England have no room for manoeuvre as they bid to keep their Ashes dream alive, but hometown hero Joe Root believes the comeback can start at Headingley.
The third Test against Australia starts tomorrow (11am), with England 2-0 down following defeats at Edgbaston and Lord’s.
Both matches have been won by a more rugged Australia side, yet England’s attacking, exciting brand of cricket has thrown up some winning opportunities. Unfortunately, they’ve not been able to take any of them. Yet.
Headingley has played host to some special Ashes moments down the years, just think the Botham Test of 1981 or 2001 when Mark Butcher hit a final day 173 not out to carry the hosts to a stunning win.
And then there was 2019 when Ben Stokes inspired a remarkable one-wicket heist with a fabulous 135 not out.
“We’ve got three opportunities to win the Ashes and we’ve shown on recent form that we’re more than capable of doing that,” said Yorkshire star Root.
“We love playing at this venue. You go back to 2019, and the atmosphere that was created throughout that Test Match was incredible.
“That last day, the noise and interaction from the crowd was exceptional. That’s why we love playing here because we’re so well supported, and it makes for a brilliant spectacle. I’m sure we’ll get a similar amount of support this week as well, and we’ve got to thrive off that.
“It’s a must-win game. We’ve got nothing to lose as a team.
“We will just throw everything at this week and make sure we give ourselves the best chance of getting back into the series. That’s all we can control, all we can do.
“We’ve got a great opportunity in front of us now and have got to see it as that.”
Root will be one of three Yorkshire players in the England team, him joined by Jonny Bairstow and Harry Brook.
New Yorkshire chair elect Harry Chathli will be present for the Test, and he said: “Jonny, Harry and Joe, they’re standing on the shoulders of all the other great Yorkshiremen who have gone before them.
“The old adage, ‘Strong Yorkshire, strong England’ is as true today as it was yesterday. You look through the last 20 years, and it’s been two or three Yorkshire players in that England team and playing a very central part.”
Ollie Pope has been ruled out of the rest of the series for England as a result of the dislocated shoulder he suffered in a Lord’s Test which came to a thrilling but fractious conclusion on Sunday as England almost chased down 371 on the final day, losing by 43.
He is one of three changes. Brook has been elevated to bat at number three in his place, with Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood all coming into the team. Jimmy Anderson and Josh Tongue have been rested.
Australia are also without star spinner Nathan Lyon for the next three Tests following a calf tear.
Stokes starred at Lord’s with 155 to help England recover from 45-4, but all the talk surrounded the controversial run out of Bairstow just before lunch when Australia wicketkeeper Alex Carey threw the stumps down after the Yorkshireman had marked his guard in the crease but then wandered out to talk to Stokes at the end of the over.
Aussie captain Pat Cummins upheld the appeal, sparking a discussion point which prime ministers of both countries have even got involved in.
Bairstow was clearly fuming at the action of the Australians, and one thing all Yorkshire fans know is that when Jonny is angry he’s at his best. Root agrees.
“Jonny thrives off things like this,” he said. “I’m sure he will want to entertain the local crowd. I think it’s set up nicely for him, but you’ve still got to go and do it.”
This week also marks the 100th Test appearance for Australia great Steve Smith, the 34-year-old who has scored 9,113 runs at an average of 59.56.
Smith missed the last Ashes Headingley Test in 2019 due to concussion.
“He’s a phenomenal player,” added Root. “A very smart player – one of the greatest players in modern Test cricket.”
This will be the last men’s Ashes Test at Headingley until 2031, the venue not on the list for the next home series in 2027. However, we do host a women’s Ashes Test in 2027, for only the second time in our history.
Chair elect Chathli added: “It’s very important to have international cricket keep coming here.
“The Ashes is the jewel in the crown for Headingley and for the people who come to watch international cricket here. The second one is then the Indian Test, and we have that coming the year after next (2025).
“We get the women’s Ashes in four years’ time, which we’re all very excited about, and the men’s Ashes again four years after that.
“International cricket is very important to everything we do.”