Following their three-wicket triumph over Australia at Headingley on Sunday, England captain Ben Stokes is optimistic that England can reclaim the Ashes. After losing the first two Tests, England needed to win the remaining four games of the five-match series to reclaim the urn. The England skipper stated that he has “no doubt” that his team can win the series from here on out.
No side has won the Ashes after trailing by two wickets since Don Bradman’s Australia won the series in 1936-37. Harry Brook’s 75 pulled England across the line at Leeds on the fourth day of a tough run-chase, but they will need to beat Australia at Old Trafford and Oval in the next two games to make the hope come true in what has so far been a tightly-contested series.
“Another down-to-the-wire game,” Stokes conceded afterwards. “Nice to cross the finish line and keep our hopes alive.”
“It’s obviously significant in the context of the series.” We knew we needed to win this Test to keep our Ashes chances alive, so it’s a good win. When you consider how tight the first two games were, getting over the line in another tight game might assist mentally… knowing that it’s another close game, we’ve gotten over the line in this one.
“The first two didn’t work out. If we didn’t win this one and it’s tight again, you might assume it’s just not meant to be. We’re obviously overjoyed to have won this one, but it’s only the beginning of what we know we need to do.”
Stokes also praised the performances of Mark Wood, Chris Woakes, and Moeen Ali, who were called up for the third Test. “We brought back Woody and Woakes, and it’s great when decisions like that have an impact on the game.” That’s what we’re looking at: what impact players can have and how we can use them. This week, all three of those players accomplished it.
Woakes, who hadn’t played a Test since March 2022, chipped in with six wickets before playing a significant role in the fourth innings run-chase, finishing unbeaten on 32 – which included a 59-run stand with Harry Brook before a critical unbeaten 24-run partnership with Wood.
“I didn’t even think about how long it had been since he (Chris Woakes) had played red-ball,” Stokes remarked. “He’s an excellent performer.” He’s Mr Reliable. Having someone who can bat like a machine at No. 8 is a huge benefit, and whether the ball is bouncing around in the air or off the field, he’s a huge factor.”
Wood also stood out with his pace, particularly in the first inning, when he returned a fifer. He then had two entertaining and useful cameos with the bat lower down the order, smashing four sixes in a 16-ball stay at the wicket over two innings.
“When you’ve got someone who can come in and bowl 95mph, it’s a massive help,” the English skipper added. “Whether he’s taking wickets at one end or they come at the other, it affects the game.” It’s great to see him laughing and running in to bowl rockets. And with the bat, he’s a free spirit with a clear mind. He stepped out knowing exactly how he wanted to approach the game; it doesn’t always work, but it gives you a better opportunity.”
Moeen Ali didn’t have much of an impact after replacing the injured Ollie Pope in the starting lineup. He took two wickets in the second innings, but more crucially, he was assigned to bat at No. 3 in the chase. The move backfired, with Mitchell Starc clearing him up with a yorker on 5. Stokes, on the other hand, praised the all-rounder. “Mo always wants to have an impact on the game; he told Brendon last night that he wanted to take them on and compete for No. 3.” He appeared to be able to influence the order.”