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20 August 2019, by: Jonhenry Wilson


Headingly is the scene for the third Ashes Test where Australia hold a slender 1-0 lead, but England have some momentum after a fiery debut from quick Jofra Archer at Lords.

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If Steven Smith’s successive centuries in the Ashes series opener at Edgbaston didn’t ignite arguably the fiercest rivalry in Test cricket, then Jofra Archer’s remarkable debut at Lord’s certainly did. This week’s third encounter at Headingley, then, will keep the duel heated – and the anticipation rife.

The London fixture yielded plenty of entertainment despite the loss of over five sessions to rain. From a near fourth consecutive Ashes series ton in the United Kingdom for Smith to Ben Stokes’ combative century, there was plenty of value for the batsmen at Lord’s. The bowlers left a mark too, especially Archer. 

The Barbados-born fast bowler, whose qualification to play for England was effectively fast-tracked earlier this year and effectively ensured a star performance during the World Cup, promptly converted that fine stretch of form at limited-overs level into success in the longest format.

Reaching speeds of up to 96 miles (155 kilometres) per hour, he felled Smith and Test cricket’s first formal substitution Marnus Labuschagne with fierce bouncers. His first marks on the ultimate format, indeed, were all but indelible. 


While Australia contemplates rotation of their seam attack, England will undoubtedly keep Archer in the proverbial cauldron at Headingley, which was really good to the West Indies’ fast bowlers in 2017 and Stuart Broad and James Anderson during Pakistan’s near no-show in 2018. England will be without Anderson again, though, as a calf injury prevents participation in this match – and perhaps the fourth Test.

Australia, meanwhile, might have to retain Labuschagne. Smith is undergoing more concussion testing – and remains in doubt amid a quick turnaround between the second and third Tests.

The composition of the seam attacks inspire confidence, but both teams are battling top-order struggles. David Warner’s challenging Test return has been characterised by four single-figure failures. Unlike Archer and Jos Buttler, Jason Roy hasn’t seen a good run of form in ODI cricket graduate to success at Test level – and only has 40 runs to show for four Ashes series innings.

England’s squad is unchanged, but a tweak to the XI might have Joe Denly replace Roy at the top of the order and Sam Curran recalled. The addition of Curran would bolster the hosts’ batting resources – and add a left-arm variation to a bowling department lined with right-arm seamers. Labuschagne deserves to be retained, even if Smith is fit to play. Matthew Wade, despite scoring a ton in the first Test, might be sidelined for the South African-born Labuschagne. 


England’s batsmen have to string together some big scores. Rory Burns showcased the value of hard graft en route to a patient century at Edgbaston, while Stokes graduated to three figures at Lord’s. The others must take example. Denly is the biggest culprit, consistently pledging more en route to fluent 20s or 30s, only to perish soon thereafter. Captain Joe Root, meanwhile, must recover from a maiden first-ball duck in Test cricket.

Australia’s agenda is obvious: successfully combat Archer, mentally, physically and numerically. Tim Paine’s role in the order is under the spotlight. He insists on pulling the short ball, with poor results. One surmises the captain’s role in the XI would be in severe doubt, if Smith was allowed to lead – and Wade named wicketkeeper. Regardless, Paine obviously wants those higher in the order to fire on cue – and only require finishing touches from the lower-order pretenders.


Lord’s yielded the 50th draw in 139 Tests, but Headingley boasts a substantially stronger record. The Leeds ground has only seen three draws in the last 30 Tests. England have won 33 of 76 here – and Australia nine of 25. Their last Test contest here, though, was a full decade ago. Peter Siddle took a first-innings five-for in that victory for the tourists – and is one of two survivors from 2009’s 22 alongside Broad.

England have not used a specialist spinner other than Moeen Ali in a Test at Headingley since 2013, when the veteran Graeme Swann was still playing. With Swann retired and Ali out of contention, left-armer Jack Leach is well poised to make an impact in Leeds. He exploited the rough outside the left-handers’ off-stump superbly at Lord’s.

The pitch probably won’t generate as much pace as in London, suggesting Siddle and Chris Woakes will prove more effective than, say, Pat Cummins or Broad. A 30 percent chance of rain is predicted in Leeds on day one, clearing over the weekend but returning on Monday. Proceedings, hopefully, won’t be interrupted as much as they were at Lord’s.


Judgement over Roy is fast and furious at the moment. What he showed during the World Cup and several ODIs before that is certainly not occurring at Test level. The balance between sound technique against the swinging ball and natural aggression is still lacking. Roy is the type of player who can turn this all around with a big knock – and is backed to do so at Headingley.

Labuschagne will likely be retained, even if Smith stays – and is a good pick to be Australia’s top scorer in the first innings. The Klerksdorp-born right-hander displayed plenty of steel by recovering from that Archer blow to move to a fighting half-ton at Lord’s. Australia demand this sort of stamina in the middle order, especially if their openers’ stays are going to be short-lived.


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