The Ashes – Third Test Preview

The 2019 Ashes series was turned on its head on the Saturday afternoon of the Lords Test by one of the most brilliant sustained spells of hostile fast bowling seen at the home of cricket in the ground’s rich history.

England must win at least two of the next three Tests to ensure they regain the Ashes, but when Jofra Archer struck Steve Smith a sickening blow to the neck the dynamics of the whole series changed.

The 3rd Test starts at Headingley on Thursday and I was not surprised Smith was not considered fit enough to take his place in the starting XI given his “mild” concussion. Australia have led in the new rules and regulations surrounding concussion for obvious reasons and I do not think Cricket Australia will allow Smith back in the Arena with such a short turnaround between Tests.

Smith’s second innings substitute Marnus Labuschagne proved an able deputy despite having himself been struck on the helmet by Archer when on nought. Aussie skipper Tim Paine had another disappointing game – putting England in to bat on a beautiful day on Thursday and then making a complete pig’s ear of almost every referral.

Yes, umpire Aleem Dar had another shocker with his decision to give Travis Head not out in the first innings one of the worst decisions I can ever remember. Dar is not umpiring for the rest of the series fortunately, but Joel Wilson – who had such a poor game at Edgbaston – is in the middle alongside Chris Gaffaney who was good at Lords. Note the exceptional Marais Erasmus is standing in the final couple of Tests.

England – who named an unchanged 12-man squad for Leeds on Monday – are 4/5 to win at Headingley at BetVictor with Australia at 17/10 and the draw at 15/4.

If Aleem Dar had a poor game at Lords’, the same can be said of Jason Roy and David Warner who not only failed to score any runs at the top of the innings but put down catches at vital times. Indeed, the fielding to date has not been out of the very top drawer in the opening two Tests – Joe Denly’s breathtaking catch to get rid of Tim Paine at Lords on Sunday apart.

I felt Root should have declared much earlier on Sunday, but the momentum is certainly with England and Archer in particular. Archer is 2/1 at BetVictor to pick up most 1st innings wickets but I feel he might help pick up wickets down the other end with the Baggy Greens likely to play a few more shots at Broad, Woakes and Leach who was a real threat in the 4th innings of the match on Sunday.

There has only been one draw in Leeds in the last 19 Tests and, with the weather set fair, the odds for the draw make little appeal. It is possible that Archer may not be able to repeat his Lords heroics and Paine may freshen up his own attack with James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc both hoping for a recall. But I still fancy England.

Ben Stokes has looked England’s best player in the first couple of Tests and he gets the vote again at 5/1 to be top bat for the hosts. Travis Head looked all at sea against the slow left arm of Jack Leach in the second innings at Lords, but he has played the quicks well enough and he might be overpriced at 5s.

It has been the most wonderful summer of cricket to date with the vagaries of the English weather the only negative. Can Archer sustain the brilliance of his Lords debut? Not long to wait.

I was fortunate enough to watch the Gladiatorial Archer/Smith battle as it happened, but then unfortunate to see Everton v Watford from Goodison Park. Premier League? You’re having a laugh.

Recommendations for the 3rd Test: prices from BetVictor

England to win at 4/5
Ben Stokes top run scorer at 5/1
Travis Head top run scorer at 5/1

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