By Rex Clementine
Headingley has been a part of British sporting folklore over the years be it in 1981 when Botham turned the Ashes on its head or 2019 when Ben Stokes stunned the Aussies. England have done it again in 2023 and the Ashes is pretty much alive.
With Australia taking a 2-0 lead and England struggling with fitness and form issues, it looked a foregone conclusion which way the Ashes was heading as the Aussies looked to seal their first series win in English soil since 2005. But it all changed all too rapidly as England triumphed by three wickets to stay in the hunt. Old Trafford now looks promising and James Anderson at his home ground must be fired up.
The Aussies looked to be cruising and when you win all your troubles are forgotten, but now questions have resurfaced about David Warner’s place in the side. Stuart Broad had his man on both innings and now has dismissed the left-hander on 17 times in Ashes cricket.
Cricket is a funny game. Mitchell Marsh would walk into many Test sides without much of a hassle, but Australia have got an equally prolific all-rounder in Cameron Green. Having warmed the benches for the first two Tests, Marsh finally got a break for the third Test and he just didn’t grab the opportunity but proved yet again what a devastating player he can be. There were some stunning hits during his first innings hundred having walked in at 84 for four. He also claimed two wickets with his bowling. Marsh’s run a ball 118 was the only hundred in what was a relatively low scoring game.
Ample all-round options is a good headache to have. Australia aren’t alone in that aspect. Chris Woakes will never become England’s first choice all-rounder when they have players of the caliber of Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali but what damage can he do.
Mark Wood was special. Seven wickets in the game for the fastest bowler on the planet. When fully fit, there aren’t many match winning bowlers in the game and it was a treat to watch Wood setting up batters and not many are well equipped to handle his pace.
His unbeaten 24 run stand with Chris Woakes for the eighth wicket during the run chase was worth in gold and so was his first innings contribution of 24 that ensured Australia’s first innings lead was below 30. He richly deserved Man of the Match award and if he remains fit, don’t rule out England securing a come from behind Ashes victory.
England will be kicking themselves that are they aren’t leading the Ashes after three Tests. It could have been 2-1 England had their approach been bit more cautious. But having said that, their exciting brand of cricket throwing caution to wind with the bat has spiced the game up.
Still, they could have been bit more careful with their first innings declaration. They may get away with such kind of tactics with lesser teams, but against opponents like Australia who are both tough and have depth, those decisions could come back to haunt them. Yet, you wouldn’t want England to change their style would you?