A thrilling Test match ended in a draw despite England’s best efforts in the second match of the Specsavers Ashes Series at Lord’s.
Ben Stokes’ scintillating century had set the hosts up for a tilt at victory and despite the concerted effort of a bowling attack that included the searing pace of Jofra Archer, Australia held on for the draw.
Rain delayed the start of the morning session by 70 minutes and news filtered through that Steve Smith would be replaced by Marnus Labuschagne, the first concussion substitute in international cricket.
Smith had been struck by a Jofra Archer bouncer on the fourth day of this absorbing match and whilst he returned to bat later in the innings after initially retiring hurt, tests on the morning of the fifth day ruled him out the remainder of the match.
Stokes and Jos Buttler were not out overnight and when they returned to the crease, both were purposeful in their play, looking to move the score along quickly. The pair added a further 65 runs to the score before Buttler found Josh Hazlewood in the deep from a Pat Cummins delivery.
Stokes was undeterred, though, and he etched his name on to the Honours Board at Lord’s for the third time with his seventh Test century. His unbeaten 115 included eleven fours and three sixes, two of which were deposited into the Mound Stand from successive Nathan Lyon deliveries.
Time was always against both sides in terms of forcing a positive result but England took the initiative and declared on 258 for 5, to set Australia 267 to win from a minimum of 48 overs.
Archer picked up a breakthrough as early as the fourth over when David Warner edged the ball to Rory Burns at gully. Usman Khawaja followed shortly after, this time with Archer forcing the edge to Jonny Bairstow.
Labuschagne channelled the energies of the man he replaced by making an excellent 59 to stem England’s enthusiasm but once he, Matthew Wade and Tim Paine fell – the latter to a stunning catch from Joe Denly – England had regained a sniff of victory.
Australia lost six second inning wickets to finish the match on 154 for 6, with Travis Head unbeaten for a battling 42 as the tourists held their nerve to seal the draw.
Australia take their 1-0 lead to the third match of the series at Headingley on Thursday and Lord’s bids farewell to international cricket for 2019, which must surely be ranked as one of the most extraordinary seasons in the ground’s long and storied history.