismiss Travis Head off Broad’s bowling after lunch, it helped the ex-England captain clinch another record.

It was Root’s 176th Test catch, taking him beyond Sir Alastair Cook’s record total for England excluding wicketkeepers.

Root, in typical fashion, quickly set about extending his tally with two further grabs to send Alex Carey and Josh Hazlewood back to the pavilion during a barrage of short-pitched bowling by the hosts in the morning and afternoon session.

Starc warning

Most of the talk was of a catch which did not stand, though, with former Australia bowler Glenn McGrath labelling the decision to overturn Starc’s grab of Duckett “a disgrace”.

The Marylebone Cricket Club, custodians of the laws of the game as well as owners of Lord’s, were quick to clarify the relevant law in support of the umpires.

“Law 33.3 clearly states that a catch is only completed when the fielder has “complete control over the ball and his/her own movement,” the MCC wrote on Twitter.

“The ball cannot touch the ground before then. In this particular incident, Mitchell Starc was still sliding as the ball rubbed the ground, therefore he was not in control of his movement.”

Prince George tucks in

Day four of the second Ashes Test was enjoyed by The Prince of Wales and his son Prince George.

George, aged nine, looked to be engrossed in the action while equally focused on his pizza as his father caught up with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in a box at Lord’s.

All three will hope to have witnessed the start of a record chase.

Joe Root has no regrets about the manner of England’s Ashes loss at Edgbaston, insisting he would like to “go back in time” and captain England in the same fearless fashion as Ben Stokes.

England’s unabashed commitment to the attacking principles of ‘Bazball’ saw them lose a thrilling first Ashes Test to Australia at Edgbaston, with the hosts driving the game forward to a tense conclusion that ended in defeat by two wickets.

The England dressing room has not blinked over the risks that they took along the way, with Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum insisting they are on the right track.

Now Root has joined the chorus, insisting the only thing he would change if he had his time again is not bringing a similarly aggressive style during his own reign.

Root led his country in a record 64 Tests over five and a half years, walking away last April after overseeing a draining run of one win in 17.

As the team’s most accomplished batter he has let loose since returning to the ranks, scoring five centuries and averaging 67.31, but wishes he had taken Stokes’ bold approach when he was at the helm.

Asked if England would like to go back to day one at Edgbaston and reverse their declaration after just 78 overs, the fastest in Ashes history, he said: “That’s not what we’re about as a team. If I could go back in time, I’d go back and start my captaincy tenure the way Ben has and try to play in a similar manner to how he does it.

“It’s far more exciting, far more interesting and I think we are getting more out of our team and our individuals. We’re playing better cricket to watch and producing better results overall.

“A lot of times that would peter out to a draw. The wicket we had was very slow, it could have made for a long, mundane game, but the way we went about it we gave ourselves a great opportunity to win the Test match.

“If are going to grow as a team we can’t just look at a couple of moments going against us and say ‘we need to do things differently’. If anything we need to double down on how we do it, completely back ourselves and make sure we get those one per centers right at Lord’s.

“We feel like we’ve ran the game for five days and we might be on the wrong end of it but there’s still so much more to come in that dressing room. It’s a great spot to be in.”

Apart from sheer weight of runs, one of Root’s most significant contributions to the new era of English cricket is his frequent use of an unconventional reverse ramp shot against pace bowlers.

Root uses the stroke to take advantage of gaps in the field, turning accurate deliveries into boundary options, but also to make a statement of intent against quicks who are unused to being treated with such apparent disdain.

Even so, his decision to deploy it off the first ball of a finely poised fourth day against Australia captain Pat Cummins was a remarkable one. Root made no contact on that occasion, but was undeterred enough to use it twice more in the next over – hitting Scott Boland for six and four.

“I don’t feel like Superman, I’m absolutely bricking it when the bowler’s running in to bowl most of the time,” he said of his mindset.

“Coming out first ball of the day, it was more about being 28 for two and it was a chance to lay a marker down. To say to everyone in the ground – the dressing room, the crowd – we are not here to be bowled at, we’re here to push the game on.

“I think that’s how we all look at the game now, from any position we feel like we can get somewhere to go on and win.”

Root also enjoyed an unexpectedly central role with the ball as the first Test reached its conclusion, sending down 15 overs in the fourth innings as Moeen Ali struggled with a burst blister on his right index finger.

McCullum has said Moeen will play in Wednesday’s second Test if fit, but if concerns linger over the injury, England could go two ways. They could send for a replacement, such as Surrey’s Will Jacks, but they could also continue to rely on Root’s part-time off-spin and use the chance to bring in Mark Wood’s 90mph pace.

“I think Mo will be absolutely fine, I’m sure he will be, but it’s always great when you get a chance to contribute to any Test match,” said Root.

“You want to get involved and step up in those big moments. I’m always ready for a chance to take Test wickets.”

Stuart Broad took two huge wickets in as many balls and Ben Stokes defied injury concerns to land a crucial blow as England seized control on the second morning of the first Ashes Test.

Having sprung a surprise declaration at 393 for eight on the first evening, England were on the hunt for wickets at Edgbaston and enjoyed a stirring first session as Australia’s much-vaunted top order caved to 78 for three.

Broad, picked here ahead of Mark Wood for his experience and big-game mentality, cracked the game open in the first hour as he renewed his dominance over old rival David Warner and then snapped up the world’s number one batter Marnus Labuschagne with the very next ball.

With the lunch break hoving into view, Stokes banished concerns over his longstanding left knee issues and backed himself to break up a burgeoning stand between opener Usman Khawaja (40no) and Steve Smith.

Smith has a formidable Ashes legacy and scored twin centuries at this ground in the corresponding fixture four years ago, but this time succumbed to the force of Stokes’ will as he was dispatched for 16.

Showing no signs of discomfort, Stokes skidded through the final ball of his second over, nipped it back in off the pitch and beat Smith’s defensive prod to strike him just above the knee-roll.

Stokes flung both arms into the air, bellowing an appeal at Marais Erasmus, who pondered for a few seconds before driving a sold out Birmingham crowd wild by slowly raising his finger.

Smith was quick to signal for DRS, presumably hoping the delivery was set to clear the stumps, but replays merely confirmed his fate as Stokes led rampant celebrations in the middle.

Broad had earlier raised the roof with a brilliant double strike. After half-an-hour of searching, he delivered the breakthrough as Warner attempted to muscle his nemesis through an inviting gap at cover.

But the left-hander got himself in a terrible position, dragging down his stumps via a thick inside edge to fall to Broad for the 15th time in 27 Tests.

Labuschagne has spent a long spell on top of the ICC rankings but banked a golden duck as Broad sent him packing instantly.

The 36-year-old had spoken earlier in the season about developing an outswinger designed with Labuschagne in mind and his plan worked a treat as the ball shaped away, took the outside edge and was brilliantly caught as Jonny Bairstow tumbled one-handed in front of first slip.

Stokes had earlier given a single over to the very occasional seam of Harry Brook, continuing to rip up established protocols, while Moeen Ali threatened with a dangerous spell late in the session.

Jonny Bairstow applauded an adventurous declaration from Ben Stokes after the England captain rolled the dice on the first day of the LV= Insurance Ashes.

Stokes threw caution to wind on day one of the first Test, waving his side in at 393 for eight in the hope of snapping up a late wicket at Edgbaston.

Joe Root was batting beautifully on 118 when the signal came from the balcony and would surely have kept the scoreboard ticking had he been left to his own devices, but Stokes swapped the promise of extra runs for four late overs at the Australia openers.

That meant a quick skirmish between long-time sparring partners Stuart Broad and David Warner, but England were unable to generate a breakthrough that would have capped a thrilling day of action.

It was the fifth time Stokes has declared in the first innings in his 14th Test as full-time captain and Bairstow praised the intent of forcing the change where others might have let the game drift to a natural close.

“I’m sure there’s many decisions Ben has made that have taken commentators and other people by surprise, but it was no surprise to us,” said the wicketkeeper.

“We didn’t know anything about it, it was a scramble to get the tape on, the pads on and all the rest. But when it’s something that’s not expected, it can be the best form of attack.

“Having played the game for as long as we have, we’re aware a 20-minute slot for an opening pair is something that’s not very nice. It can be a bit niggly.

“It’s a bit of a shot to nothing – there might be an unbelievable ball in there, or a loose shot in there.

“We’ll come back tomorrow with a ball that’s four overs old, a fresh bowling attack and team that is really looking forward to the challenge.”

Bairstow, who contributed a punchy run-a-ball 78 in first Test innings back after a 10-month lay-off, was part of a vital 121-run stand with his long-time friend and foil, Root.

The Yorkshire duo have shared some memorable partnerships across the years and Bairstow beamed as he reflected on Root’s outstanding century.

It was his 30th in Test cricket but a first against Australia since 2015, ending a sequence of 12 unconverted Ashes fifties.

“It was brilliant. There are some special traits that he’s got and he does special things,” he said.

“As someone who has known him for a really long time, been through thick and thin, ups and downs and lots of different things together, it was an absolute pleasure to be out there with him.

“He’s a fantastic player and talent. He loves batting, loves being out there, loves the occasion, loves representing his country. It takes a lot of skill, a lot of endeavour and patience.”

Bairstow also savoured his own contribution. A freak golfing accident last August left him with three separate fractures in his left leg, a dislocated ankle and ligament damage and he revealed recently he feared for his career.

After 12 boundaries and a seemingly-endless supply of hard-run ones and twos, it was like he had never been away.

“I’m delighted to be back out there on the big stage, during the big dance. It’s something you want to be part of and it didn’t disappoint,” he said.

“There were a few nerves kicking about as you can probably imagine, but when I found my flow and got into the battle, it was really enjoyable to be out there again.”

The most eagerly anticipated Ashes summer since 2005 is a matter of hours away, pitting Ben Stokes’ fearless England side against an Australia team that was last week crowned Test world champions.

Stokes has urged his side to stay true to the attacking principles that have roused a team that was in the doldrums after a 4-0 thrashing Down Under 18 months ago.

The England skipper knows he cannot promise victory at Edgbaston – or over the course of the next six weeks – but he has guaranteed entertainment.

Australia, meanwhile, are searching for the second major prize on a tour that captain Pat Cummins admits could be “legacy defining”.

Having knocked off India to claim the ICC’s World Test Championship mace, they now want to win behind enemy lines for the first time since 2001.

Number’s gameClash of the titans

Under head coach Brendon McCullum and Stokes, England’s potential has been truly unleashed, racking up 11 wins in 13 Tests. Arguably more impressive has been their expansive style, going at breakneck pace when batting – among the new benchmarks they set in 2022 was the highest run-rate (4.13) and most sixes (89) in a calendar year.

What might slip under the radar is that they have taken 20 wickets a dozen times. The naysayers – fewer and farther between these days – point out Australia are the acid test of what has been termed ‘Bazball’.

In quicks Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Scott Boland and spinner Nathan Lyon the tourists have an embarrassment of riches to select from. Australia’s three, four and five – Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and Travis Head – are numbers one, two and three in the International Cricket Council Test batting rankings. And their tail is up after winning last week’s World Test Championship final. An absorbing five matches await.

What they said

Questions have abounded about Stokes’ left knee for several months, leading to speculation about whether he would be able to perform as an all-rounder. He has steadily built up his workload in the past 72 hours and seems poised to give England’s bowling attack an extra arrow in their quiver.

Will pride come before a fall for Australia?

The last Australia coach to win England, John Buchanan, was also the man in charge in 2005 when Michael Vaughan’s settled side scored an unforgettable win. Buchanan knows a thing or two about the ins and outs of the rivalry, ending his Ashes association with a whitewash in 2006/07.

He told the PA news agency that the key factor in this year’s edition would be whether Australia could shelve any temptation to get involved in an attacking shootout and instead focus on their own fundamentals.

“Players’ ego, team ego, that will be the whole game,” he said. “They need to not allow their ego to get in the road of their batting. I would expect the coach Andrew McDonald to be hammering that home, saying: ‘Bat long, bat lots’.”

One last round for old sparring partners

Many expected the Hobart Test in January 2022 to be the final time long-time rivals Stuart Broad and David Warner ever crossed paths.

Despite pressure over their places, both men are back on parade in Birmingham and theirs is perhaps the most intriguing battle within the battle.

Broad dismissed Warner seven times in 10 innings in the 2019 series in England, a nadir for the punchy left-hander who will be eager to put those bad memories to bed. Expect the theatrics to start the first time Broad gets the new ball in his hand.

Mo, Mo, Mo

A cruel back injury to ‘Bazball’ ever-present Jack Leach and a dearth of domestic spinners led to Stokes sending out an SOS to one of England’s most mercurial Test cricketers.

Despite his last red-ball match being in September 2021, Moeen Ali cheerily returns, admitting only the siren call of Stokes and the lure of the Ashes were the twin forces that saw him, at least temporarily, reverse his Test retirement.

As well as a second Ashes series victory, Moeen, who currently has 2,914 runs and 195 wickets after 64 Tests, has the chance to rack up another couple of personal milestones.

England captain Ben Stokes says he will not make allowances for Australia and change his style for the Ashes as that would render all the progress of the last year “completely pointless”.

The so-called ‘Bazball’ revolution has seen the Test side flourish under the leadership of the all-rounder in partnership with coach and former New Zealand international Brendon McCullum, with the team having claimed 11 wins in 13 matches.

Edgbaston hosts the opening Ashes Test on Friday and Stokes said despite the history between the two sides, the quality of the opposition and what was at stake, he would not deviate from their attacking game-plan against the newly crowned World Test Championship winners.

“Nothing is going to change because we’ve had unbelievable success with it,” Stokes, who said his priority was to make everything “fun”, told BBC Test Match Special.

“If we were to change anything from the last 12 months because we find ourselves in an Ashes series then anything from the last 12 months will have been completely pointless.”

“Even before getting together as a Test team for the first time with me as captain, there was one simple thing I said I had to be doing and that was being completely true to myself.

“I had to stay true to how I’ve gone about things as a player, and do them as a captain. I had 85 or 86 games before I got made captain, and the guys that I’ve played with knew me as a person and a player.

“So if I became captain and started doing things completely differently to what they knew me for, it would raise a few eyebrows.”

Eoin Morgan hailed the authenticity of Ben Stokes and believes the England captain is sincere about following through with a win-at-any-cost mentality in every Test against Australia.

Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum have transformed the Test side’s fortunes with 11 wins in 13 matches but a long-awaited Ashes showdown starting next week could challenge their aggressive approach.

However, Stokes demonstrated in New Zealand in February he is prepared to risk defeat to pursue victory and the all-rounder is adamant that will not change despite the stakes being considerably higher this summer.

And Morgan doubts there is any bluffing from Stokes, who has insisted that he would declare even if England were 2-1 up and 300 ahead with seven wickets in hand going into the last day of the final Test.

The former England white-ball skipper, speaking in his role as a Sky Sports pundit, told the PA news agency: “I don’t believe anything Ben says is for show.

“He is a man of his word, he is very authentic, you can tell it speaks volumes both on and off the field and it rings clear in the changing room, so it should be no different for anybody in the public.

“When you have a leader like that, it’s great because there’s just clear, transparent direction in where you’re going and what you want to achieve.

“A draw isn’t the task, they want to win, their eyes are on the prize and he seems to get more out of his own players that way.”

Morgan lifted England’s white-ball sides out of the doldrums to 50-over World Cup glory in 2019 – and among his team-mates was Stokes, who took charge of a Test side that had won just once in 17 matches.

While there might be some parallels in their captaincy arcs, Morgan feels that is where the similarities end.

Morgan said: “I see shades of the trend and journey that he’s going through but ultimately he’s his own leader – and he should be.

“For the best part of four or five years, England were terrible at Test match cricket, they tried fighting and being dogged, defensive and playing the long game, and that just doesn’t work. I can imagine the cornerstone of Ben’s thinking is ‘we’re not going back to playing that way’.

“You need to be as authentic as you can as a leader, particularly around the group simply because you ask everybody else to be authentic and if you’re not, people tend to notice it at various stages.”

Morgan was renowned for his shrewd thinking under intense pressure but even he draws a blank when asked how he would attempt to negate England under Stokes and McCullum.

He said: “When they get going, it’s a captain’s nightmare so I suppose stopping them getting going would be the biggest challenge. I’m not even sure how you do that. I wouldn’t put myself through it!”

Stokes, though, could meet his match in opposite number Pat Cummins, according to Morgan, who played alongside and captained the paceman at Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League.

Morgan added: “Pat’s captaincy has been exceptional. I would hold him in the same regard as I hold Ben Stokes’ leadership. He is a very cool, calm customer and very intelligent for a fast bowler.

“He’s completely bucked the trend. An important part of captaincy is taking in what’s happening in the game and taking in opinions from others – that is incredibly difficult to do when you’re charging in for upwards of 20 overs per day, giving your all physically and mentally in the bowling innings.

“He has managed to find a balance. Clearly, he’s making good decisions and being able to bowl very well at the same time.”

:: Every match of the men’s and women’s Ashes will be shown live and exclusively on Sky Sports and NOW from 16th June.

England captain Ben Stokes has told his team-mates to enter the Ashes without fear.

England host their old rivals this summer, with the first Test getting under way at Edgbaston on June 16, having won just one of the last five series against Australia.

Stokes has led his team to victory in 11 of his 13 Tests since he was installed as permanent skipper at the start of last summer.

He and coach Brendon McCullum have overseen a change of approach in preparation for an attempt to regain the Ashes urn for the first time since 2015, following their 4-1 drubbing Down Under in 2021/22.

“It’s not like any other series,” Stokes wrote for the Players’ Tribune.

“There’s the pressure, the hype and the extra noise that comes with it, but we’re ready for all that this summer.

“We’ve had some good results in the last year and the mindset in the group is so strong. Everyone is fully committed to what we’re doing.

“We know how good we are and that on our good days we can beat anyone on their good days.”

Stokes, 32, who hit an unbeaten 135 as England battled back to chase down 359 and beat Australia in a memorable meeting at Headingley in 2019, wants the team to go into the latest series unburdened by any pressure.

“I promise you: We’re going to play without fear,” he added.

“We want to create an environment where everyone has the freedom to try things without fear. I know it hasn’t always been that way, even though we’ve always had the ability.

“Hold nothing back. Express yourself. Show us what you can really do.

“And you know what? If you fail, then you fail. So what? As captain, I’m not going to be chewing people out in press conferences or in the media for trying to play a big shot.

“And behind the scenes, you’re not gonna get a slap on the wrist from me or Brendon McCullum about it.

“I don’t want this to be taken out of context. Just because I say it’s alright to fail, it doesn’t mean I’m fine with losing. I hate losing.”

England captain Ben Stokes has no concerns over his ability to bowl in this summer’s Ashes.

Stokes’ long-standing left knee issue caused him problems during February’s tour of New Zealand and his recent time at the Indian Premier League proved fruitless.

All-rounder Stokes played only twice for Chennai Super Kings and sent down just one over for 18 runs during his IPL stint but ahead of this week’s one-off Test with Ireland at Lord’s, the 31-year-old is confident he can have an impact when the Ashes begins on June 16.

He said: “Yeah, look the knee is in much better place than it was in Wellington.

“I’ve been over in India for the IPL and these last eight or nine weeks I know I have got myself in a position where I can’t say I regret anything.

“I have got myself into a place where I feel like in a 2019, 2020 space in terms of my own body and fitness. I have definitely given myself the best opportunity (to bowl this summer).

“We know what it is (the problem) and now it is about managing it.”

Fit-again Ben Stokes was overlooked by Chennai Super Kings on Wednesday, extending his time on the Indian Premier League sidelines beyond five weeks.

The England Test captain was signed by CSK for a bumper £1.6million but has appeared in just two of their 12 fixtures.

He arrived managing a longstanding condition in his left knee following a flare-up during February’s tour of New Zealand and also picked up a toe complaint which has kept him out of action since April 3.

The all-rounder’s fitness is being closely monitored by the England and Wales Cricket Board ahead of this summer’s Ashes and it is understood he is now cleared to play. CSK tweeted a video of him batting in the nets on Tuesday, showing the 31-year-old striking powerfully down the ground and captioned ‘freeing up those big arms’.

Yet despite his price tag, status and player-of-the-match showing in last year’s T20 World Cup final, he was left out of the squad to face Delhi Capitals.

CSK went into the game in second place and opted to stick with an overseas unit comprising Stokes’ fellow Englishman Moeen Ali, New Zealander Devon Conway and Sri Lankan spinner Maheesh Theekshana.

Conditions at the Chepauk Stadium have been conducive to slow bowlers, which may have stacked the deck in favour of Moeen and Theekshana, as well as Kiwi left-armer Mitchell Santner, who was named among the impact substitutes.

Speaking ahead of the match head coach Mike Hussey said: “Stokes has been training really well. I am pretty sure that he is available for selection. It just comes down to the balance of the squad.

“Obviously, we have been playing in sort of spinning conditions, so they have decided to go for the extra spin-bowling option rather than Stokes, an all-rounder who can bowl seam.”

Stokes, who plans to leave the tournament ahead of the knockout phase to captain England’s summer curtain-raiser against Ireland from June 1-4, has made 15 runs in two innings and bowled a single over since arriving in India.

England fans may be more than happy to see that unexpectedly light workload continue, given the irreplaceable role he plays as batter, bowler and leader. He has overseen 10 wins from 12 games since taking the Test captaincy from Joe Root last year, reinvigorating the side in tandem with head coach Brendon McCullum.

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