History against England as Headingley hosts third Ashes Test
England have been trailblazers and record-breakers in the last 13 months but history is against them as they look to get a faltering Ashes campaign back on track at Headingley.
Defeats at Edgbaston and Lord’s have left England drinking in the last chance saloon and their hopes of regaining the urn will be over at the earliest opportunity if they come off second best in Leeds.
Only Australia, on one occasion in the 1930s, have overturned a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 but this England side under captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum have often inverted accepted wisdom.
Tensions between the two teams are fraught after the controversial stumping of Jonny Bairstow at the home of cricket, even if both Stokes and Pat Cummins insisted a line has been drawn under the incident.
The hosts have rung the changes as fast bowlers Mark Wood and Chris Woakes and off-spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali are included for the injured Ollie Pope, with James Anderson and Josh Tongue rotated out. Cummins has delayed naming his XI but confirmed Todd Murphy will come in for the injured Nathan Lyon.
England’s ‘Bazballers’ out to emulate Bradman’s babes
England have been in this position before after two Tests and not once have they managed to upset the odds and claim a series victory over their arch rivals. There is a precedent as Australia have done it on one occasion in 1936-37, when they were captained by Don Bradman, whose blade dramatically reversed the fortunes of the sides. While England prevailed by thumping margins at Brisbane and Sydney, Bradman’s 270 at Melbourne, 212 at Adelaide and 169 back at Melbourne saw Australia snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Bradman’s 270 was rated by Wisden as the best Test innings of all time in 2001.
England have enjoyed themselves in Yorkshire over recent years, putting in some convincing displays against a variety of opposition. While Stokes’ heroics in 2019 will live longest in the memory, last summer’s outstanding chase against New Zealand and innings victories over India and Pakistan are not to be sniffed at. The West Indies were the last away team to win there, six years ago.
View from the dressing room
The England skipper had a lighthearted response to the Western Australian’s front page mock-up of him wearing a nappy and sucking a dummy under the headline ‘Cry Babies’.
Smith brings up another ton
Steve Smith will bring up his latest landmark this week as he becomes the 14th Australian to reach 100 Test caps. His first few appearances was as a cherubic leg-spinner and he was dubbed the next Shane Warne. But it soon became clear Smith was closer as an heir apparent to the great Bradman. Smith has had a special career, amassing 9,113 runs at 59.56 – only Bradman and Herbert Sutcliffe have a better average among batters with more than 50 Test innings. Smith’s 110 at Lord’s was his 12th Ashes hundred and only Bradman, with 19, has more. England will be praying they can keep him quiet this week.
If Australia were taken aback by the vitriol they attracted at Lord’s, where even the usually serene environment of the Long Room took a turn, then they can expect the volume to be turned up again in Leeds. It would be no surprise if the touring side had to draw straws to find out who takes up fielding duty in front of the Western Terrace, a notoriously raucous stand that will be eager to make its collective voice heard. Measures are being taken to ensure things do not cross a line, but England will hope the partisan atmosphere serves them well.
England bring the fire
A heaving schedule meant England always planned to rotate their bowling attack although there is some surprise it has taken until now to unleash Wood – who will be the fastest bowler on show at Headingley. Capable of bowling rockets at 96mph, Wood has had one or two niggles precluding his involvement but is firing on all cylinders and will be England’s major point of difference. The Durham quick routinely troubled Australia’s batters in the 2021-22 series Down Under and it is hoped he will have a similar impact this week. Harry Brook shuffles to three to replace Pope, with Bairstow also up two places to five, while Moeen and Woakes add ballast to the lower order at seven and eight respectively.