It has been an amazing summer of cricket in the UK so far. After England’s incredibly dramatic win at the Cricket World Cup over New Zealand, barely had the dust settled on events at Lords in the game, before many of that team were stepping into the white gear and getting ready for the next big test this summer.

That was the Ashes series against a resurgent Australia side who were determined to hang on to the trophy that they won in convincing fashion on home soil a couple of years ago. The visitors certainly began the series strongly, taking the first test in convincing fashion on the back of an outstanding bowling performance and another predictable batting collapse from England’s top order.

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England Switch Things Up After First Test Rout

England’s selectors rang some changes from the disastrous first test with perhaps the biggest change seeing Jofra Archer introduced into the team. Certainly, Archer’s inclusion galvanised England with the ball as despite their batsmen struggling to get close to 300 in each of their two innings in the second test, Archer led a superb performance by the bowlers to ensure that Australia hung on to claim a draw in the second test.

Indeed, the feeling is that had not a large chunk of the play in the second test been lost to poor weather, England may well now be level in the series.

A bigger problem for Australia though could well be a different impact Archer had and that was hitting Australia’s top batsman Steve Smith with a bouncer during the second test. Smith was initially forced to retire hurt following the blow to his neck, but after a couple of wickets fell, he returned to the crease, finishing with a score of 92. However, it was clear he was hurt and after missing the second innings, Australia have confirmed Smith will not be fit to start the third test at Headingly.

His absence will be a huge blow to Australia, not only is the former captain their lynchpin batsman, he has been in superb form in the Ashes so far, in his three innings, scoring 142, 144 and 92 runs.

However, the form of replacement Marnus Labuschagne will have given the visiting side some hope. Test crickets first ever concussion substitute made a very spirited 59, despite too being hit by a vicious delivery from Archer.

The fact that the second test ended in a draw means that Australia now know that a win in any of the remaining three test matches would ensure that they at least retain the trophy and although their record over the years at Headingly isn’t great, they will be desperate to ensure the famous trophy remains in Australian hands for the next couple of years, at the earliest available opportunity.

Third Test Team News

England

England coach Trevor Bayliss will certainly want Jofre Archer in his team once again following an impressive test match in the last game, but it is fair to say that the coach will be more worried by the performance of some of his elite batsmen.

Other than Ben Stokes, who hit a fine century in the second innings of the second test, England’s batsmen have been, by and large, very poor in the series so far with the likes of Joe Root, David Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Jason Roy all struggling. Bayliss has indicated that he is going to take a look at the top seven ahead of the third test and he may opt to change it around a little in terms of the order.

There are some calls to move Jason Roy down the order a little to ease the pressure on him but with that likely to see the likes of Root moved to opener, that may well be a decision the coach is loathe to take, especially with Root himself not in the best of form. One thing is certain, England need a much better performance from their top seven if they are to stand a chance in the third test.

Australia

With Steve Smith out, it is likely that Marnus Labuschagne will be the man asked to fill Smith’s key role in the Australian batting line up, but other than that, I can’t see the Australian team making too many changes. Their bowlers have given England some real problems in the opening two test matches and it will be a case of ‘same again lads’ from the Australian management in Yorkshire at the weekend.

One worry though is the form of opener David Warner, who has not managed to make a decent score for his home nation in the series so far. However, with Smith out injured, Warner could be the man to step up and score some of the runs Smith would have grabbed, so expect a big innings from the out of sorts opener this weekend.

England v Australia – Third Test – Prediction?

This is the first Ashes test series at Headingly since 2009, when Australia were the victors in the series, their only win in the 2009 series. With Smith in the team, Australia would have fancied repeating that victory again this weekend, but his absence will be a real blow to the visitors.

England will be buoyed by their better performance with the ball in the second test and the fact that they have given the Australian team a real fright following a battling display at Lords last time out and add to that a partisan Yorkshire crowd cheering them on and you have to feel England have the chance to pull things level here.

Expect a very close battle but I am backing England to win at 4/6.

*Odds correct as of 12pm on Wed 21st August 2019.