England vs. Australia, Third Test, Preview

So we head to Headingley, with the fallout of the Second Test still ringing in our ears. I must admit that I was not expecting the game at Lords to have been so close with the amount of rain and time lost on the test, but to the credit of each team, they fought to the bitter end. Day Five proved to be a day full of drama with Australia batting out for a draw but the main fallout from the game was naturally that of the Steve Smith concussion and the so-called reaction of Jofra Archer to the ball that fell Steve Smith.

I must admit it did leave a sour taste in the mouth with unfounded accusations and ugly behaviour from both sets of fans. The fact that Smith was booed after he had been hit was utterly disgusting but equally the individual that called Joe Root ‘a cheating wanker’ for claiming the catch of Marnus Labuschange was not exactly an upstanding individual of the game (I’m not even going to bother with the Andy Bichel comments). I’m also keen for us not to sully ourselves with those who question the nationality of certain players on both sides, which for me is a complete nonentity, but sadly common in the modern game now.

It has been a strange series so far, in that the game on the pitch has been played in a hard but fair manner, however the behaviour off the pitch from the opposing sets of fans has been anything but that. I get the tribalism from each set of supporters as the rivalry between England and Australia has gone back since the dawn of time, but at this point it does look like a race to the bottom between each sets of fans with each declaring that the other are more disgusting. I didn’t see the ball from Archer that hit Smith in real time, but I’d have been very surprised if Archer was laughing at the plight of his injured opponent. TLG mentioned in his piece about having a delayed reaction when he unwittingly hurt a player from his own side, with bewilderment turning to shock then then turn into horror. Indeed Mitchell Johnson, a scourge of many a former England Test Batsman wrote this piece in the ‘I’ paper yesterday:

One thing that may have opened his eyes is the dispute around his reaction to his blow to Smith’s head. For me, I just don’t think he knew how to react at that moment. To judge him without knowing the facts and on limited evidence is pretty poor.

Bowling with pace and hostility doesn’t happen without the intent to do so. You need the desire to do it in order to go through all the pain that comes with bowling at extreme speeds. I can say with absolute honesty that I used to run in wanting to take the batsman’s head off when I was trying to bowl a bouncer.

That’s not me saying that I ever wanted to hurt anyone. It was simply a way to trick my mind and get up for the battle.

I didn’t think that I would like Mitchell Johnson, as he took on the role of heavily moustachioed destroyer of England’s batsman in the past, but it has been a nice surprise to listen to his well-informed and erudite commentary, especially as he has past experiences of bowling with pace and venom and hitting one or two players in the process. It’s a shame we haven’t heard more from him as opposed to some other of his compatriots who are far less insightful.

It has now been confirmed that Steve Smith out of the Third Test, which is a great pity for those that want to see the best players playing in the Ashes, even if they are for the opposition. I’m not a doctor and hence can’t provide an informed view of the Smith concussion, but although he did look shaky when he returned to the crease, I am more than willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the Australian medical team and the concussion checks that they no doubt carried out; whether there should be an independent medical team for each Test Match is an argument that is potentially worth having in the future, but for now it’s a moot point and personally I seriously doubt the Australian medics would purposely endanger their own player. It is naturally a huge blow to Australia in losing their best player; however I don’t agree with those who now make England favourites for this match, it’s more the case that both teams are more equally matched now. In my opinion. I can’t see Australia making many changes to their side apart from the enforced change, with Marnus Labuschange likely to come in for Smith, though there could be a possible change in the bowling line up with either Starc or Pattinson potentially coming in for Siddle, who was not at his best at Lords.

As the England it looks like it will be an unchanged side despite the clear deficiencies of the batsmen. As Danny pointed out his last post, the fact that we only have a three day gap between this Test and the last Test and with the other English batsmen in the county set up not having played red ball cricket for a long while, it means that England are stuck with the batsmen they have. They may decide to tinker with the batting order, with Root maybe going down to his preferred position at number 4 with Denly replacing him at number 3, but it’s like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic anyway! One would expect that another failure for Roy or Denly will likely mean changes for the fourth test; however this is Ed Smith and I’m not sure if he has ever admitted that he has been wrong. The one major positive for England has been the performance of Ben Stokes, who looked a top-class batsman in the last Test and is hopefully now beginning to realise the major talent that he has in abundance. Stokes has been the backbone of the English batting line throughout the World Cup and has looked in fine fettle this series and boy do England need him to carry on with his form throughout the rest of the series if they are going to have any chance in re-claiming the urn.

The weather looks set fair for Headingley, which is no doubt a relief for both sets of batsmen as the ball can swing round trees with sufficient overhead conditions. Here’s hoping for another edge of the seat game at Yorkshire, perhaps without the controversy and mudslinging that we saw at Lords. Oh and one more thing, can someone please ask Joe Root to try and not ruin our new fast bowling hope? If i see Archer being given any more 12 over spells, then I might just combust.

As always, feel free to share your thoughts on the game or anything else below.