England look to level series after thrilling Lord's draw.
And so we go to Headingley…
After Australia clung on to secure a crucial draw during an enthralling, pulsating, thrilling Lord’s Test match, England have to reset once more as they travel up to Leeds, where the visitors know a victory would secure the Ashes.
The fact that one poor England day over the next three Tests could cost them the series hasn’t been lost on anyone, so Joe Root will take it one match at a time, and I believe the Three Lions beat the Aussies at Headingley to level the series.
After the crushing Edgbaston defeat, we saw a serious momentum shift at Lord’s – of course coming courtesy of Jofra Archer. Not since Kevin Pietersen’s debut in 2005 have we seen a player make such an immediate impact on this England side, and his frightening spell of fast bowling to rough up the imperious Steve Smith felt like a watershed moment for this England Test side. For the first time in a long, long time, England have a weapon that will terrify the Australian batsmen.
According to CricViz, the Lord’s pitch we saw last week was the second-slowest since 2005, yet Headingley has been England’s fastest pitch over the same time period. With the fear factor surrounding Jofra’s express pace, he could do some unspeakable damage to this fragile Aussie batting line-up – aided by the reliable Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes, of course.
Australia have Pat Cummins in their side who will act as their own enforcer-in-chief, so it’s down to which team handles the barrage best with the bat. With Steve Smith a concussion doubt, the Aussie openers hapless and England’s middle order of Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow all in the runs last match, this looks a perfect storm for a comeback victory.
England’s recent results at Headingley haven’t been great—winning just three of the last six—but as the Australians showed in Birmingham, this is a series where the history books are going to be torn up.
My tip for Australia’s top first innings batsman to be Marnus Labuschagne.
With Steve Smith ruled out of this Test match, the impressive Labuschagne, who hit a half-century in Smith’s place to help save the match at Lord’s, will definitely come in.
The 25-year-old has been scoring runs for fun with Glamorgan this season, and looked unfazed by Archer’s thunderbolts after being struck in the helmet as soon as he came in – which is the mark of a gutsy, well-organised player.
David Warner (Stuart Broad’s bunny) can’t buy a run, Cameron Bancroft is useless, Usman Khawaja is suspect in England, Matthew Wade is threatening but inconsistent, and Tim Paine (who has as many First Class centuries as Stuart Broad) isn’t a Test batsman.
I think Travis Head is an excellent player who has potential to top score for the Aussies, but Labuschagne impressed me with his vigil on Sunday, so he gets my nod.
I have a nice long price to finish up: Jofra Archer to be Man of the Match at a massive 12/1.
Simply put, Archer is a match-winner, and 12/1 for a bowler as devastating as Archer to win MOTM on such a fast pitch (against a side who are without Steve Smith) is simply too big.