in one amazing game.
The third Ashes Test at Headingley saw the worst of England for two days and then the best of England for two days as they somehow managed to top the World Cup final for excitement.
That’s why Test Match cricket is the best cricket, forget the biff, bash of T20 and 50 over stuff, never mind the upcoming shambles of the 100. This is cricket… though cricket played by those that can’t play Test cricket but biff bash rubbish.
Those first two days and England played like it was a one day game. Given the ideal bowling conditions on that first day, Broad and Archer bowled brilliantly. Again they were two down early but once the openers made way for the next up it all went to pot and ideal conditions were wasted with short pitched rubbish. Warner was able to play himself out of his slump and that fourth spot in the Aussie line up was making runs again.
Stokes and Woakes bowled rubbish. Don’t know what is up with Woakes, I imagine it’s the old England syndrome of trying to make one bowler abandon what he does best to mimic another bowler. The fetish of the day is pace and hitting the batsmen, so Woakes has to bowl faster and shorter, which completely negates the reason he was picked in the first place. If he’d pitched it up and played his usual game the runs wouldn’t have come. The same with Stokes. His short pitch rubbish was appalling and got what it deserved.
Luckily Archer was there to save the day and they only reached 179. I mean most days you’d be happy to get the Aussies out for less than 180 but they were gifted so many runs out of that total. But again it was all placed on Archer’s shoulders to do the deed. Again the most overs of the England bowlers.
To think it got worse. After seeing out the previous day without losing a wicket but it didn’t last long on day 2. OK who had Roy getting out to a wide swipe at a drive… everybody. Honestly I think Ed Smith has only picked Roy because with this score of 9, Roy’s average dropped to 16.75 so is now below Smith’s average of 17.40. He’s not a test match player, never mind a Test match opener.
What followed was an omnishambles of a clusterfuck.
When Joe Denly is your top scorer, you’re in trouble. When Denly is the lowest top scorer in English Test history, you’re in real trouble. Yes the Aussies have a good set of bowlers and some got decent balls, Root and Bairstow – moved around in the order again – but the rest just gave their wicket away. Epitomised by Stokes and his wild swipe at a real wide one.
Sixty seven. Sixty bloody seven.
They again started well bowling. Broad found his bunny, lost in that first inning as Warner lasted two balls for a duck and again they were two for not a lot but out came Australia’s number 4. smith or Labuschagne it really doesn’t matter they struggle to get ’em out and when they do there’s quite a few runs against their name. Labuschagne got 154 over the two innings taking his series total to 213, while Smith had amassed 378 before being ruled out for this game, still the most runs by any player in the series.
It took Stokes to bowl ’em out eventually on day three. He stopped bowling rubbish and for once it wasn’t Archer who bowled the most overs. That was probably caused by the fast bowler gripping his leg in pain and Joe Root’s sphincter going sixpence, half a crown, at the thought that he’d knackered him already by over bowling. Luckily for all it was just cramp but it meant he only bowled more than Woakes, of the pace men.
Over the two days England had been awful in all disciplines of the game. Batting, bowling and fielding. The captaincy hadn’t been up to much either.
It wasn’t long before England were two for nowt, Burns and Roy back in the pavilion. But Root and Denly saw out most of the day. They got away with a few, Denly mainly but Root played like we know he can and like we haven’t seen enough of since he got into one day mode. Denly departed having made a 50, which might keep him in the side. While Root closed the day on 76, with Stokes on 2 from quite a few deliveries.
Day four started badly, few maidens on the trot brought pressure that really wasn’t there and Root is dancing down the pitch and clipping the ball behind the keeper for Warner, at first slip, to take the catch. All that good work the day before looked to have been thrown away in that mad moment. There was no need. Scoreboard pressure but what pressure. They had two whole days to get 202 runs, on that fourth morning. It’s a run rate of 1.22. One four and you’ve covered three overs.
Root’s dismissal had the feeling of game over, it brought out Bairstow, who needed a knock as the vultures were out again, after a couple of dropped catches. So far Stokes hadn’t been scoring. When Bairstow started putting bat onto ball Stokes followed. Needing 359 it meant that each player needed just 33 runs and the game was won, this was helped out by extras hitting 30 very early on. Five wides brought many a cheer. And as this partnership got going the crowd got even more into it.
But then Bairstow was out and before you could blink Butler was following him after a bit of Boycott run calling from Stokes. Woakes again didn’t last long and he looks shot. Archer was in. Sir Geoffrey got this one wrong, he wanted Broad in ahead of Jofra but while the fast man slapped a few fours in a quick 15, which again lifted the crowd, Broad lasted two balls for his duck… and then who thought it was winnable?
286 for 9 needing another 73 with he last man in. Yes he’d got a 92 against Ireland but this was a bit much more pressure, while his first class average ain’t much to talk about.
That last wicket partnership put on 76 runs. Leach got one of them as ben Stokes went about pummelling the Aussie bowling with some audacious batting. The reverse sweep into the Western Terrace for six and the scoop over the keeper for another six. There was 8 in total, including a couple of heart in mouth ones…
it’s six or out… it’s SIX screamed Agnew.
He was dropped late on and then he had another dodgy running moment, as Leach struggled to get back and was out, game over, Ashes lost until Lyon fumbled the return. Then when the Aussies really lost it. A desperation review after Leach had been adjudged not out by the on-field umpire. Pitching outside leg, what were they thinking? Panic stations. It was their last review and one they regretted not long after when Stokes took a wild swipe at Lyon, missing, falling over and being plumb lbw, for the ump to say not out.
They couldn’t get Leach out and he hit the tying run to put Stokes on strike, where he smacked another four to reach the highest total England have ever reached to win a game.
England have been involved in two of the greatest game in the history of cricket in the space of a few weeks and Ben Stokes has been central. From being useless with bat and ball to begin with to winning it almost single-handedly this was stunning stuff.
Though England got away with it. Without Smith, putting them in with the best bowling conditions, having the best batting conditions, a bit of the Aussies bottling it, and a little help from the umpire.
The talk is of momentum shift… the thing is which England will turn up… the one from those first two days, full of themselves and not up to the task… or the chastened one from the next two, who for the most part knuckled down…