A record 2.1 million have watched on Sky Sports Ben Stokes’ unbeaten knock of 135 runs to snatch a win from the jaws of defeat in the third Ashes Test at the Leeds, Headingly, on Sunday.
This is reportedly the highest recorded television audience in the UK since the 2005 Ashes, when 7.4 million people had watched the last game of the five-match series on Channel 4.
The innings has reportedly also sparked an unprecedented interest in the series with two more games scheduled for the Old Trafford and the Oval.
Stokes had struck an undefeated 135 and shared a 76-run, 10th wicket stand with Jack Leach to guide hosts past the 35-run victory target after they had collapsed for only 67 runs in the first innings.
In spite of the record audience, Sky has ruled out making any of the remaining two Test matches available on free-to-air television, British daily Telegraph has reported.
Sky Sports had tied up with Channel 4 to share the ICC Cricket World Cup final live feed. The tie-up had resulted in a record audience of 8.7 million for England’s maiden ICC World Cup title triumph. Three and a half million fans had tuned into Sky’s various channels while a majority of 5.2 million fans had watched the World Cup 2019 final via free to air terrestrial television.
Stokes’ heroics on Sunday, which saw the all-rounder hit 74 off 45 balls in a last-wicket stand with Jack Leach, also helped free-to-air Channel 5 to an audience of over 2 million for its one-hour highlights package which aired following the conclusion of day four in Leeds.
The BBC Test Match Special has reportedly recorded around 1.3m audience.
In addition, BBC Sport’s live text of the match achieved 3.3 million browsers and 3.7 million requests for video highlight clips, helping the public broadcaster to a total reach of 8.3 million across all platforms.
Sky has secured the rights package for the Ashes for the next five-year cycle. Telegraph has quoted a source as saying that any free-to-air giveaway is unthinkable.