Chris Woakes called on England to channel Headingley 2019 and drag themselves back into the Ashes – although the seamer hopes there is a more straightforward path to victory.
England closed on 27 without loss in pursuit of 251, a tricky ask as they have to better a first-innings 237, after Australia were skittled for 224 on a truncated day three of the third Test.
Adding to the tension is England knowing they will lose the series at the earliest possible opportunity if they fall short in the chase, although the target is some way below the 359 they were set four years ago.
On that occasion, England sealed a nerve-shredding one-wicket win to breathe fresh life into their campaign and Woakes recognises there will be similar momentum shifts and anxious spells on Sunday.
“I hope so, because that means we win the Test match,” said Woakes, when asked if they would invoke the spirit of 2019 in pursuit of 224 more runs. “It would be nice to do it a little bit easier this time.
“There’s a full day ahead of us and we know what we’ve got to get. To chalk a few off is really nice and to finish the day none down is a real positive for us.
“We know we can chase scores as a team. It certainly suits us which is a good thing.
“The scores haven’t been overly high in this game, so you don’t just walk into it thinking it’s going to be a doddle.
“Naturally in a run chase there’s always nerves. But they are good nerves. The thought of winning the Test, chasing down a score, and keeping yourself in the series. It’s more excitement than nerves.”
Both Woakes and Australia batter Travis Head were involved in a clash that went down as an Ashes classic, with Ben Stokes’ 135 not out getting England over the line in dramatic fashion.
“It’s fair to say that it’s a nice place to be with the series on the line and hopefully we can redeem ourselves from 2019 at this place,” said Head, who bolstered Australia on Saturday with a fine 77.
Woakes has been quietly instrumental in his first Test of the Bazball era after 16 months out of the side, initially missing out through injury and then sliding down the pecking order.
He has taken three wickets in both innings, all of them in Australia’s top-seven, in his first home match in the format since September 2021.
He acknowledged his dismissal of Australia linchpin Marnus Labuschagne – third in the Test batting rankings – on the opening day helped him to settle.
“Getting the call shows the backing from the coach and the captain, and to get a big scalp like Marnus is a bit of a relief and shows faith in the decision to play,” Woakes added.
“The fact I haven’t played in front of a crowd in England for a couple of years brings out that emotion in you when you hear that roar. It’s easy to forget how good it is when you haven’t played for a while.”
England last summer made a habit of reeling in high targets under Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum, successfully chasing down four 275-plus scores.
But, as in 2019, Woakes may at some point be called to strap on the pads in a bid to avoid Australia moving into an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series.
“The excitement and chance of winning a Test match in an Ashes series is fantastic but we also realise we’re still 220 runs away from that,” said Woakes
“There’s some hard work to be put in. Australia will be thinking they’re 10 wickets away from winning an Ashes series in England as well, so it’s an exciting day for both teams.”