Butcher produced a brilliant knock – the highest of his Test career – to deliver a victory for England in a series where they were dominated by an imperious Aussie side at the peak of their powers. Butcher ensured that England were not whitewashed on home soil, leading a successful chase of 315 at Headingley. He crashed Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Shane Warne to all parts, notching 23 boundaries and a six in his match-winning effort.
4. Sir Len Hutton – 364 The Oval 1938
Hutton’s innings remains the highest score ever produced by an Englishman in Test cricket. The opener put the Aussies to the sword at The Oval to save England from defeat on home soil. He scored an astounding 364 from 847 deliveries, spending three minutes shy of 800 minutes at the crease. Hutton’s innings was the building block of England mustering their highest Test total of 903/7 declared before securing their largest Test win of an innings and 579 runs. A match for the record books.
3. Sir Ian Botham – 149* Headingley 1981
It might be a controversial choice, but Botham is third on the list. With England staring down the barrel after following on against the Aussies, the all-rounder strode to the wicket to turn the series in the favour of the Three Lions. He smashed the Baggy Greens to the fence, destroying the fearsome attack of Dennis Lillee, Terry Alderman and Geoff Lawson. It was an onslaught that saved the Ashes for England, although it would have been in vain if not for Bob Willis’ 8-43 to bowl the Aussies out for 111 in their second innings.
2. Kevin Pietersen – 158 The Oval 2005
England held a 2-1 lead in their bid to regain the Ashes for the first time in 19 years. At The Oval, Australia produced a fine response to the Three Lions’ knock of 373, ending their first innings only eight runs behind. McGrath and Warne combined to reduce England to 109-4 with ample time in the game for Australia to chase down a score of 150 to deny Michael Vaughan’s men the urn.
Pietersen had already been a thorn in the side of Australia throughout the series, but he produced an all-time knock. He survived a ferocious spell of bowling from Brett Lee and Warne, being dropped twice in the process. Pietersen found his form to begin clearing the rope, hitting seven sixes and another 15 boundaries in his innings. He scored his first Test century, taking them beyond the reach of the Baggy Greens, delivering the Ashes.
1. Ben Stokes – 135* Headingley 2019
Stokes produced one of the finest innings seen in Test cricket to keep the Ashes alive. After being bowled out for 67 in their first innings, England were behind in the game before the Aussies set the hosts 359 to win. The Three Lions had manoeuvred themselves into a decent position before Stokes arrived at the crease. He took his time to adjust to the pitch before being pressed to up the ante after the loss of Joe Root.
His urgency was heightened by a clatter of wickets in the afternoon session. Needing another 72 runs with only Jack Leach for company, Stokes took the attack to the Aussies. He dispatched Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon over the rope with ease, whittling down the total. The 28-year-old maintained the ferocity of his striking until only single figures were required. After a run out and lbw scare, which should have ended the game and the Ashes, Stokes hit the winning runs ending his sensational knock unbeaten.