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The Ashes: Third Test Preview

Under Captain Fantastic Ben Stokes, England often look as though they are capable of making history – but winning the Ashes will now take something very special.

Having lost the second Test at Lord’s last week, England have gone 2-0 down to Australia in the five-match series.

Forget Stokes’ astonishing 155 which posted a new world record as he become the first player to score 150+ in the fourth innings of a Test match while batting at No.6 or lower.

Forget the outcry – from pub-goers to prime ministers – over the controversial dismissal of Jonny Bairstow.

Forget Bazball and whether the approach needs to be modified.

The bald fact is this. Only one side in Ashes history – Don Bradman’s 1936/37 Australia team – have successfully overturned a 2-0 deficit to win the series.

For the Test match that starts at Headingly on Thursday, the bookmakers have it as a very even contest, reflecting the close matches at both Edgbaston and Lord’s, which were both snuck by the Aussies.

DragonBet have Australia as slight favourites at 6/5, with England at 6/4 and they price the draw at 16/5.

They also have specials available on the local Welsh cricket leagues.

England have been hit by injuries for this one, too. Ollie Pope, who had been batting at No.3, saw his series ended by a dislocated shoulder he suffered during last week’s 43-run defeat.

It means Harry Brook has been promoted up the order from No.5 to No.3, while Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood have all been recalled.

James Anderson, who has looked ineffective in the first two games by his own standards, and fellow pace bowler Josh Tongue have both been rested.

The recall of Moeen – who has overcome his finger injury – means England have a spin option again and don’t have to rely on an all-seam attack, which has highlighted a lack of variety in their bowling.

Moeen, Woakes and Wood will lessen the bowling burden on Stokes, too, who admitted: “The last week took a bit out of me a little bit and something I had to think of was what would be the best team to win this game if I didn’t bowl a ball?

“It doesn’t mean I am not going to bowl but that was a huge part of my thinking.”

For Australia, young spinner Todd Murphy is preparing to play in the third Test following the loss of Nathan Lyon with a serious calf strain.

They are also considering recalling pace bowler Scott Boland for Josh Hazelwood.

Murphy is only 22-year-old and has never played in the UK before.

Not that age is much of an issue for the Aussies. Steve Smith made his Test debut as a 21-year-old and 13 years later, the master batsmen is preparing to play his 100th Test match.

His career average of 59.56 is higher than anyone currently playing with a minimum of 20 Test innings. Only five players in Test history average more. His 32 tons is also more than anyone else still playing.

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