Hostile Headingley awaits Australia after Bairstow row – Ashes talking points
England and Australia will renew their Ashes battle at Headingley on Thursday, four days after Jonny Bairstow’s dismissal sparked a controversy that escalated far enough to draw in the Prime Ministers of both nations.
The hosts are 2-0 behind and need to win to keep the series alive, while their opponents have the chance to become the first Australia team to win in England since 2001.
Here, the PA news agency looks at the key issues heading into the game.
What impact will the Bairstow row have?
Alex Carey’s decision to throw down Bairstow’s stumps when the Englishman felt the ball was dead may well have changed the whole tone of the series. Relations between the teams are sure to be frostier, while Ben Stokes’ furious century in the immediate aftermath of the incident suggested something had been awoken in the home team. Can England harness that righteous anger in the right way and can others follow Stokes’ lead? Will Bairstow continue his career-long habit of turning in big performances when he feels most under pressure? Will Carey dare try it again? Finding out the answers to these questions should prove entertaining.
If Australia were taken aback by the vitriol they attracted at Lord’s, where even the usually serene environment of the Long Room took a turn, then they can expect the volume to be turned up again in Leeds. It would be no surprise if the touring side had to draw straws to find out who takes up fielding duty in front of the Western Terrace, a notoriously raucous stand that will be eager to make its collective voice heard. Measures are being taken to ensure things do not cross a line, but England will hope the partisan atmosphere serves them well.
A new-look England attack
The congested schedule meant England always planned to rotate their bowlers they have chosen this week to roll the dice, with record wicket-taker James Anderson making way alongside rookie Josh Tongue. Most striking is the return of Mark Wood, whose ability to bowl at speeds of more than 96mph mark him out as a major point of difference. Australia struggled with his pace at times in the last Ashes series and Stokes will be delighted to have his Durham colleague back. Moeen Ali is also ready after missing Lord’s, meaning a specialist spin option and some headaches for Australia’s left-handers. Finally there is a first appearance of the ‘Bazball’ era for the ultra-reliable Chris Woakes, whose record in England is outstanding.
Brook on the up
Harry Brook enjoyed a remarkable first winter in Test cricket, scoring four centuries in Rawalpindi, Multan, Karachi and Wellington, but has yet to make a major mark on his first Ashes campaign. He has played some thrilling strokes but has also found unusual ways to get out and has a top score of 50. With that backdrop, England’s decision to promote him to number three in place of the injured Ollie Pope is a bold call. He has batted there before in his early days for Yorkshire, with limited success, but he enjoys the full trust of a dressing room that believes he can be a match-winner from any position. If the switch pays off, it could set the game up for England.
Another Smith century
Former Australia skipper Steve Smith is no stranger to reaching three figures on English soil, having scored centuries in 16 Ashes Tests here. His latest landmark is guaranteed, as he earns his 100th cap. Ten players have marked that occasion with a century in the past, with two of those on the field this week – Joe Root and David Warner. Smith will be going all out to join them on that list and an average of 61.82 in these conditions suggest he has all the pedigree to do so.
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