The Fourth Test at Headingley was one of casualties for England.
Vice-captain Ollie Pope missed the game and indeed the rest of the series due to a dislocated shoulder. Captain Ben Stokes is now battling a glute problem apart from an old knee problem. Fast bowler Ollie Robinson suffered back spasms. Bodies broken, battered and crushed.
At 142–7 in their first innings and 121 remaining, England’s position was looking grim. His Ashes hopes were not over – just like the ball that got Jonny Bairstow stumped at Lord’s – but they were slipping. The antidote was Stokes, as is often the case.
It looked like the first innings would fall short of enough runs, but it eventually fell just over 20 runs, as Stokes scored 80 off 108 balls to bundle out his side for 237.
Spinner Todd Murphy was dismissed for sixes, fast bowler Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc for fours.
Four years ago at Headingley, Nasser Hussain shouted, “The Ashes are well and truly alive because of one cricketer – and that cricketer is Benjamin Stokes,” when the left-hander dismissed Cummins for four. The Ashes Test was won for England.
This time too it was a similar story. Stokes might not have scored the winning run – that privilege belonged to Chris Woakes – but his intervention was absolutely crucial.
Stokes was helped in 2019 at Leeds. Jofra Archer took six wickets in the first innings; Joe Root and Joe Denly hit fifties in the run chase, Bairstow scored 36, Jack Leach was the all-time great not out. His support was also good in Yorkshire this year.
On the fourth day, it was Harry Brook, Woakes and Mark Wood. Brook top-scored with 75 in a successful chase of 251, saving his head after being accused of losing it after flapping against the short ball at Lord’s. After this Wood and Woakes scored the last 21 runs.
Wood’s eight-ball 16, which included hitting Cummins for a six, was the second time in the game that he had hit boundaries, the potential pacer scoring 24 runs in just eight balls in England’s first innings, before Captain Stokes continued the charge.
Wood also bowled at lightning speed, reaching nearly 97 mph, as he demolished Australia’s lower middle order and tail, taking 6–23 in the first innings.
Woakes, playing his first Test since March 2022, took six wickets in the match, one each for a member of Australia’s top seven. Add to this his batting and Woakes finally had the Ashes…
Stuart Broad dismissed David Warner for the 16th and 17th times in Ashes cricket and then removed Travis Head late on the third evening as the left-hander threatened to take Australia ahead of England.
Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith also helped Stokes and his men, playing a dozen shots against Moeen Ali’s off-spin as Australia slumped from 68-1 to 90-4 in their second innings. It looks like the pressure of the Ashes may have reached its best.
Now the pressure on Australia is immense. Only one team in history has lost the Ashes 2-0 – England in 1936/37 – but the Baggy Greens will fear a second-place finish. England believe they can become the second team to win after coming from 2-0 down. He has pace and threat ahead of the fourth Test in Manchester.
They have a fast bowler in Wood who is intimidating. Broad is a fast bowler who thrills Warner and excites the spectators. Their captain inspires his soldiers again and again. There is no such thing as defeat for him and the Ashes have not been lost because of him.
When a bowler is really fast, it doesn’t matter what kind of batsman you are. It makes you hurry, you make mistakes. That consistent pace was top notch along with the accuracy of swing and length. England needed a spark and his pace was the main reason they won.
Speed can be lost very quickly. We saw when going from Leeds to Manchester four years ago, Australia recovered from their defeat in the Third Test inspired by Stokes and won the Fourth Test to retain the Ashes.
Repetition is highly possible.
Australia are a fantastic team and you imagine that at some point Labuschagne will go from the underdog of this series to the world-class batsman he has been for the last four years.
But thanks to Stokes, Woakes and a few other good guys, The Ashes is well and truly alive. One win for England, two more to go…
Watch live Day 1 of the fourth Ashes Test sky sports cricket On Wednesday 19th July. Build-up from 10am, first ball at 11am. You can stream the men’s and women’s Ashes series now,