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England keep their Ashes hopes alive in the pulsating third Test at Headingley


For a long time on Friday it seemed that England’s decision to bring Moeen Ali out of red-ball retirement for the Ashes was turning out to be a costly mistake. Then, with two highly unlikely wickets, he provided another twist to an Ashes series that defied all logical expectations.

The odds would have been high, at least before Jack Leach’s untimely injury, for Moeen to return in this series and hit 200 Test wickets. They would have taken longer to get there thanks to two soft shots from Australia’s master hoarders.

When Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith are giving away their wickets in successive Moeen overs and giving England another lifeline in a third Test they can’t afford to lose, then something is surely afoot in Headingley’s turf of miracles.

Could there be another epic finish here four years after the Ben Stokes miracle that possibly even surpassed those of Ian Botham and Bob Willis in 1981?

Well, it would be wise not to rule it out. After another absorbing and brilliant day in which again the initiative shifted back and forth, Australia finished 116 of four, 142 ahead, with England somehow clinging to their hopes of reclaiming the Ashes with their fingertips. .

1688751883 384 England keep their Ashes hopes alive in the pulsating third

What a test it’s turning out to be again and what a catalog of twists and turns there’s already been in two days, feels like two weeks, played in fast forward.

Take Moeen’s fortune. He suffered a nasty injury to his spinner finger at Edgbaston after reacquainting himself with the Dukes ball for the first time in almost two years and then sat out the second Test in favor of a seam attack.

His return here started poorly with both ball and bat, going wicketless in nine innocuous first innings and then needlessly giving away his wicket yesterday during the reckless-hitting epidemic that threatened to deliver the urn to Australia on a plate.

But just as Moeen was once again struggling to make an impact in the bowling as Australia tried to fight their way into an unassailable position, he struck twice out of thin air.

England looked deflated again when Jonny Bairstow could only get a finger up the side of Mark Wood’s Labuschange leg and wasted another chance. His carelessness and waste had reached another low in a series of mistakes.

But on the next ball he faced, this time from Moeen, Labuschagne slog swept the spinner into the hands of Harry Brook who lunged forward at the half-wicket boundary accompanied by cries of ‘catch it, take it’, from the grateful Bairstow. .

Labuschagne, who can barely drag himself when out at the best of times, took so long to get out that Smith could have wasted time before reaching the middle.

He did not stay long. Smith has failed to make an impact, at least with the bat, in his 100th Test and now inexplicably moved Moeen to the short wicket half for two and countered an innocuous comment from Bairstow as he departed.

“See ya, Smudge,” Bairstow said into the standing microphone. ‘Hey, what did you say? Smith said. ‘I said ‘cheers, see you later’!’ added a cheerful Bairstow.

That left Australia 72 for three after David Warner fell to Stuart Broad for the third time in this series and 17th overall (his place must be under threat now) and it was four as the deserving Chris Woakes won the wicket of Usman Khawaja .

Travis Head and Mitch Marsh regained their composure by taking 26 before close, but this Test is still very much in the balance, with England confident of chasing anything in a field where the last five Tests have all been last batsman won.

Nothing looked less likely than the prospect of an England victory yesterday morning when Joe Root stabbed Pat Cummins’ second ball of the day to slip off and then Bairstow headed past Mitchell Starc to give Australia another all-too-easy wicket.

Australia would take everything that came their way, in such a contrast to England’s butter fingers, and when the hosts went to lunch at 142 for seven, Moeen and Woakes added two more wickets with reckless jerks, the Ashes looking very, very far.

But then came another exciting England counter-attack from the Bazball playbook led by Stokes. It seemed something out of the ordinary was about to happen as Wood struck his first three balls off Starc for six, four, six and crushed 24 all out from just eight balls as England tried to claw their way to parity.

They nearly got there too when Stokes, basically batting with one leg after apparently straining a muscle in the rear, produced another extraordinary display of the gifts and intelligence that make him a once-in-a-generation cricketer.

1688751884 576 England keep their Ashes hopes alive in the pulsating third

The England captain, picking up where he left off at Lord’s, began his onslaught by pulling out three straight fours from Cummins, otherwise brilliant in taking six wickets, and then went after Todd Murphy’s turn, beating the substitute for Nathan Lyon for five sixes. .

An Aussie lead that once looked safe to be in triple figures was quickly cut to 26 as Stokes became the latest England wicket to fall, giving Smith his fifth innings catch and Murphy his first Ashes wicket. by making 80 of 108. balls.

Out of breath England were back and still are, partly because Australia were less than three ahead and left themselves in danger of falling into that third innings trap by not knowing whether to stick or turn.

There are three days left and anything can happen. It’s still impossible to take your eyes off this Ashes series for a moment.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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