England call on Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and Moeen Ali for third Ashes Test
England have rung the changes as they seek to keep the Ashes alive in this week’s third Test at Headingley, with three alterations to the XI and a promotion for Harry Brook.
Brook is slated to step up to number three in place of Ollie Pope, whose summer is over due to a dislocated shoulder, while Moeen Ali, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes all return to the bowling attack.
With just three days between games, record wicket-taker James Anderson is rested after two modest performances, with Josh Tongue also stood down after an encouraging outing at Lord’s.
At 2-0 down with three to play, England are in now-or-never territory and have opted to overhaul not just the personnel, but the balance of their side.
While they are effectively one specialist batter down in Pope’s absence, the addition of Moeen and Woakes strengthens the lower order in response.
Wood’s belated introduction into the series – he was considered for last week’s second Test but there were some concerns over his workload – also gives England skipper Ben Stokes the express pace option he has been craving.
Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson top the wicket charts with 11 and 10 respectively, but England have been outmatched for air speed so far and Wood’s ability to hit up to 96mph gives Stokes a new weapon to unsettle the tourists.
Woakes makes his first appearance of the ‘Bazball’ era and Moeen is back in action after a badly-blistered right index finger saw him miss out at Lord’s.
Stokes admitted his own ongoing fitness issues played a part in the team selection, after he defied his knee problems to bowl a mammoth 12-over spell and then turned in a remarkable 155 in the fourth innings.
“I’m not going to lie, last week took it out of me and a big part of what I had to think about was what would be the best team if I didn’t bowl a ball. That was a huge part of my thinking,” he said.
As for Brook’s promotion to an unfamiliar position he only briefly filled earlier in his career at Yorkshire, and with limited returns, he said: “It’s pretty simple for us to be honest. A player like Brooky, it feels like he can slot in any position.
“We feel Brooky is a type of player who can just take responsibility and crack on with it. We want to keep Joe (Root) at number four, he’s a remarkable player.”
Jonny Bairstow retains the wicketkeeping gloves but shuffles up two places in the batting order to number five, a position in which he excelled last summer with four buccaneering hundreds in six Tests.
Bairstow’s dismissal at Lord’s – stumped after wandering out of his crease believing the ball to be dead – overshadowed Australia’s victory in the second Test, with the issue reaching Prime Ministerial level as both Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese waded into the debate.
England head coach Brendon McCullum said in the aftermath the incident could “galvanise” England, but Stokes said: “I don’t think we can galvanise as a group any more than we are to be honest.
“There’s been obviously a lot of noise around the incident last week at Lord’s, but from me as a captain and from the England team, I think the best thing that everyone needs to do is just move on from it.”
Wood’s express pace – he is almost certainly the quickest bowler on either side – adds an extra dimension to England’s attack without record wicket-taker Anderson, who has under-performed by his own admission with just three wickets at an average of 75.33.
Back-to-back Tests means Anderson, who turns 41 this month, is being kept on ice for the fourth Test at Emirates Old Trafford and an end that bears his name.
Stokes added: “We were very open and honest and clear with each other before the series started that it’s going to be very tough to ask the bowlers to play every game this summer.
“It’s a good chance for Jimmy to have a rest up and then get ready for to charge in from the James Anderson End at Old Trafford next week.
“It’s great to have Woody fit. He’s firing and really ready to go this week and we’re looking forward to seeing him get going.”
The absence of vice-captain Pope raises the question of who will lead the side in case Stokes has to leave the field.
Stokes added: “I’ve been off the field a few times and given the responsibility to the bowlers on how they want to set their fields. They’re all aware of how they want to operate without me there.
“If I do find myself off the field I’d be very confident that whoever is bowling can implement the plans anyway.”