England captain Ben Stokes‘s dynamic 80, his latest dashing innings kept the hosts’ Ashes hopes alive before Moeen Ali struck twice in quick succession in the third Test against Australia at Headingley on Friday. Australia were 116-4 in their second innings at stumps on the second day, a lead of 142 runs, as they looked to go 3-0 up in the five-match series and secure a first Ashes campaign triumph in England since 2001. Mitchell Marsh, who had already marked his first Test in nearly four years with a brilliant run-a-ball 118 in Australia’s first-innings 263, was 17 not out, with Travis Head unbeaten on 18.
The pair’s partnership of 155 had been key in securing a first-innings lead.
Australia had been in command at 68-1 on Friday only for off-spinner Moeen to take two wickets for two runs in nine balls while removing Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith — two of the world’s top three-ranked Test batsmen.
England had slumped to 142-7 at lunch.
But all-rounder Stokes’s brilliant knock took England to 237 all out, a deficit of just 26 runs, despite Australia captain Pat Cummins‘s 6-91.
Stokes also hit a blistering 155 in the second Test at Lord’s last week as England suffered a 43-run defeat.
Friday’s innings revived memories of Stokes’s Ashes heroics at Headingley four years ago, when his astounding unbeaten century guided England to a remarkable one-wicket win.
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England, however, were a bowler light with paceman Ollie Robinson off the field because of a back spasm and Australia were grinding the hosts down until Moeen’s double strike.
Labuschagne, dropped on 33 when under-fire wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow couldn’t hold a tough diving chance, hadn’t added to his score when to his next ball he carelessly swept Moeen to deep square leg.
Smith, in his 100th Test and just days after his fine hundred at Lord’s, was then out for a mere two when he whipped Moeen straight to midwicket as the bowler took his 200th Test wicket.
“When Robbo (Robinson) had a spasm I knew I’d be bowling a fair bit,” Moeen, who at stumps had 2-34 in 17 overs, told Sky Sports. “I really enjoyed it… The body is surprisingly good.”
England had resumed on 68-3, with Joe Root 19 not out and Bairstow, whose controversial stumping exit at Lord’s provoked a furious row, unbeaten on one in front of their Yorkshire home crowd.
Star batsman Root, however, fell for his overnight score to just the second ball of the day when he tentatively edged Cummins to Warner at first slip.
Bairstow then exited for 12 when he flat-footedly drove at left-arm quick Mitchell Starc, with Smith holding a sharp catch at second slip.
But fast bowler Wood, having taken an impressive 5-34 on Thursday, hit Starc for a six, four and another six off his first three balls on his way to a quickfire 24.
Stokes, in at 68-4, was reprieved twice on 45 off successive deliveries from off-spinner Todd Murphy.
Starc dropped Stokes in the deep before Murphy — called up after Nathan Lyon‘s tour-ending calf injury at Lord’s — failed to hold a hard-hit return catch.
Stokes went to fifty in style by driving Murphy for six and promptly repeated the dose next ball.
He launched Murphy for another six before he holed out to end a 108-ball innings featuring six fours and five sixes.
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