England are well set for the crucial third Ashes Test as Mark Wood shines with a fine five-wicket haul on an exciting first day at Headingley.
Wood’s stellar performance helped bowl Australia out for 263 despite a sensational century from Mitchell Marsh. However, England ended the day at 68–3, trailing by 195 runs.
Taking advantage of winning the toss on a lively pitch, England’s bowlers restricted Australia to 85–4, before Marsh made a blistering 118 off as many balls. He shared a 155-run partnership with Travis Head with the help of 17 fours and four sixes. Although England’s missed chances, including the drop of Marsh on 12 and Head on nine, hampered their efforts, they made a fine comeback after Marsh fell in the last over before tea.
Australia collapsed from a strong position of 240–4, losing their last six wickets for just 23 runs. Wood, making his first appearance in the series, showcased his rapid pace and skill, claiming impressive figures of 5-34. At one point his bowling reached a whopping speed of 96.5 miles per hour. In the evening, England faced a challenging 90-minute period and lost the wickets of Ben Duckett and Harry Brook to Pat Cummins before Marsh dismissed Jack Crawley.
Till the end of the game, England captain Joe Root remained unbeaten on 19 runs, while Johnny Bairstow is still unable to score runs. The home team aimed to overcome a 2–0 series deficit, which would be the first time in Ashes history that such a comeback had taken place, and prevent Australia from gaining an early opportunity.
The atmosphere at Headingley was in line with the hype surrounding this Test, with pre-match attention focused on the controversial dismissal of Jonny Bairstow at Lord’s. After some noise during the Australian national anthem, Stuart Broad dismissed David Warner for the 16th time in his career on the fifth ball of the day.
Wood’s lightning-fast opening spell further enthralled the crowd, and once Steve Smith was caught for 22, courtesy of Broad, Australia were four wickets down at the famous Western Terrace.
During the afternoon session, Marsh silenced the England supporters with his impressive batting performance, taking advantage of missed opportunities. However, Wood’s brilliant performance brought the crowd back to life. His devastating spell of four for five in 16 balls demolished the Australian tail-enders and revived England’s hopes. Late on, Australia fought back, picking up three crucial wickets, forcing England to fight back with determination.
Although the batting conditions at Headingley are improving as the Test progresses, it looks like missed opportunities have let England slip away in yet another key position. Wood’s extraordinary pace and impact on the game showed what England were not playing for in the previous Tests. His absence from the series so far due to injuries raises the question of how the series would have turned out differently if he had been available.