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August 22, 2019

England look to level series as third Ashes Test begins


August 22, 2019

LEEDS: Trailing 0-1 in the five-match series with a loss and draw to their name, hosts England will be keen to level the series when they face Australia in the third Ashes Test starting at Headingley on Thursday (today).

For England, things have not gone to plan after their historic victory at the ICC World Cup 2019, their spirited performance at Lord’s should still give them hope ahead of the third Test. While they have gone with the same 12-man squad for the Test, head coach Trevor Bayliss conceded that they might reconsider their batting line-up.

With Jason Roy struggling at the top of the order, the hosts might consider opening with skipper Joe Root or Jonny Bairstow, who assumes that role in their white-ball cricket. James Anderson is still not in the mix for the third Test; he will instead play for Lancashire’s second XI, where his performance will be assessed.

Steve Smith’s absence, as he recovers from a concussion, comes as a blow to Australia. Marnus Labuschagne notched up an impressive 59 after being called up as a substitute at Lord’s, but he will have huge shoes to fill: Smith is the highest run-scorer in the series, and has largely been the difference between the two sides so far.

Josh Hazlewood’s strong return is another positive for the visitors. Australia now have to decide whether to bring in James Pattinson or Mitchell Starc, while giving another pacer a rest. The second Test at Lord’s saw a thrilling finish, despite much of the Test being lost to rain. Smith starred in the first innings with a fighting 92, while Archer enjoyed a memorable debut.

In cricket’s first-ever like-for-like substitution for a concussion, Labuschangne replaced Smith after the former captain was hit on the head by an Archer bouncer in the first innings. Rory Burns appears settled at the top of the order, while Pat Cummins and Hazlewood made fiery comebacks to the Australian XI.

The forecast indicates scattered showers for the first day. Rain is expected to stay away for the remainder of the Test. Historically, pacers have dominated at Headingley, with Fred Trueman and Stuart Broad heading the charts for leading wicket-takers in Tests.

Australia rule out bouncer battle despite Smith blow


LEEDS, United Kingdom: Australia coach Justin Langer has told his side to avoid being drawn into a bouncer battle after Steve Smith was ruled out of the third Ashes Test against England.

Star batsman Smith suffered delayed concussion symptoms after being hit on his neck by a 92 mph bouncer from England fast bowler Jofra Archer during the drawn second Test at Lord’s. His absence from the third Test at Headingley starting Thursday (today) leaves Australia with a huge hole to fill.

Smith marked his return to Test cricket after a 12-month ball-tampering ban with innings of 144 and 142 during Australia’s 251-run win in the first Test at Edgbaston that put his side 1-0 up in the five-match series.

He also made 92, having retired hurt after being hit when on 80, at Lord’s where Marnus Labuschagne, Test cricket’s first concussion substitute, made a brave fifty in the second innings after being hit flush on the grille of his helmet by Archer.

World Cup-winning fast bowler Archer struck several telling blows on a Test debut that yielded five wickets. Australia also have plenty of fast-bowling firepower at their disposal in Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc.

But Langer insisted his side would not be sidetracked from their goal of becoming the first Australia side in 18 years to win an Ashes series in England. “We know what our plans are to beat England,” Langer told reporters at Headingley, where the third Test starts on Thursday.

“It’s not an ego game,” the former Australia opening batsman insisted. “We’re here to win the Test match, not to see how many bruises we can give. That’s not winning Test matches, trust me. You can’t get out with a bruise on your arm.

“I’m sure the bouncer will still be part of every bowler’s armoury, if it helps us get batsmen out then we’ll use it, otherwise we’ll keep sticking to the plan.” England are still without James Anderson after their all-time leading wicket-taker broke down with a calf injury after bowling just four overs at Edgbaston.

“It’s not unlike England losing James Anderson, he’s arguably their best bowler,” said Langer. “If you take your best players out it always has an impact so we have got to make sure that all the other guys, our senior players and our younger players, all step up and fill what are almost unfillable shoes as he is almost the best player in the world.”

Now the question is can England, who had Australia 122-8 in their first innings at Edgbaston only for Smith to steer his side to 284, take advantage of his absence? England will look for more heroics from Archer and hope that, with Ben Stokes fresh from an unbeaten century at Lord’s, someone can give their attack enough runs to play with.