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Preview: The Ashes: England vs. Australia Third Test - prediction, team news, series so far

Sports Mole previews the third Ashes Test between England and Australia at Headingley, including predictions, team news and how the series has gone so far.

With the first two matches in the bag, Australia can guarantee that the coveted Ashes urn will be heading home with them when they face England in the crucial third Test of the series that is set to get underway on Thursday.

While witnessing brilliant individual player performances in London, much of it was overshadowed as off-field issues stole the spotlight, from protesters breaching security to MCC members verbally abusing the opposition, the Lord's Test was one for ages and just ramped up the temperature as we move North to Headingley.


Match preview

England looking frustrated after day three of the second Ashes Test on June 30, 2023.© Reuters

Under grey skies and floodlights, Ben Stokes won the toss at the home of cricket and opted to send the Aussies in to bat in what were favourable conditions for the likes of James Anderson and company.

However, the hosts were unable to take advantage as the opposing batsmen stood firm, led by Steve Smith, who made 85 on the first day and navigated his side to 339-5 by the close of play.

After bowling the Aussies out for 416, Stokes's men responded with 325 in their first innings, with Ben Duckett impressing again at the top of the order, but their middle-order failed dismally as none of the bottom six managed to score more than 20 runs in their respective innings.

England's bowling attack showed improvement in the second innings, knocking over their opposition for 279 and leaving themselves a testing but gettable 371 to level the series.

The English captain looked set to lead his side to what would have been a huge victory up until Jonny Bairstow was dismissed at the other end in a controversial manner, as counterpart Alex Carey threw down the stumps after Bairstow wandered out of his crease before the end of the over was called by the umpire.

Stokes fought on valiantly against a barrage of short-pitched bowling, smashing nine over the boundary before eventually miscuing one, which saw him depart for 155 off 214 balls, and with him went England's hopes of victory.

The ensuing reactions from Bairstow's dismissal have been heated leading up to this Test, and while many criticised the hosts 'overly friendly' attitude in the first Test, it looks like all niceties have now been thrown out the window, and we could see the aggression behind Bazball turn up a notch in this match.

Australia's Steven Smith celebrating a half-century against England on June 28, 2023.© Reuters

Meanwhile, Andrew McDonald would have been extremely pleased to see the likes of Smith and Travis Head returning to form with the bat as the pair piled on 187 runs between them in the first innings.

Smith's 110 off 184 balls was his 32nd century in Test cricket for Australia, and he is now equal with former captain Steve Waugh and second only to Ricky Ponting, who has 41 Test tons under his belt.

In the second innings, it was Usman Khawaja that headlined yet again for the visitors, scoring his third half-century in his last four innings with a textbook display of Test batting that saw his side set a defendable total with a little over a day to play.

While England may have felt hard done by in the match, Australia also found themselves on the wrong side of a crucial decision as Mitchell Starc was adjudged to have grounded the ball while sliding after taking what looked like an excellent catch in the final session of play on day four.

However, that just seemed to light the fire in the Aussie bowling attack led by Starc, who ripped through the opposition and had them down to 45-4 before Stokes strode to the crease to steady the ship by putting on a 132-run partnership with Duckett.

As emotions ran high and seemingly overspilled in the revered Long Room during the lunch break on the final day, Australia will have a chip on their collective shoulders coming into this match, and Pat Cummins's men will be relishing the opportunity to silence the crowd in what is expected to be a hostile atmosphere at Headingley.


Team News

England's Ollie Pope suffering shoulder injury during second Test against Australia in June 2023.© Reuters

McCullum had announced that the England squad would be reduced to 15 players ahead for the third Test, with teenage leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed and seamer Matthew Potts receiving the axe, but he was dealt a late blow when Ollie Pope was ruled out for the remainder of the series on Tuesday due to a shoulder injury that he picked up in the last match.

The retention of Moeen Ali in the squad suggests that he has overcome the finger injury that caused him to miss the last match, and we will likely see the veteran tossed straight back into the thick of things in the third Test.

Anderson has only taken three wickets in the series at a 75-run average, and many are calling for the 40-year-old to be replaced by Mark Wood, who can inject some more pace into the English bowling attack.

In the opposite camp, Nathan Lyon has been officially ruled out for the remainder of the Ashes series after he picked up a calf injury in the second Test, leaving the door open for Todd Murphy to step in as the main spin option for the Aussies.

Matthew Renshaw has been released from the squad according to the updated 16-player roster, but he will remain in England until the end of the series as cover if any further injuries arise.

Having featured in both matches so far, McDonald may look to manage the workload of Josh Hazlewood, whose fitness was in doubt leading up to the first Test, and while Scott Boland may be his natural replacement, Mitch Marsh could be a valuable addition to the Aussie batting order in the latter stages.


England squad: Ben Stokes (capt), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Dan Lawrence, Moeen Ali, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Josh Tongue, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood

Australia squad: Pat Cummins (capt), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitch Marsh, Todd Murphy, Michael Neser, Jimmy Pierson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner


Series so far

First Test: Australia won by two wickets
England - 393/8d and 273
Australia - 386 and 282/8

Second Test: Australia won by 43 runs
Australia - 416 and 279
England - 325 and 327


SM words green background

We say: England to win

While the world champions can never be discounted, the loss of Nathan Lyon may be a big key factor as they reach the latter stages of this match, when spin has often been a telling factor here at Headingley.

The drama on the final day of the last Test and the chaotic build-up to this one may have been exactly what the doctor ordered from an England perspective. The Headingley wicket is a favourable one for Stokes and company, and we could see Bazball at its glorious best, which is why we are leaning towards the hosts keeping the series alive with a win in this one.

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England looking frustrated after day three of the second Ashes Test on June 30, 2023.
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