The fifth day of the second Ashes Test proved to be a much more heated affair than most anticipated, and nobody relished the animosity more than England’s captain Ben Stokes.
Australia began the day as heavy favourites after the end of day four saw England’s top order collapse at the start of the fourth innings, but Ben Duckett and Stokes started the fightback for the hosts.
The play was more patient but penetrative in the first hour before Josh Hazlewood got Ben Duckett on 83 thanks to an incredible catch from wicketkeeper Alex Carey from a top edge.
With 194 runs left to chase in came Jonny Bairstow, the last recognised batter before England’s long tail would enter the crease.
The Yorkshireman settled in nicely hitting a rare boundary before he was dismissed for 10 in controversial fashion.
Bairstow avoided a ball from Cameron Green and, believing the over was finished, wandered out of his crease just as Carey had thrown the ball back into the stumps.
There was confusion all around as Bairstow, the on field umpire and even Green looked around as Australian players appealed, and then decided not to withdraw it.
It went upstairs to third umpire Marais Erasmus who made the correct decision by the letter of the law to give Bairstow out as he decided the ball was live and the end of the over had not yet been called.
Loud boos rained down from the Lord’s terraces and a bitter taste was left and supporters and pundits alike were left with the question ‘is that in the spirit of the game?’
Even members in the Long Room made their feelings known to the Australian side at lunch. The MCC have suspended three members as a result of the altercation.
Nobody was angrier at the dismissal than Stuart Broad who sarcastically left his bat in his crease at the end of several overs while asking Carey “is the ball dead?” after he also told the touring ‘keeper “that’s all you’ll be remembered for.”
Slightly less chripier at the opposite end was Stokes who, up until this point, had been playing a reserved game. Not anymore.
A fired up Ben Stokes may be the most fascinating thing to watch in sport, he took on Australia’s seamers to hit boundary after boundary and bring up his hundred.
A scintillating 108 partnership in 112 balls was made by Stokes and Broad, albeit the former had scored 93 of them as Stokes seemed to be channelling the iconic fourth innings display at Headingley in 2019.
While the excitement built in the crowd with every four, six and even the dropped catch from Steve Smith, it wasn’t to be the fairytale we witnessed four years ago.
Stokes looked to send Hazlewood away again, but this time it flew straight up and into the waiting hands of public enemy number one Alex Carey while England still required 70.
The tailend fell shortly after and another thrilling Test came to a close, Australia are just one win away from their first touring series victory since 2001 and England will need the most extraordinary fight back to win their first Ashes series in eight years.
Australia have shown their metal in abundance so far in this series and they will need to show plenty more of it as they enter a potentially hostile Headingley this Thursday.