LEEDS, United Kingdom, Aug 21 – The third Ashes Test starts at Headingley on Thursday, with Australia still 1-0 up in the five-match series after England had the better of a rain-affected draw in the second Test at Lord’s.
Below AFP Sport looks at some of the major talking points ahead of what promises to be an intriguing encounter:
England look to exploit Smith’s absence
Australia will be without Steve Smith after their star batsman suffered a concussion after being hit on the neck by a 92 mph Jofra Archer bouncer at Lord’s. Smith’s scores this series — 144, 142 and 92 — are a testament to his importance.
England have been without James Anderson for most of the past two Tests after their all-time leading wicket-taker broke down with a calf injury having bowled just four overs in the series opener at Edgbaston.
Joe Root, the England captain, while sympathising with Smith’s predicament, said: “You get these swings within a big series like this every now and again and when you get your opportunity you’ve got to jump on it.”
Broad strikes amid Archer hype
World Cup-winner Archer may have been hogging the headlines following his impressive Test debut at Lord’s, but the experienced Stuart Broad, leading England’s attack in Anderson’s absence, has already taken 10 wickets in the opening two Tests.
This match sees him back on the Headingley ground where he took his first Ashes ‘five-for’ of 6-91 in 2009.
“No one has mentioned that Stuart has 10 wickets already in the series, which is a very impressive start for him,” said Root.
“I think he’s enjoying the fact that Jofra is getting quite a lot of the headlines and he can go about his business and do his thing.”
Ashes return to Headingley
This match will be the first Ashes Test at Yorkshire’s Headingley headquarters for a decade.
The venue has witnessed some memorable Ashes feats down the years, be it Australia great Don Bradman’s triple hundreds in 1930 and 1934, Geoffrey Boycott’s 100th hundred on his home ground in 1977 or England’s ‘500-1’ comeback win in 1981 featuring superb displays by Ian Botham and Bob Willis.
England, however, have won only one of their last five Tests against Australia at Headingley, the home ground of skipper Root, and it’s a record they will likely need to improve on if they are to have a realistic chance of regaining the Ashes.