2019 Ashes Series: Third Test Review
Day One Highlights
With two matches in the book, it was time for England and Australia to resume their battle for the famous urn at Headingley, Yorkshire. Thus far, Australia had claimed victory in the First Test at Edgbaston, before a rain affected Second Test at Lord’s ended all square, meaning that the series score stood at 1-0 to the Aussies. For England, it was simple win or bust. A defeat in the Third Test, and the Ashes would remain in the Aussies' possession. For Australia the task looked easy, simply avoid defeat and they would keep the urn.
The Second Test had been blighted by rain, and the Third started in similar fashion with the elements disrupting the toss, pushing the start of play back to 1:30 pm. England made a promising start by claiming the wickets of Harris and Khawaja, although the latter was only given out after a referral to the video umpire.
The rest of the afternoon session would see more interruptions due to bad rain and bad light, but the evening session would play itself out freely. Australia’s third wicket fell with the score at 111, with Jofra Archer claiming David Warner off a catch. England’s newest bowling sensation would go onto claim a further five wickets to end Australia’s innings at 179. Young Jofra is still very green by Test Match standards but his obvious natural talent had seemingly put England into a commanding position.
Day Two Highlights
The second day held much promise for England with sunny conditions and an ideal pitch for totting up a high score with the bat. However, England would have a truly disastrous day at the crease, one of the worst in their history in actual fact. Joe Denly was the only man to make double digits, and he only managed that after surviving an lbw review. By the time the players exited the field for lunch, England had lost 6 wickets for a measly 54 runs.
The lunch break failed to change England’s fortunes, as they lost their remaining four wickets for just 13 more runs. Josh Hazelwood was undoubtedly the most ruthless of Australia’s bowlers as he claimed five wickets. England's 1st innings score of 67 was their lowest in an Ashes Test since 1948.
The incompetence with the bat was seemingly contagious, at least initially for Australia, as Warner was given lbw for a duck in just the second over. However, Harris and Khawaja were able to steady the ship and add a combined total of 26 runs to the total. Harris though would fall victim to an excellent ball from Jack Leach, whilst Khawaja would be caught out by Jason Roy off a Chris Woakes delivery. Still, the Aussies were 82/3 at tea and looking odds on to retain the Ashes and claim their first series win over England since 2001.
After the interval Australia seemingly tightened their grip as Wade and Labuschagne ( Steve Smith’s replacement) combined for a partnership of 66. Wade and captain Tim Paine would fall just before the close of the play, but Labuschagne would go on to claim a deserved half century, and put Australia 283 runs ahead on 171/6.
Day Three Highlights
The sunny weather continued into the third day, and at a little before 11 m, Labuschagne and Pattinson returned to the crease, with the former sitting on a healthy 53 not out. Pattinson would fall first though, as Joe Root caught him behind from an Archer ball. Pat Cummins stepped up next, but his innings was short lived as Rory Burns would catch him out in the slips off Ben Stokes (more on him later). Shortly afterwards, Labuschagne was finally claimed after Joe Denly ran him out. He retired to the pavilion after making a respectable 80 runs and putting the visitors at 237/9. The deficit for England was 349, and would grow by a further 9 before Nathan Lyon was finally given a lbw off a Jofra Archer. For England, an impossible task lay before them. In order to keep the Ashes alive, they had to try and chase down 358 runs, no England team had ever managed to do that before.
The mammoth task commenced shortly before lunch, and both Roy and Burns were able to withstand the bowling storm before the teams retired for lunch. However, once back at the crease, both men fell quickly. At this juncture, many England fans including myself were cursing the continued inclusion of Jason Roy, an excellent player in the short form of the game, but thus far inept in the real form of Cricket. At 15/2 in stepped the two Joes’ messers Root and Denly. They steadied the sinking ship slightly, guiding England to 140/2 and collecting half centuries in the process. But Denly would fall to a catch behind off Josh Hazelwood. The next man in was Ben Stokes, who along with Joe Root were able to see out the day. At day’s end England were on 156/3- a respectable score but still 203 runs short of victory.
Day Four Highlights
Into the fourth day, and a poor start by the hosts, as they failed to score any runs for over four overs. Joe Root finally opened the scoring amidst huge cheers from the Headingley crowd. However, he would fall to a spectacular catch by David Warner behind off a Nathan Lyon ball, his 356th Test wicket. With that, Lyon now stood third all time in terms of Australian Test wicket-takers, only Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne had taken more. Johnny Bairstow now came to the crease; and straight away it was clear that he meant business, as the two men combined for 79, to take England up to 238/4- 121 runs from victory.
A brief lunch break seemed to derail England, as Australia claimed a string of quick wickets, including the clearly annoyed Johnny Bairstow. Jos Buttler would be run out for just one, after a communication breakdown between himself and Ben Stokes. Similarly Chris Woakes would make just one, before driving a shot straight to Matthew Wade. The score stood at 261/7, just 98 more runs required, but with only three wickets remaining, only the tail order stood between Australia and certain victory. Jofra Archer was next in and played some beautiful boundary shots before being caught by Travis Head at deep midwicket. Stuart Broad was caught off his very first ball, leaving just one man, spin bowler Jack Leach.
For England the game plan was simple now, keep Stokes on strike as often as possible in order to continue piling the pressure on. He was relentless, hitting a gorgeous six off Nathan Lyon, then adding two more sixes in the next over to take the score up to 310/9. Two overs later, he would claim his second century of the series. Ben Stokes was batting like a man possessed, picking up another 16 runs from just 3 balls. At this juncture, many of us England fans including yours only, who had previously given up on victory now returned to the spectacle scarcely believing what was happening. England were 338/9 a mere 21 runs from an unlikely victory. Then came the first heart in the mouth moment, as Marcus Harris dived for a catch off a Ben Stokes strike. It would have been a tough one to make admittedly, but I did exhale sharply when the ball slipped out of his tentative grip. Unfazed, Stokes hit consecutive fours to move the score up to 350/9. The chase was down to single digits. Jack Leach, England’s bespectacled warrior was the subject of an lbw review, but further analysis revealed that the ball had pitched outside leg, confirming that the umpire’s original decision of not out was correct. This would be Australia’s last review, and in hindsight serve as a lesson to use reviews of decisions wisely. Nathan Lyon continued to attack, but Ben Stokes hit him for another six, to bring England to within just two runs of victory and one of tying the game. Two balls later, Lyon fumbled what would have been a certain run out, with the hapless Jack Leach two yards away from his crease after a misunderstanding between himself and Ben Stokes. I remember this moment vividly, listening to Test Match Special on the BBC. I remember hearing England’s greatest batsman Sir Alastair Cook screaming ‘NO!’ over and over, as defeat loomed, and Jonathan Agnew shouting ‘Lyon’s dropped it!’ Another exhale. However, the next pivotal moment would be just one ball away. Lyon pitched a short ball to Stokes which hit him on the pad. The cries of ‘OUT’ bellowed from Aussie mouths. English fans stared aghast praying on the decision of umpire Joel Wilson. Wilson thoughg for a moment before shaking his head confidently. The Aussies were flabbergasted and Nathan Lyon collapsed to the floor in despair. Remember that ill advised review from earlier? Well with the Aussies out of reviews, they simply had to accept Wilson’s decision. However, if it had been reviewed then it would have been given out, as Stokes’ pad was in front of leg stump. Jack Leach would add a crucial single to ensure that England could not lose the game, and even more crucially put Stokes back on strike after facing three balls. Leach calmly cleaned his glasses for the umpteenth time, as Pat Cummins began his run up. Ben Stokes neatly cut at the ball sending it through the covers to the boundary for four. Against all the odds, England had won the match, levelling the series, and keeping their bid to reclaim the Ashes alive and kicking. Moreover, their successful chase of 358 runs was the highest they had ever achieved in a Test match against any team
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 James Kenny