The third Ashes Test between at Headingley was fascinatingly poised at the end of a remarkable Day Three as England’s batsman finally showed some grit against Australia’s formidable pace attack.
Joe Root’s men started the day trailing Australia heavily after being bundled out for just 67 runs in their first-innings but they had managed to reach 156-3 in their attempt at a record fourth-innings chase of 359 by the time stumps were drawn on Saturday.
There is still a long way to go for the hosts if they are to restore parity in the five-match series with 203 runs still needed for a famous victory but they will go into the fourth day with a renewed sense of confidence.
At the end of a hard-fought day at Leeds, we take a look at the key takeaways.
Magnificent Labuschagne extends Australia’s lead
Australia started the day at 171-6 with their overall second-innings lead standing at 283 and they were given a solid start by Marnus Labuschagne and James Pattinson.
Having registered his third successive fifty since coming in as Steve Smith’s replacement, Labuschagne continued to impress despite taking another nasty blow to his helmet off the bowling of Jofra Archer.
The right-hander shared a 51-run stand with Pattinson for the seventh wicket and it was vital to Australia gaining a substantial second-innings lead. He was the penultimate Australia batsman to be dismissed on Saturday after being run-out for a valiant 80 but his display meant that the visitors have barely felt Smith’s absence in the clash.
Marnus Labuschagne played 187 balls in this innings and most of them were ferocious short balls. He has used bat, helmet and body to survive. It will be regarded as one of the bravest innings in Test cricket history.— Broken Cricket (@BrokenCricket) August 24, 2019
Roy’s horrendous run continues
Despite an improved batting showing from the hosts that followed later in the day, England’s second innings got off to a horrendous start with the openers falling cheaply once again.
Jason Roy’s loose dismissal in the first-innings while attempting to drive a wide Josh Hazlewood delivery had seen the pressure magnify on the England opener but there wasn’t much he could do against a snorter of a delivery from Pat Cummins on Saturday that took the top of his off-stump.
That dismissal means the right-hander has now been dismissed for single-digit scores in each of his last four innings while his series aggregate after three Tests is a mere 58 runs.
It will be hard now for the hosts to justify Roy’s selection for the remainder of the series with the batsman looking like fish out of water in the Test format. His only saving grace is the fact that openers from both sides have struggled in the series.
Jason Roy's average as a Test opener is 8.85 runs per dismissal, only one player in the history of Test cricket to have opened as many times as Roy (7 times) has a lower average: New Zealand's Ken Rutherford who averaged 4.60 from ten innings as opener. #Ashes— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) August 24, 2019
Root and Denly raise England’s hopes
An encore of England’s embarrassing first-inning collapse was looking like a real possibility when Roy and fellow opener Rory Burns were dismissed in quick succession but a remarkable 126-run stand for the third wicket between Joe Root and Joe Denly revived the hosts.
Both batsmen lived dangerous at the start of their innings with Josh Hazlewood breathing fire but they soon found their feet at the crease after weathering the initial storm. For once, Denly managed to convert a promising start into a half-century before he was finally dismissed late in the day to give Australia an opening.
At the other end, Root brought up his first half-century in five innings to recover from his recent slump and the England skipper was looking solid with an unbeaten 75 by the time stumps were drawn. The pressure was very much on the Yorkshire man on his home ground after registering a duck in the first-innings but he responded excellently with a captain’s innings at a time when his side desperately needed it.
England have never successfully chased more than 322 runs since 1928 in the final innings of a Test match and Root will be key if the hosts are to pull off the improbable on the penultimate day at Headingley.
Former skipper Sourav Ganguly believes Ravi Shastri needs to lead India to a major tournament win in order to justify the recent two-year contract extension handed to him as head coach.
Shastri’s latest two-year tenure with the Indian team came to an end with the completion of the 2019 World Cup but the former all-rounder was able to beat off competition from Mike Hesson and Tom Moody to retain his role with the Men in Blue until 2021.
Under Shastri’s tenure, India consolidated its top ICC Test ranking while recording a maiden Test series win on Australian soil. However, the Men in Blue failed in the semi-final hurdle of the 2019 World Cup after going down to New Zealand at Old Trafford.
“The team was capable and it still is but you have to start winning big games,” Ganguly was quoted as saying by India Today.
“The team has no dearth of talent. A team that has Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Rishabh Pant and Shikhar Dhawan is not short on talent. But it’s also true that we lost the semi-finals in 2015 World Cup, in the 2016 T20 World Cup and now in 2019 World Cup.
“They will have to find a way to win knockout games. That is the puzzle they need to solve. They need some luck, take some risks and find a way.”
The major tournaments to be covered in Shastri’s new contract are the 2020 and 2021 T20 World Cups and Ganguly believes that leading the team to victory in them are a must for the head coach.
“Ravi has been doing this for five years and now been given this responsibility for two more years. So I don’t think anyone else in history has got such a long time with the team,” Ganguly said.
“He is the right choice but he now has to justify. He has two T20 World Cups ahead and in such big tournaments, India needs to find ways to win them,” he added.
West Indies tail-end batsman Miguel Cummins achieved an unwanted record on Saturday when he faced 45 deliveries and spent 95 minutes at the crease without scoring a run before being dismissed on the third day of the Antigua Test against India.
It was the second longest innings in Test cricket by a player without scoring.
The longest innings without scoring is by New Zealand’s Geoff Allott who batted for 101 minutes before getting out for a duck against South Africa in 1999.
India’s bowlers had to dig deep to take the last two wickets on Saturday at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. West Indies captain Jason Holder found good support from Cummins as they put on 41 for the ninth wicket before being dismissed for 222.
For India, veteran seamer Ishant Sharma had earlier picked up five wickets. Also, pacer Jasprit Bumrah became the fastest Indian pacer to 50 Test wickets – in 11 matches.