Australia’s hearts broken all over again
EVEN knowing the urn returned to Australia with Tim Paine after the thrilling 2019 Ashes series - this still hurts.
The Poms have been having a field day as the cricket world re-visited England's famous one-wicket, nail-biting victory in Leeds as Ashes broadcaster Sky Sports sat down with England's heroes and re-watched the entire final day drama on Sunday (AEST).
Even in all its rich drama - it is painful viewing for any Aussie cricket follower.
It will perhaps be most painful for Aussie stars Paine and Nathan Lyon - who were both singled out for criticism as England did the unthinkable and snatched a historic victory on the back of a 76-run final-wicket partnership between hero Ben Stokes and No. 11 Jack Leach.
Stokes struck an unbeaten 135 and broke Australia's hearts to level the series 1-1 after three tests in the series.
Sky Sports' Ashes rewind has given the Poms a chance to dance on Australia's Headingley grave - and, led by Stokes, they gleefully accepted the invite to re-visit the lowest moment of Australia's successful Ashes Tour.
Paine repeatedly came under fire from commentators in the Ashes rewind for his backfiring strategic captaincy calls on the final day - and for the DRS referral that must still keep him up at night.
Paine wasted Australia's final review just one over before Nathan Lyon had Stokes trapped in front - only for the umpire to dismiss the Aussies' desperate appeals.
With no reviews left, Stokes went on to seal Australia's defeat in the very next over.
Aussie coach Justin Langer said at the time Paine's use of DRS was "poor" in the test.
It looked even worse in Sunday's rewind.
"It's the greatest decision of all time if you ask me," gleeful England captain Joe Root said during the broadcast of Paine's fanciful referral.
"You want the world to swallow you up because you know you've made an absolute goober of a mistake. It's a horrible feeling."
It got even worse for Paine with former England captain Nasser Hussain labelling his captaincy "horrendous" during the final-wicket partnership.
Hussain says Paine's decision to bring the field in when Leach was on strike, but gift Stokes free singles to get off strike, played right into England's hands.
Leach didn't face more than two balls in a row until the final over of the match.
"If Joe Root had captained like this in the last hour of this game, we would have absolutely nailed him for about nine hours off air that night" Hussain said.
"This was horrendous captaincy. Ben Stokes there says 'two balls' [that he would have allowed Leach to face]. Jack Leach didn't get two balls until the last over of the game.
"[Paine] went five balls with the field out virtually every time, banking on getting Jack Leach out with the last ball of the over, and it played right into [England's hands].
"Ben's shot selection was exceptional here, but from this moment in, not just the skipper, the Aussies just lost the plot."
Lyon's run out fumble at the death where he butchered a chance to run out Leach and seal a 2-0 series lead was also rudely celebrated by the England players watching on.
With two runs to win, Stokes attempted a reverse sweep off Lyon, directed towards Cummins at short third man. The Australians had an opportunity to claim a one-run victory with a run out, with Leach stranded halfway down the pitch.
Cummins threw the ball to Lyon at the non-striker's end, but the ball was fumbled, and Leach survived.
HOW THE CRICKET WORLD REACTED TO AUSTRALIA'S NIGHTMARE RE-VISITED
Shane Warne: "It was unbelievable stuff - high octane cricket. The atmosphere and the intensity of the crowd was off the scale. To control the game as Stokes did was just amazing; he is one of those guys who you want in the trenches with you. He's an amazing cricketer and special talent, but when the opportunity presents itself, you still have to take it. There is nothing like Test cricket that brings out this sort of drama.
Ben Stokes: "It was unbelievable and something I will never forget. I've got to take it all in. I'm not sure it will ever happen again. It is right up there [with the World Cup win]. I love being part of those challenges you get faced with - we are playing at the highest level and you don't expect anything else. There is nothing better than being there at the end and getting your team over the line."
Mike Atherton: "On this ground, great English innings in recent years, you're thinking Botham in 1981, Gooch in 1991, Butcher 2001 and Stokes has to top all those. Australia, Ashes at stake, England were dead and buried. This has to be one of the greatest Test innings. It was a combination of all sorts of things, craft, skill, versatility and most of all an 'over my dead body' attitude and without which you are not a great player."
Joe Root: "To try and sum up Stokes' innings in words is impossible. Outrageous batting. He has got previous and he has got that in the bank, he had to call upon all that but to stay as calm and collected as he did in the moment took a great amount of skill, courage and belief in his own ability. It is a fabulous marker for everyone. I am still trying to get my head around everything, it was just amazing."
Sir Ian Botham: "I've banged the Stokes drum for a long time now and I know when other players see him they think there is something special about him. He is very, very valuable to cricket not just England, he will sell the game worldwide. He should enjoy every moment. It was a really remarkable performance."
Nasser Hussain: "That was unbelievable from Stokes. What struck me was that he never seems to know when to give up. He is exhausted; he's done the World Cup, he bowled a superb spell yesterday; he must be so tired. So to have the clarity of thought that he did when you are so tired and under so much pressure is superb. He took the right decision at the right time - every time."