Has Ben Stokes Headingly Heroics Reignited The Ashes This Summer?

What a dramatic summer it has been for cricket so far. Ben Stokes heroics in winning the Cricket World Cup for England against New Zealand were still fresh in the memory as this test series started and his heroics in the third test will become the stuff of Ashes and cricketing legend.

That win for England at Headingly means it is now 1-1 in the series with just two matches left to play, the first coming up at Old Trafford later this week. Steve Smith should return to the batting line up for the Australian team and it looks likely to be between him and Stokes for the man of the series so far. Much will be decided in the coming two test matches to complete the series and decide the destination of the famous Ashes urn.

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Let’s now quickly review the events of the first three games in the test series so far before reviewing the fourth test which starts at Old Trafford later this week.

Ashes Series Review

England 1-1 Australia.(after 3 tests)

  • First Test – Edgbaston – Australia win by 251 runs

After bowling out Australia for 284, England took a 90 run lead into the second innings, posting 374, but Australia skipper Steve Smith, who struck 144 in the first innings to rescue his team, struck 142 in the second and was a key man as Australia declared on 487, a lead of 377 runs and the Aussie bowlers then wreaked havoc with England, dismissing the hosts for 146 as they fell short of their 398-run target. First blood to the Aussies.

  • Second Test – Lords – Match Drawn

Inclement weather played a key role in this match finishing a draw. Both teams scored similar totals in their rain-interrupted first innings, England hitting 258 to Australia’s 250. Jofra Archer played a key role for England with the ball causing the Aussie batsman plenty of problems and forcing key man Steve Smith to retire hurt during the first innings for Australia and to miss the second innings through injury. England declared on 258 for 5 leaving the Aussies chasing 267 on the final day, and despite losing six wickets, the Aussies held firm to bat out the day on 154 for 6 to clinch the draw.

  • Third Test – Headingly – England win by one wicket

Perhaps one of the most incredible test matches in history saw England begin brightly to dismiss Australia for 179 in their first innings, only for the Australian bowlers to scupper all hopes of an England lead, as they dismissed England for a paltry 67 runs. England’s bowlers battled hard to dismiss Australia for 246 in their second innings leaving England needing 359 runs to win the game. England had reached 286/6 when two quick wickets fell (Archer and Broad), meaning Leach came to the crease as the last batsman with Ben Stokes and England still needing 73 runs and an Australian victory, and with it the Ashes being retained by the team from Down Under, now almost a certainty.

Incredibly Stokes smashed an unbeaten 135 and Leach a single from 17 balls as England’s last wicket stand took them past the Aussie total to clinch an unlikely win amongst incredible scenes at Headingly. The series was now level with two tests left to play.

Ashes Series Fourth Test preview

England have officially had James Anderson ruled out for the rest of the series with injury which means that Jofra Archer will likely keep his place in the team for the final two test matches. Not that he would have made way anyway given the impact he has had with the ball for England. Ben Stokes will be a key man for the home side with bat and ball.

Australia should be strengthened by the return of Steve Smith to the team at number 4 and England have struggled to get the former captain out in this series and his calmness and guarantee of runs will give the Australian team confidence after the incredible finish at Headingly.

It’s fair to say that both teams have played in fits and starts in this series so far with individual performances perhaps overshadowing team frailties and it may be the case that whichever team can peform best as a unit stands the best chance of success in the fourth test.

Fourth Test Match – Our Tips

Looking at Test matches at Old Trafford, the odds seem to favour a draw with 15 of the 29 tests between England and the Aussies finishing this way (both teams have 7 wins apiece in the other 14 test matches).

Certainly, there has been little between the teams in this series, Australia won the first test well and England squeaked the third, but the home team probably will feel the weather cost them a chance of victory in the second test where they were the better team by and large.

That said, I think history, the weather and the fact Australia have Steve Smith back mean that England’s momentum gained over the last two tests may be checked a little and as such I think the draw, which is a 13/5 shot with bet365, is the best option here.

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