Headingley Cricket Ground, Leeds, 1981, an England all-rounder changes the game with a batting display from the gods, before a fast bowler ripped through the chasing Australian side for a famous win. An Ashes test match that will never ever be forgotten. Well we now have a modern day version, whilst not exactly the same, similarities are there, Headingley Cricket Ground, Leeds, 2019 a big hitting dual (tri if you take into account his outstanding fielding) purpose cricketer (Ben Stokes, just in case you weren’t aware) played an innings that was scarcely believable (135 not out for the record) to win the match for his team and level up the series, when a defeat would have meant the Ashes would have been retained by Australia. And just like in 1981, where Graham Dilley played a key role in staying in whilst Ian Botham went big, Jack Leach held up his end with one of the most important 1 not outs in cricket history. No batsman can do it on his own, despite England’s vice captain doing a pretty good job of it.


Whilst the innings by Stokes took them over the line, let’s be honest, like in the World Cup Final victory the cricketing gods were on England’s side and luck favoured them. They now need to take this on and win the series, otherwise what was the point. A key was actually batting with control and patience through their second innings after what can only be described as a disgusting effort in their first go. They deserved the heavy criticism after a pitiful 67 all out the worst of their pathetic batting efforts over the last few years when you take into account the context of the game after bowling the Aussies out cheaply in a match they needed to win. Joe Root can enjoy the win, but must understand his team were a disgrace after their first woeful effort and his captaincy and leadership skills had to be questioned. Now he and his team are in a position they must have thought they would never reach and now is the time to capitalise for themselves and the country.


In my mind, anyway, there is no doubt the tourists choked at the end of this game. They were outstanding pretty much through the test match, especially after losing the toss and being put in on basically the only day that the conditions were markedly in the bowlers favour. Bowling England out for 67 was followed by a bit of complacency as they gave wickets away at regular intervals in their 2nd innings, though the 359 they set the hosts for victory should have been more than enough. They got the captain out early on what was the last day, but then bowled awfully with the new ball, control was regained however and at 286-9 they had one hand on the famous urn before Stokes went with his own script ably assisted by Jack Leach. Even then, they dropped, admittedly tough, catches, botched 2 run outs, one a absolute howler by Nathan Lyon and they burned a review and were then burned themselves when Joel Wilson failed to give an LBW that would have won them the match and secured the Ashes for at least a return down under. A painful and devastating loss, I can only imagine what it would be like in their the dressing room.


So next up for both teams is a trip to Old Trafford this coming Wednesday (4th September), famous for scenes in the 2005 series on the last day with scores of fans trying to get in for that final morning as Australia eventually batted out for a draw. The tourists would probably take that result again, as they only need to have a drawn series to retain the Ashes, but let’s be honest this series should be over as far as they are concerned, but now at 1-1 anything is possible. The records favour the Australians who have not lost at the South Manchester ground in an Ashes contest since 1977. They have won 3 (drawing the others) of the 6 tests since then. but history will mean nothing when the coin is tossed with decisions having to be made and players needing to perform over the 5 days. As I post this the forecast for the match is set pretty fair, apart from Friday, where rain is scheduled for the whole day, surely nobody wants the elements to be the winner in this test let alone the series, so fingers crossed.


England, despite the heroics performed, will know they got away with one big time at Headingley and improvements are massively required especially on the batting front. A certain Steve Smith will be returning for the Australians which improves their batting, especially as his replacement Marnus Labuschagne has performed admirably in his absence and is now a guaranteed starter and most definitely strengthens their struggling batting line up. Mitchell Starc may also get a call up, after performing well, with 7 wickets, in their tour match against Derbyshire, maybe to fight fire with fire against Jofra Archer. England have been dealt a blow with Jimmy Anderson missing the rest of the series, pulling up sore after bowling in a 2nd 11 game. Craig Overton has been brought in as cover, though I ‘m not sure why as Sam Curran has been in all the squads this summer, you could argue he has been unlucky to not get a game. Overton did get Steve Smith out in the last Ashes series so maybe the selectors are trying to get inside the head of the Australian batsman.


I’ll be honest I cannot call what is going to happen as both sides have great bowling attacks but brittle batting line ups. However maybe history is going to strike twice. In 1981 at Headingley Australia, yes due to cricket from the gods, lost the chance to go 2 up in the series and ended up losing overall, the same may well happen now with England undoubtedly in the ascendancy. Or maybe it might just be as simple as the returning Ex Aussie captain Smith against Jofra Archer, with whoever comes out on top winning the Ashes for their side. One things for sure it is going to be fun finding out.

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