By Abhijit Banare
Dec 17, 2013
Ben Stokes struck his maiden Test ton under trying circumstances to keep England alive on Day Five of the third Ashes Test at Perth. Chasing a mammoth 504 to win, England went into lunch at 332 for six, still 172 away from their target.
Matt Prior and Stokes defied the pacers and stuck together to share an important partnership of 76 runs until Prior was out for 26. Stokes though continued with his brilliant innings remaining unbeaten at 117 along with Tim Bresnan
For the first time in the series, England looked like the team determined to fight it out. But it seems to have come a bit too late. Australian pacers were on target as usual. The short balls, the fuller ones and the ones that took off from the crack, none of it disturbed the focus of the batsman except from eliciting a smile. Both Stokes and Prior were at the receiving end of some awkward bounce due to the cracks in the wicket which had grown wider and darker.
Stokes and Prior did a commendable job of seeing out around 90 minutes of the fifth morning. Even against the new ball, the duo continued to play calmly under enormous pressure. The desperation in Australia was visible especially with Michael Clarke. The Aussie skipper was getting fidgety removing his hat, adjusting his collar. After all the efforts that has gone into preparing for this series, Clarke was eager to finish it off.
Australia finally managed to get the breakthrough when Prior tried to drive a wide delivery off Mitchell Johnson and edged it to the wicketkeeper. The 76-run partnership gave England the encouragement to fight back and the confidence only grew with Stokes playing one of the finest innings seen under pressure. He looked rock solid and resisted from staring at the wide cracks which beat him a few times.
He was stuck on 93 for a long time until he took big strides with a few runs from a Johnson over. The big moment came when the left-arm pacer dug one short and Stokes pulled it awkwardly to get to his ton. This is now the first Test ton by an England batsman at No 6 since Ian Bell hit one against Sri Lanka in 2011.
Towards the end of the session, Nathan Lyon managed to get the ball into the rough and turn the ball enough to trouble the batsmen. The pitch looked extremely fragile but it is still a good wicket to bat on. If England had shown this kind of application in the first innings, they could have given the Aussies a much tougher time.
The break will help Australia cool down the intensity and rework on finishing this innings. England will be happy losing just one wicket.
Australia 385 (David Warner 60, Steve Smith 111, Brad Haddin 55; Stuart Broad 3 for 100, James Anderson 2 for 60) and 369 for 6 decl. (David Warner 112, Shane Watson 103; Tim Breesnan 2 for 53) lead England 251 (Alastair Cook 72, Michael Carberry 43; Ryan Harris 3 for 48, Peter Siddle 3 for 46) and 328 for 6 (Ian Bell 60, Ben Stokes 117*; Shane Watson 1 for 31) by 172 runs.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)
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