Durham ace Stokes' ton in vain as England surrender the Ashes

The Northern Echo: 100: Durham's Ben Stokes celebrates his first century for England in only his second Test 100: Durham's Ben Stokes celebrates his first century for England in only his second Test

ENGLAND lost the Ashes before Christmas with a third successive landslide defeat, despite Ben Stokes' maiden Test century.

Stokes (120) was the cornerstone of the tourists' belated defiance on a Perth pitch full of crazy-paving cracks, but they were still bowled out for 353 early on the final afternoon as Australia regained the urn with a 150-run win and unassailable 3-0 lead.

In notional pursuit of a world-record 504 to win, or in the hope of eking out England's second innings for more than five sessions in all, Stokes deserved significant credit for delaying the inevitable for so long.

His skill and determination, in only his second Test, were justly rewarded with a memorable and chanceless century.

It was also England's first of a series in which they have fallen badly short against hosts hell-bent on revenge after three successive Ashes defeats.

Alastair Cook's tourists travelled down under perhaps in expectation rather than mere hope of beating their oldest adversaries again.

Instead, they have been outplayed throughout - and it was down almost single-handedly to 22-year-old Stokes that even a modicum of pride was salvaged here.

It has taken only 14 days of cricket, in fact, for Australia to win the Ashes for the first time since their 5-0 whitewash of Andrew Flintoff's team six winters ago.

England's only remaining business down under this time is to avoid a repeat of that ignominy, by somehow battling back in Melbourne on Boxing Day and Sydney in the new year.

Stokes played admirably straight here, and struck the ball powerfully off either foot - on the fourth evening mostly with Ian Bell and Matt Prior through a taxing morning.

Prior was gone by the time Stokes reached his hundred, with a hook fine off Mitchell Johnson (four for 78) for his 16th four from the 159th ball he faced.

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