For many West Australian cricket fans the current 10-day break between Ashes tests could not have come at a better time – the gripping play across 14 out of 15 days of test cricket has meant many late nights over the past few weeks.
Obviously, that same break has come at an even better time for both teams after three engrossing games of test cricket, with England’s new-look ‘Bazball’ game style taking on a determined Australian outfit who have just been crowned World Test Champions.
Throughout the series so far, only 40 runs separate the two teams in terms of total runs scored Australia’s way, while England have lost only three wickets less than Australia, with England just ahead on overall batting average (32.89 versus 31.90).
And while just the above information has all the hallmarks of a classic series, when you factor in all of the drama, controversies and fake news stories about unpaid hair cuts, it gets even better.
In the first test Australia salvaged victory thanks to a huge first innings knock from Usman Khawaja, followed by Captain Pat Cummins guiding his side home thanks to a herculean effort with the bat, joined at the crease by Nathan Lyon with Australia looking to have too big a mountain to climb runs-wise.
In some ways that win finally healed some old wounds in the form of Ben Stokes’ 2019 Headingley heroics (where Cummins and in particular Lyon were key player’s in a heartbreaking loss) – wounds that Stokes would spend the next two games trying to reopen.
Game two ended in some frenzied controversy after Australian wicket keeper Alex Carey somewhat-sneakily stumped Jonny Bairstow at a crucial point on the final day, sending the crowd (and usually well-to-do MCC members) into a frothing frenzy, the ensuing handwringing over the “spirit of cricket” suspiciously absent the night before when a Mitchell Starc catch was deemed not one according to Third-umpire Marais Erasmus.
A fired-up Ben Stokes then did everything he could to try and break Aussie hearts again, before Australia finally got their man, put the game to bed and found themselves two up in a best-of-five series, retaining the coveted Ashes trophy tantalising within reach.
And tantalising it remains after a new-look England side shook the Aussies up through a combination of frighteningly fast bowling from the incoming Mark Woods, another Ben Stokes worldy to keep them in the game, some pretty poor batting from Australia’s middle order and death by a thousand cuts on day four thanks to Harry Brook’s firm hand.
Fittingly the game ended with England’s two most effective additions, Mark Woods and Chris Woakes (blokes so lovely it’s annoyingly impossible to hate them), seeing the team to safety with a few wickets in hand, despite a heroic last innings bowling effort from Aussie left-armer Mitchell Starc.
Where to from here?
Australia have something a selection headache over who to pick between WA boys Mitch Marsh and Cam Green after the former replaced the latter in game three to end up being arguably Australia’s best player for the game, while Michael Neser puts pressure on from the outside by having an absolute steamer of a county cricket summer.
There’s also the issue of David Warner’s continued struggles against Stuart Broad, Scotty Boland’s struggles against England’s aggressive batting, and Marnus Labuschagne’s struggles with looking like he’s running complex mathematical equations every delivery instead of just…batting.
England meanwhile look like they’ve gathered after the two early losses, found a good-looking 11 (in terms of skills, aesthetics and vibes) full of lovely blokes who are very good at doing the cricket, and will fancy themselves to come home strong and keep that Ashes trophy tantalisingly out of reach for the Aussies, who just need to draw the series to retain them.
From BazBall, the Bison and Broad-around-the-wicket-to-Warner, to Ben Stokes, good bloke Woakes, TravBall, Captain Cummins and Bairstow (missed) stumpings… It all shapes up for more sleepless nights for West Aussie viewers, and some of the most exciting Ashes cricket in decades with the Aussies still favourites to at least retain the The Ashes.
This article is brought to you by TABtouch – Better your bet and download the TABtouch App today.
WHAT ARE YOU REALLY GAMBLING WITH? For free and confidential support call 1800 858 858 or visit gamblinghelponline.org.au.
Header Image Credit: 9WWoS Screengrab