On Sunday, July 9, England completed a 3-wicket victory against Australia at Headingley in the third Test of the Men’s Ashes. Following England’s win, Australia now leads the series 2-1 and is one win away from retaining the Ashes.
So far, the Ashes have lived up to all the expectations the cricketing world had of it. From controversies to some breathtaking knocks and spells, the Ashes have had it all.
The Headingley Test was no less. The crowds turned up in massive numbers and the atmosphere was electric across all four days.
On that note, let us take a look at five major talking points from the third Men’s Ashes Test:
Mark Wood Delivers a Blistering Spell of Fast Bowling on Test Return
Mark Wood, who was the leading wicket-taker of the last Ashes, returned to action as he played his first Test for England since the series against Pakistan in December last year.
There was a lot of hype around his comeback, and it would be fair to say that he did justice to all of it. The pacer got the Test off to a flyer.
Watching a fast bowler steam in is one of the best sights in cricket. It never seemed as if Wood was returning from an injury or bowling with a red ball after half a year.
In his very first over, he breached the 150 kph mark thrice. In what was an incredible spell of pace bowling, he delivered some lightening quick rockets, beating the Australian openers for pace multiple times. His first spell was the second fastest ever in England Tests since 2006, with an average speed of 149.50 kph.
The 33-year-old got Usman Khawaja with an absolute ripper, an inswinging full delivery on the stumps. When the tail was exposed to Wood who was breathing fire on the day, there was only going to be one outcome. He ran through the tail with sheer pace and also got Alex Carey’s crucial wicket.
Mark Wood’s performance on Day 1 was pure entertainment and ensured that the platform was set for England after Australia was bundled out for just a little over 260 in the first innings.
Mitchell Marsh Bags a Scintillating Counterattacking Ton
After Mark Wood took the Australian top order by storm, the visitors found themselves in a spot of bother.
At 85-4, England would have sensed the opportunity to restrict Australia to a modest first innings total. But, like they have on numerous occasions in this Ashes, England once again let go of the momentum.
Mitchell Marsh walked in with Australia four down for less than 90. Playing his first Test since 2019, Marsh displayed nerves of steel and put up an exhibition of fearless hard-hitting.
On his Test comeback, the 31-year-old notched a brilliant run-a-ball 118. They say that attack is the best form of defence, and with all the talk around Bazball, Marsh played a beautifully constructed counterattacking knock under pressure. Instead of looking to be over-defensive, he decided to put away anything too full or too short.
In the process, he hit seventeen boundaries and four sixes. He also played over 70% of the deliveries England bowled between his arrival to the crease and his dismissal. He retained an impressive amount of strike considering how well he was striking the ball. His 155-run stand with Travis Head brought Australia back into the game.
Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins Feed on the Pressure and Rise Up to the Occasion
In decent bowling conditions and in the absence of Nathan Lyon, the onus was going to be on the experienced pace duo of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins to take the majority of the wickets.
With Scott Boland failing to impress and do what he was picked for, Starc and Cummins had a massive responsibility on their shoulders. Such players, however, thrive under pressure.
England lost 17 wickets in the game, and 14 of them were taken by this pair. The Australian skipper and the left-arm speedster notched seven wickets apiece across both innings.
Starc, in a World Cup year, has once again found form. He looked in excellent rhythm, and there was always a chance around the corner every single time he had the ball. He pitched the ball up fearlessly and got the ball to move dangerously well. He almost inspired a comeback for his side in the second innings, getting rid of Ben Duckett, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, and towards the end, Harry Brook as well.
Cummins was a tad too expensive, conceding at over five runs per over. However, he gave his side much-needed breakthroughs several times. He also bettered his already exceptional record against Joe Root, dismissing the former English captain twice in the game.
Ben Stokes and Headingley: The Love Story Continues
After his heroics in the last Test, all eyes were on the England skipper as he returned to Headingley, the same venue where he pulled off the impossible in the 2019 Ashes, and he did not disappoint.
Stokes walked into bat with just 87 runs on the board and with half of the side already back into the pavilion. England trailed by a massive 176 at that moment, and one more quick wicket could have allowed Australia to bowl at the tail.
What England needed was a partnership. Unfortunately, nobody stayed at the crease long enough for a partnership to develop. Some wickets later, Stokes decided to do what he does best. Trailing by 96 with only two wickets in hand, Stokes seemed to have had enough of it.
After Mark Wood’s dismissal, England added another 70 runs to their total. Out of those, Ollie Robinson and Stuart Broad scored only 12.
Stokes has very well mastered the art of batting with the tail and is arguably the best in the world at it. He played another outstanding knock, scoring 80 off just 108 deliveries.
From a stage where it looked like Australia would begin the second innings with a healthy lead, Stokes managed to reduce the deficit to only 26. How he manages to pull such terrific knocks out of nowhere is a mystery.
Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali Influence the Game Through Their Moments of Magic
Playing his first Test in over 15 months, Chris Woakes chipped in very handy contributions throughout the game.
In the first innings, he got three massive wickets. He dismissed Marnus Labuschagne, Travis Head, and Australia’s top run-getter in that innings, Mitchell Marsh.
In the second innings, he dismissed Usman Khawaja with a beautiful delivery nipping away from the left-hander. He bowled those tempting lines and lengths in the channel of uncertainty and left the batters in two minds.
His persistence paid off, as he also got the valuable scalps of Mitchell Marsh and Alex Carey in the second innings. Both batters got out trying to leave the ball, and they were done for by the extra bounce Woakes was generating.
With the bat, Woakes scored 32 in the second innings and held one end excellently when Harry Brook was on the charge. He also hit the winning runs for England.
Moeen Ali came out of Test retirement for this Ashes. Although he may have failed to make a substantial impact in the third Test, he grabbed two monumental wickets, that of Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith, in the second innings.
Labuschagne seemed to have settled in and the cricketing world very well knows what the latter is capable of doing. Moeen got the pair out in quick succession, albeit not on the best of deliveries.
The two wickets may well have been the turning point of the game, keeping in mind that the two batters could have added a lot more runs to the target for England.