Australia now knows that winning the Ashes will be a tough battle, especially after witnessing England’s thrilling victory at Headingley.
Standing on the field after the match, memories of four years ago flooded my mind. I found myself in the same spot, interviewing Ben Stokes amidst a jubilant atmosphere, reminiscent of that day. The crowd, the weather—everything seemed eerily similar.
Back then, it was Stokes who played the crucial knock, but this time, it was Harry Brook with a match-winning innings of 75 runs. At just 24 years old, playing his 10th Test, Brook displayed remarkable clarity in his batting. Like Stokes, he seemed unfazed by the pressure, delivering an uncomplicated yet perfect performance.
Throughout the third Test, England played the way many of us had suggested they should. It was their own fault that they entered this match 2-0 down, considering the thrilling two-wicket win Australia secured at Edgbaston and the dramatic encounter at Lord’s. The current scoreline better reflects the quality of play we have witnessed.
England displayed positivity in their batting, yet showed sensibility when the field was set back, taking calculated singles into open spaces. This was evident at the start of the decisive fourth day when Ben Duckett and Zak Crawley smartly accumulated runs without taking unnecessary risks.
Mark Wood played a vital role in changing the dynamics of England’s attack in the first innings at Leeds, where he claimed impressive figures of 5-34 and dismantled Australia’s lower order. As a lover of genuine fast bowling, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Wood’s outstanding performance.
Wood’s and Chris Woakes’ ability to deliver such performances in their first match of the series, without any prior cricket, is a testament to their training and preparation.
Now, England must ensure they don’t squander this momentum, as they did in 2019 when they lost the following Test in Manchester after Stokes inspired them to victory. To achieve this, they need to eliminate missed chances and address the concerns surrounding wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, particularly with the talented Ben Foakes waiting in the wings.
Bairstow has had his fair share of missed opportunities in the series, with Andy Zaltzman’s calculations pointing to eight chances gone begging. Equally concerning was his failure to take the catch off Mitchell Starc that eventually fell to Brook on the third evening. It showcased Bairstow’s lack of confidence, and he was fortunate that Brook made a remarkable effort from short leg.
While Bairstow’s batting is highly valued by England, we mustn’t forget his crucial innings of 78 in the first Test. As he continues to recover from a serious leg injury, each game will contribute to his fitness. Consequently, I believe England will persist with him.
However, a decision needs to be made regarding the number three spot. It would be unwise to push Brook back up the order as it isn’t his natural position. If the pitch at Old Trafford is slower, Moeen Ali might retain his place after being promoted to number three in the second innings at Leeds. Another option could be Stokes, who has the technique for the role. Batting down the order, he often has to hit sixes to score a run since Australia tends to set defensive fields against him. While Stokes could play a more conventional innings at number three, the downside is that he may face the new ball, making him vulnerable to early dismissal by Australia’s bowlers.
Hence, I would try to convince Joe Root to return to the number three position. I understand that he prefers his current spot at number four, but it is just one position, and we haven’t discussed this since he stepped down from the captaincy. Root wouldn’t be as fatigued as he would have been in the past, having captained the team in the field all day.
Regarding the bowling lineup, I have a feeling that James Anderson will return to the side, replacing Ollie Robinson, and take the ball at the end that bears his name. Anderson admits he hasn’t been at his best, but his dedication to training before the fourth day shows his determination to improve.
Whoever England selects, the Test in Manchester promises to be a captivating affair. Even with a nine-day break, it will be hard not to get caught up in the excitement that will build over the next week.
Losing on Sunday would have been a massive disappointment, as it would have ended the series prematurely. The Ashes has already showcased everything that makes it so special—brilliant cricket, poor cricket, close finishes, and some controversy—and it has captured the imagination of countless fans, which is ultimately what matters.
This series could become one that we talk about for years to come.
Jonathan Agnew shared his thoughts with Matthew Henry from Sport Newes Center.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Headingley win
What was the significance of England’s win at Headingley in the Ashes 2023?
England’s victory at Headingley in the Ashes 2023 was significant as it brought momentum and renewed hope for England to challenge Australia in the series. It showcased their ability to play positively and make smart decisions on the field. The win also highlighted the impressive performances of Harry Brook and Mark Wood, as well as raised questions about the role of wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.