What a summer of cricket English fans have enjoyed. After the drama of the host nation lifting the Cricket World Cup in the most dramatic fashion imaginable, barely had fans had chance to draw breath before their oldest adversaries, Australia, were back on British soil attempting to retain the Ashes trophy that they won in Australia a couple of years ago.
For all England’s relative success in the one-day version of the game, Australia are still one of the best test match sides in the world with England struggling to match the performances of the best test nations in recent times. However, England have a fine recent record in Ashes test series on home soil which always meant that this summer’s match up would likely be a cracker.
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The Ashes Series Story so Far…
Australia began the brighter of the two teams in the First Test despite England starting well. After dismissing Australia for 284, England moved 90 runs in front after their first innings, posting 374, but a superb Australian performance with the bat saw Australia hit 487 for 7 declared and on a deteriorating wicket, the Aussies dismissed England for a paltry 146 on the final day, Nathan Lyon takin six wickets to hand the visitors the lead in the series.
The second test saw Australia win the toss again but this time, they elected to field and England managed to score just 258 runs, Rory Burns top scoring with 53. However, this time with the ball, England were much more dangerous, dismissing Australia for 250. Weather had robbed fans of action on all of day 1 and part of days 3 and 5 and as a result, England set Australia a total of 266 to chase in the final half day of action. England did claim six wickets as Australia battled to close of play on 154/6, to earn a draw and set up a crucial third test at Headingly.
However, the big news from the second test was that Steve Smith, Australia’s talismanic batsman, was injured after being hit on the neck by a vicious Jofra Archer delivery. Although he completed the first innings (scoring 92) he was unfit to bat in the second innings and has also been ruled out of the third test in what is viewed as a major blow to Australian hopes.
- Jofra Archer has added some real bite into the bowling attack since starting in the second test.
- Ben Stokes return to form with the bat has steeled the middle order a little and is much needed.
- Some of the fringe players, such as Rory Burns, have shone at various points in the series which highlights depth in the squad.
- Real fighting spirit displayed in the second test, even if the game ended in a draw.
- England have struggled at the top of the order against Australia, especially in the second innings of the first test and also the first innings of the second test. Too many players, such as Root, Bairstow and Buttler are struggling for form and need to hit it quickly.
- Pace attack does seem to be now overly reliant on Archer, especially with Jimmy Anderson’s fitness issues still ongoing. Spin attack has been very poor in this series and needs to improve.
- England don’t look confident with the bat and one wicket falling does seem to have a negative influence on the batsmen following. They need skipper Root to lead from the front if they are to win this third test.
- A fast start in the first test and a comprehensive victory means that the Aussies need just one win from the remaining three test matches to ensure that they retain the Ashes.
- Their bowlers have troubled England in every innings, taking wickets at regular intervals to ensure that they always feel in with a chance in the game.
- The Australians have played their best cricket when under pressure in the series so far, which will give them great confidence should this test match play out like the second and be a close-run thing.
- At the top of the batting, Australia have struggled to get off to a good start with their most consistent batsmen coming in the middle order.
- Steve Smith’s absence therefore from the middle order through injury is a massive blow for the Australian side even if his likely replacement, Labuschagne did high score in the second innings of the second test against England with 59.
Ashes Third Test at Headingly – Tip
I do feel that the momentum that had all been with Australia following the first test, has slowly started to shift. After that test and the opening day of the second test, Australia looked likely to be swift winners of the series but since then, England have started to battle back, most notably with the ball in hand.
If England can get their stuttering batsmen to find runs at the top of the order, then they could be set to give Australia a real test here, especially if they can then allow those down the middle order to play more expansive cricket, to get the runs racked up quickly. England are at the best when this happens but they have not been able to show this in the series so far, apart from a brief Ben Stokes cameo in the second innings of the second test.
With Australia missing their talismanic batsman Steve Smith through injury, I fancy England to level the series here with a fine win at Headingly to send the teams into the fourth test all square and the Ashes series balanced on a knife edge.
Back England to win the test at 4/6 with bet365 Sport (odds correct as of 12pm on Wed 21st August)