Less than half a day’s play was possible on Day 3 of the third Ashes 2023 Test at Headingley on Saturday due to rain. However, during the duration of play that was possible, England inched ahead by utilizing the bowler-friendly conditions, keeping their hopes of winning the Ashes afloat.
Australia resumed their second innings on Day 3 at 116/4, with Travis Head unbeaten on 18 and Mitchell Marsh on 17. However, they were bowled out for 224 in 67.1 overs as Chris Woakes (3/68), Stuart Broad (3/45), and Mark Wood (2/66) shone with the ball for England. For Australia, Head played another brilliant knock, scoring 77 off 112 balls, with the aid of seven fours and three sixes.
Chasing 251 runs to register their first win in Ashes 2023, England went to stumps on Day 3 at 27/0 after five overs. At the close of play, Ben Duckett was batting on 18 and Zak Crawley on 9. The hosts need a further 224 runs for victory on Day 4, with all 10 wickets in hand.
Ahead of Day 4 of the Headingley Test, we look at three players who could hugely determine the result of the contest.
#1 Ben Stokes
England captain Ben Stokes could hold the key to the team's fortunes once again. This is the same venue when they put up a master class in 2019 to lift the side to an unbelievable one-wicket win. Stokes has been terrific with the bat in the ongoing Ashes series as well.
The left-handed batter scored a superlative 155 in the Lord’s Test in a losing cause. He followed it up with a defiant 80 off 108 in the first innings of the ongoing Test to lift England from a precarious situation.
With the hosts’ batting order not displaying too much consistency, it could once again come down to Stokes if England lose early wickets on Day 4.
After the close of play on Day 3, pacer Woakes conceded that England can’t fall back on their skipper to lift them out of a hole all the time. His comments, though, were a clear admission of how heavily the team is relying on their skipper.
"Although we do realize he's superhuman, he can't do it every time. Across the board, from 1 to 11, we've got to put a good shift in and try and get us over the line. It's an opportunity to do something special.”
If Australia knock over a few England batters early, it could be déjà vu all over again and Superman Stokes might have to bring out his superpowers.
#2 Scott Boland
Aussie pacer Scott Boland did not pick up a wicket in the first innings. He managed only two wickets in the first Test he played in Birmingham before being dropped. However, he could have a crucial role to play on Day 4 at Headingley.
The right-arm pacer might look rather innocuous with the ball in hand, but he has the knack for delivering in the big moments. The 34-year-old proved the same in the World Test Championship (WTC) 2023 final against India at The Oval.
On Day 5, he dismissed Virat Kohli (49) and Ravindra Jadeja (0) in one over to thwart India’s resistance. The batting side could not recover from the double strike and threw in the towel.
Australia do have skipper Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc in their ranks, both of whom are seasoned match-winners. However, Boland, with his underrated skills, could end up being the joker in the pack.
#3 Harry Brook
England batter Harry Brook has had a rather disappointing Ashes 2023 so far. He got starts in both innings in Birmingham, but could not carry on to convert those into big scores.
The aggressive batter got 50 in the first innings at Lord’s but threw his wicket away playing a poor stroke. He fell for a low score in the second innings and managed only three after being promoted to No. 3 in the first essay of the ongoing Test in Ollie Pope’s absence.
After a bright start to his Test career, Brook seems to have gone off the boil a bit. However, he could make a big impact on Day 4 at Headingley if he manages to post a decent score. One thing is for sure, no matter how many runs he scores, he will get those at a swift pace.
England need 224 runs for a much-needed win at Headingley. A quick 50-60 by Brook could be the game-changer.