How was that not out? Watch as the ball hits Ben Stokes’ stump at 83mph – and the bail fails to move

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We might be 15 days and four Tests deep into an Ashes series. That series itself may have already been lost, damaged beyond repair. Some of the players too, after no less than three English batters suffered full-throttle blows to the gloves from Australia’s quicks. England’s men may even find themselves straddling the bottom of the World Test Championship table.

And yet, despite all this, finally, on a damp, dark day at the SCG, it felt like England were up for the fight. It all started in familiar fashion; what else should we expect? They lost four wickets for 14 runs, including three for zip, but this was all part of the drama. A fightback, after all, can only start when you’ve been pounded into a position from which you’re needed to fight.

For most of this series, whenever England have found themselves in this state, which is frequently, it has been less of a fight and more of a whimper with which they’ve departed at stumps. Sometimes, however, it takes for all to have already been lost to show that two sides can play at this game.

This appeared to be the Jonny Bairstow and Stokes school of thought. They entered the crease at four for 36. They were a core part of England facing out 70 dot balls. Stokes almost became another statistic, dropped on nine by captain Pat Cummins, following through. He is human, after all. And then they attacked. Out of nowhere, and with nowhere much to go. It was a day of either wickets or runs and Stokes and Bairstow, battered and bruised, stuck two fingers up to the boisterous crowd and gave it somewhat. There was emotion and fervour and a lot of fight. And it was glorious.

Even as Cummins bounded in for the last over of the day, the sun finally coming out to bathe the iconic ground in a glorious golden hue, the fans, composed largely of Australian natives but with a few English expats too, took time to celebrate an opposition century. In recent days, and certainly following the mauling of the Melbourne Test, Australian sentiment had turned from a vicious intent to bash the Poms to that of pity, of pleading almost, for the tourists to at least put on a contest. In less than 24 hours, England produced both their first five-wicket haul and their first century. And for that, we are grateful.

 

 

If a ball clatters into the stumps but nothing moves, at all, not even an inch, did it really happen? In scorebooks documenting the occasion, it was but another dot like any other you’d find in a day of Test cricket. But up and down the country, and across the seas, video clips (sound on, please) will be doing the rounds, over and over again, trying to make sense of something that simply shouldn’t be possible. Glorious, glorious, weird and wonderful cricket. In no other sport could this happen.

That fleeting moment of incredulity framed a day which marks cricket out from the rest. For it was a day of good, old fashioned tumultuous Test sparring. Of ups and downs, of run droughts and open floodgates, of rain threatening to ruin things before the sun glowed. Of dropped catches, freak incidents and a crowd playing its part in the theatre of the game. At last, at long, long last.
 

We might be 15 days and four Tests deep into an Ashes series. That series itself may have already been lost, damaged beyond repair. Some of the players too, after no fewer than three English batters suffered full-throttle blows to the gloves from Australia’s quicks. England’s men may even find themselves straddling the bottom of the World Test Championship table.

And yet, despite all this, finally, on a damp, dark day at the SCG, it felt as though England were up for the fight. It all started in familiar fashion; what else should we expect? England lost four wickets for 14 runs, including three for zip, but this was all part of the drama. A fightback, after all, can only start when you’ve been pounded into a position from which you’re needed to fight.

For most of this series, whenever England have found themselves in this state, which is frequently, it has been less of a fight and more of a whimper with which they’ve departed at stumps. Sometimes, however, it takes for all to have already been lost to show that two sides can play at this game.

This appeared to be the Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes school of thought. They entered the crease at four for 36. They were a core part of England facing out 70 dot balls. Stokes almost became another statistic, dropped on nine by captain Pat Cummins, following through. He is human, after all. And then they attacked. Out of nowhere, and with nowhere much to go. It was day of either wickets or runs and Stokes and Bairstow, battered and bruised, stuck two fingers up to the boisterous crowd and gave it somewhat. There was emotion and fervour and a lot of fight. And it was glorious.

Even as Cummins bounded in for the last over of the day, the sun finally coming out to bathe the iconic ground in a glorious golden hue, the fans, composed largely of Australian natives but with a few English expats too, took time to celebrate an opposition century. In recent days, and certainly following the mauling of the Melbourne Test, Australian sentiment had turned from a vicious intent to bash the Poms to that of pity, of pleading almost, for the tourists to at least put on a contest. In less than 24 hours, England produced both their first five-wicket haul and their first century. And for that, we are grateful.

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