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The Ashes: England vs Australia, third Test preview and prediction

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21st August, 2019
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With rain keeping Australia ahead in the Ashes, the teams move to Headingley for the third Test, where a win would allow the visitors to retain the urn against a desperate England outfit.

The second Test, much like the first, ebbed and flowed, and at various positions, both sides were in a position to take the initiative and win the game.

In the end, a stunning half-century from concussion replacement Marnus Labuschagne in one of the toughest, grittiest innings you’ll see given the circumstances, allowed Australia to hang on for a draw and to maintain their 1-0 series advantage.

But, even if England didn’t get the result they so badly wanted and needed out of Lord’s after the shock opening loss in Edgbaston, they did get some crucial points in their favour.

The biggest among them was the rattling of Steve Smith, who will now miss the third Test of the series. There was always a though that Jofra Archer, with his raw pace and aggression, might have been able to flip the series on its head, and he has more or less done exactly that.

No one wants to see any cricketer get injured, but the short ball barrage that Archer offered at Lord’s made for exhilarating cricket, and now, with Smith out due to a concussion after being hit on the neck in an incredibly scary moment, Australia will need to find a way to get runs outside of the former skipper.

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Smith has been phenomenal so far, his lowest score being the 92 at Lord’s across his three innings, and he has single-handily given Australia respectable scores across the series.

Steve Smith suffers a blow from Jofra Archer.

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

But, we must move on from the Smith factor, no matter how much of an impact it will have on this third Test at Headingly, where the weather forecast is shaping up to be much better than it was at Lord’s.

As it’s shaping up at this point, both teams batting has been fragile, saved by individual performances in both Tests, and the bowling has been good.

It makes it a hard series to read, however, Headingley is traditionally a little more friendly for the batsmen during the middle portion of the match, after being really good for swing and seam early doors, so just maybe, we will finally see an all-round solid batting performance in Leeds.

While much of the credit for England’s second Test is lumped on Archer, it’s still worth noting the struggles Australia’s top order have had against Stuart Broad, particularly David Warner, who will be crucial in the absence of Smith.

England’s top order too, have struggled greatly against the Aussie top order, although Rory Burns continues to find ways to score runs.

The form of Joe Root is something of a worry for the home side, while the impact of the spinners – the impressive Jake Leach and Nathan Lyon – will continue to prove a pivotal point in the series, particularly with much more cricket expected acoss the five days in this Test.

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In the last five matches played at Headingley, Australia have won four, including one by an innings, however, the sides haven’t visited the venue since 2009.

History

Overall record: Played 348, Australia 145, England 108, drawn 95
Overall record in England: Played 168, Australia 51, England 49, drawn 68
Overall record at Headingley Played 24, Australia 9, England 7, drawn 8
Overall series record: Played 78, Australia 40, England 33, drawn 8
Overall series record in England: Played 38, England 19, Australia 15, drawn 4

Last five series
2017-18: Australia won 4-0 in Australia
2015: England won 3-2 in England
2013-14: Australia won 5-0 in Australia
2013: England won 3-0 in England
2010-11: England won 3-1 in Australia

Last five matches at Headingley
2009, Aug 7-9: Australia won by an innings and 80 runs
2001, Aug 16-20: England won by 6 wickets
1997, Jul 24-28: Australia won by an innings and 61 runs
1993, Jul 22-26: Australia won by an innings and 148 runs
1989, Jun 8-13: Australia won by 210 runs

Team news, likely XIs and squads

England
England do have their fair share or problems to sort out in terms of form, but it was a much better performance from the home side during the second Test, despite the nature of the draw.

Jason Roy would appear to be the player with the most question marks on him. Like the Australian openers, he has been flat out woeful throughout the Ashes, not yet breaking out of single figures.

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The top of the order has been a major problem for England over the years, and while Rory Burns is doing a hell of a job at gritting things out and riding his luck, Roy isn’t having any of it.

At the time of writing, it would appear England are content to leave Roy in the side and stick with the same top order, but Trevor Bayliss has stated his Test future is in the middle, and this may well be last chance.

That being said, England are unlikely to change their attack unless Jofra Archer pulled up sore from bowling so many overs, and even then, he would probably be asked to push through with James Anderson only hoping to be fit for the fourth Test at his home ground on Old Trafford.

So, England should have an unchanged XI, with Sam Curran to miss out.

1. Jason Roy
2. Rory Burns
3. Joe Root (c)
4. Joe Denly
5. Jos Buttler
6. Ben Stokes
7. Jonny Bairstow (wk)
8. Chris Woakes
9. Stuart Broad
10. Jofra Archer
11. Jack Leach

12th man: Sam Curran

Australia
What we know with absolute certainty about the Australian line-up for Headingley is that Steve Smith, the man with a truckload of runs, will not be playing.

As he recovers from that nasty blow to the neck, it’s likely the gritty determination of Marnus Labuschagne, who helped Australia cling onto a draw with his half-century at Lord’s, will come into the side.

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Marnus Labuschagne.

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

While that is one certain change, Australia, given their lack of runs, may be tempted into another change in the batting order.

One would think Matthew Wade, on the back of a century in the first Test, is safe, and that Travis Head won’t be dropped. David Warner’s form has been flat out ugly, but it’s hard to see him being removed from the team either, while Usman Khawaja has scored some runs and is safe.

However, Cameron Bancroft was a tentative selection at the start of the series, and while there has been no official announcement at the time of writing, I’m tipping that Marcus Harris will come in at the top of the order.

If it was just a form issue, then maybe Bancroft should be cut some slack, but his technique against the swinging ball looks abysmal.

In the bowling stocks, changes may well be made, although it’s hard to justify anyone being dropped despite the short turnaround between Tests.

Josh Hazlewood was the pick of the bunch in London, while Pat Cummins isn’t going anywhere. Peter Siddle took a bag of wickets in his last game at Headingley as well, so he shouldn’t be dropped.

However, if the pitch is a little flatter, Australia may opt for Mitchell Starc to fight Jofra Archer with a big pace bowler, while James Pattinson could also be re-called after he was rested for Lord’s.

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1. David Warner
2. Marcus Harris
3. Usman Khawaja
4. Marnus Labuschagne
5. Travis Head
6. Matthew Wade
7. Tim Paine (c, wk)
8. Pat Cummins
9. Peter Siddle
10. Mitchell Starc
11. Nathan Lyon

Rest of squad: Cameron Bancroft, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steve Smith

Keys to the match

Now or never for David Warner
Warner wasn’t even tested all that much against Jofra Archer in the second Test, because he simply isn’t spending any time in the middle.

By that, I mean Stuart Broad is coming around the wicket straight away and turning him into cannon fodder.

Warner has always struggled in English conditions though. His Test average is comfortably higher (46) than his average in England (30) across ten Tests, and Stuart Broad’s plan has been perfect.

He comes around the wicket, prevents the boundaries from being hit and frustrates Warner, who likes to be free-flowing in his crease.

While the World Cup showed this is a new Warner, he is often caught in two minds by the awkward length and line Broad is bowling, and if the conditions are fit for seam and swing early in the match at Headingley, the aggressive Australian opener could have more problems coming his way.

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However, he and the Aussies can’t afford.

No Smith means someone has to stand up, and that someone is Warner. He is the experienced player alongside Usman Khawaja in this batting line-up now, and the excuses are fast running out for his run of single figure scores, which he has had four of in a row for the first time in his Test career.

David Warner during Day One of the first Ashes Test.

(Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Joe Root’s form must improve
The English skipper was out of sorts at Lord’s, but heading to his home ground, there is a beacon of hope for the English that he can improve – and he needs to.

In each innings of this series so far, he has come to the crease with his side losing an early wicket and in all sorts of strife.

At Lord’s though, he had the paltry returns of just 14 and a first ball duck, so it’s time for the captain to stand up and lead from the front.

Some of this could well stem back to the debate from before the series began regarding where Root should really be in the order. He has batted at four so much throughout his career, and it’s a position which has worked for him.

The move to number three to try and alleviate the pressure from England’s fragile and inexperienced top order hasn’t worked yet though, and just maybe, it’s time to move him back to four where he is clearly more comfortable.

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Batting orders should be built around their best batsman, and so if Root is that to England, then he must bat in his best spot.

And just quietly, even though he is returning home, he has only scored 337 runs in ten innings at Headingley, with one century and only two other scores over 50.

England captain Joe Root.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Australia’s fielding and reviews must be better if they hope to win
One of the more frustrating factors for the most recently completed instalment of this series was their fielding.

In particular, the dropping of Rory Burns twice in the first innings, to go with other poor efforts in the field cost them runs, time and made everyone frustrated.

Poor fielding is often a direct result, especially at the elite level, of poor concentration, or other factors on the mind, and given the state of form for Australia’s batsmen, that is hardly a surprise.

Confidence in the field also appears to be at an all time low, and when David Warner is dropping them, there are problems.

It also breaks the back of the bowling attack. Here they are, creating chances and building pressure, only for it to be released by a simple error.

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The look on Peter Siddle’s face last Test when one went down off his bowling told the whole story of where the Aussies are at, and they must start enjoying their time again in the field as a unit to make anything of this series.

The visitors’ use of DRS has also been horrific. Tim Paine, as the keeper, should have a better view than most, but he has simply got them wrong time and time again thus far.

The umpiring hasn’t been great either of course, but getting reviews right in this day and age is absolutely crucial.

Can the Australian top order find a way to play Jofra Archer?
This could be the question which defines the rest of the series.

When I put my preview together before the second Test, there was a genuine feeling that because Archer provided something completely different to the rest of the Aussie attack, there was a real chance he could be the difference maker, and wasn’t he ever?

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He hit Steve Smith, picked up a bag of wickets, then hit Marnus Labuschagne as well and almost, somehow, bowled England to an unlikely victory.

The only real problem anyone could think of with Archer was his fitness, but that held up well as he ran in for more than 40 overs during the rain-hit Test.

What will be somewhat vital now is whether he can back the performance up off four days of rest on a completely different deck.

It’ll be a hard ask for Archer, who was regularly hitting 150 clicks on a dead pitch at Lord’s. He is dangerous and scary, and if he is at his best again, then he tilts the balance in England’s favour, because to this point, Australia don’t know how to play him.

Jofra Archer.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Key game information: England vs Australia, 2nd Ashes Test

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Dates: Thursday August 22 – Monday August 26
First ball: 8pm (AEST)
Expected daily finish time: 3am (AEST)
Venue: Headingley, Leeds
TV: Live, 9Gem
Online: Live, 9Now
Umpires: Chris Gaffaney, Joel Wilson

Hours of play

AEST ACST AWST Local
First session 8pm – 10pm 7:30pm – 9:30pm 6pm – 8pm 11am – 1pm
Lunch 10pm – 10:40pm 9:30pm – 10:10pm 8pm – 8:40pm 1pm – 1:40pm
Second session 10:40pm – 12:40am 10:10pm – 12:10am 8:40pm – 10:40pm 1:40pm – 3:40pm
Tea 12:40am – 1am 12:10am – 12:30am 10:40pm – 11pm 3:40pm – 4pm
Third session 1am – 3am 12:30am – 2:30am 11pm – 1am 4pm – 6pm

Prediction
Australia have had a lot of success at Headingley in the last 20 years, however, without Steve Smith, they just don’t have the form to carry out a victory.

If they are to win, it’s on the batsmen standing up and scoring enough runs, and the match being generally low-scoring, but England had Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow hit some sort of form at the end of the last Test, and with Joe Root playing on his home ground, the home side should level the series at one-all here with two to play and keep themselves in the hunt to reclaim the urn.

England. Comfortably.

Don’t forget to stay across every ball of the action from Headingley as The Roar cover the match with our live scores, blog and highlights of each day’s play.