England captain Ben Stokes was too nervous to watch the closing stages of his side’s thrilling three-wicket win over Australia in the third Test at Headingley on Sunday.
The hosts, set 251 to win, were struggling at 171-6 in a match they had to win to keep their Ashes hopes alive after Australia fast bowler Mitchell Starc had removed Stokes and Jonny Bairstow in quick succession.
But Harry Brook made an impressive 75 under pressure as he shared a valuable stand of 59 with Chris Woakes to take England to 254-7 on the fourth day.
All-rounder Woakes and fast bowler Mark Wood, both recalled by England for this match, then finished the job to leave Stokes’ men in with a chance of regaining the Ashes at 2-1 down with two to play.
Four years ago, Stokes’ stunning 135* saw England to a remarkable one-wicket win over Australia in an extraordinary Ashes Test at Headingley.
But the all-rounder said it was a very different experience being in the changing rooms during Sunday’s run-chase at the Leeds ground.
“I’m not going to lie, I was a bit nervous at the end,” Stokes told reporters. “We knew we needed to win this one to keep alive our hopes of winning the Ashes.
“I walked about 2km around the Headingley dressing room in the last half-hour, I didn’t actually watch the last 20 runs being scored.”
The 32-year-old all-rounder added: “It’s a completely different place when you can’t do anything, you can’t influence the game any more. You’re left watching and hoping things are going to go your way.”
England had their chances to win the first two Tests, only to suffer defeats by two wickets and 43 runs at Edgbaston and Lord’s respectively, with many pundits questioning their aggressive ‘Bazball’ approach.
Another defeat might have done severe damage to their morale but instead England recorded their 12th win in 16 Tests since Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum joined forces last year.
“I think if you look at the first two games in terms of how tight they were, getting over the line in another tight game can mentally help,” said Stokes.
“If we didn’t win this one and it’s tight again, you sort of think ‘it’s just not meant to be’,” he added. “But obviously we’re over the moon that we won this one, it’s just the start of what we know we need to do.”
Stokes praised the efforts of Woakes and Wood, who each took valuable wickets as well as making runs, but also highlighted the 24-year-old Brook’s composure in a run chase where the next highest score was Zak Crawley’s 44.
“The way Brooky controlled the game from ball one with the bat was amazing,” said Stokes. “He went out there and put the pressure straight back on to them … For such a young lad in a high-pressure situation in the Ashes, it was incredible.”
© Agence France-Presse