Ashes 2023: Can England Script a Historic Comeback?

As the fourth Ashes Test starts on 19th July at Old Trafford, England captain Ben Stokes is optimistic about scripting a historic comeback in this Ashes series.

Ashes 2023: Can England Script a Historic Comeback?
Dillip Mohanty

Written by: Dillip Mohanty

(Sports Editor)

Last updated: 2023-07-18

England on the backfoot: The real test of Bazball

The third cycle of the ICC World Test Championship began with the most exciting rivalry in the cricketing universe as Australia travelled to England for the coveted five-match Ashes series. In the tightly contested opening Test match, the visitors clinched a final day victory by a bare margin of two wickets at Birmingham and then took the lead to 2-0 at the ‘Home of Cricket’ winning by 43 runs. Both the Test matches were closely contested. English fan’s expectations were high at Headingley where England managed to pip Australia by 3 wickets in another closely fought game to win their first Test of the series converting the score line to 2-1.

The way the English Test team has played their cricket since the new regime of coach Brendon McCullum and skipper Ben Stokes have taken over; nothing seems impossible. A historic comeback to take the series 3-2 which could be rubbished by the pundits and the expert until a few years ago is now looking plausible. England’s Bazball strategy of aggressive gameplay has taken the team to the next level winning 13 out of 19 Tests.

Stokes optimism

After their defeat in the second Test, England captain Ben Stokes acknowledged the fact and stated, “We're 2-0 down. We have three games remaining in the series and we have won 3-0 against New Zealand and 3-0 against Pakistan so we know we can do it.” Stokes missed out on the fact that England have never in the history of bilateral Test series have managed to come from behind and win the series after losing the initial two Tests in a 4 or 5-match series. But where is the belief coming from? It’s a massive statement for an English captain in a home Ashes series to make. But the pundits believed, the crowd believed and so did the English team scripting a spectacular though a close victory in the third test.

Ben Stokes Training.jpeg

The Jonny Bairstow stumping incident put the Australians on their toes as the crowd solidified standing behind the home team, never missing out a moment to boo the Australians. They didn’t spare Steve Smith who walked in to bat in his 100th Test match. Bairstow, who was known as the backbone of Bazball and might be credited with actually bringing the positive intent into the English batting with his own performances in the last one year has failed to produce any magic behind the stumps and in front. Still, the crowd stood rock solid in support of Bairstow. This is an unusual scene as it usually becomes noisy whenever England goes down in an Ashes series with players getting blamed for every possible thing.

English Crowd at Leeds.jpeg

England last won a Test series coming from behind against South Africa last year in a three-match series. South Africa won the first game on the back of a brilliant and quick Kagiso Rabada spell but the home team made a tremendous comeback to win the remaining two games by an innings & 85 runs and nine wickets respectively. The last time England were behind in the series and managed to win it against Australia was in 2005, one of the greatest Ashes series witnessed in the history of the game.
 

Drawing inspiration from the 2005 Ashes

England last won a Test series coming from behind against South Africa last year in a three-match series. South Africa won the first game on the back of a brilliant and quick Kagiso Rabada spell but the home team made a tremendous comeback to win the remaining two games by an innings & 85 runs and nine wickets respectively. The last time England were behind in the series and managed to win it against Australia was in 2005, one of the greatest Ashes series witnessed in the history of the game.

In the 2005 Ashes series, England had their backs against the wall after losing the first Test at Lord’s and almost lost out the second game as well. In the second Test at Birmingham, requiring 282 runs to win, Australia found heroes in Shane Warne and Brett Lee who added 45 runs for the eighth wicket. Warne was out hit wicket for 42 but Lee went on and scored 43 not out adding further 59 runs with number 11 Michael Kasprowicz. With just 3 runs to win and over a day’s play remaining, Kasprowicz failed to see off a bouncer delivered by Steve Harmison and edged it behind to the keeper. What followed was one of the most iconic cricket pictures ever taken as a distraught Brett Lee is consoled by England’s hero Andrew Flintoff who picked up 4 for 79 in the second innings. England then came close to victory in the 3rd Test but couldn’t take the one wicket for a win as the game ended in a draw. But a 3-wicket win in the 4th Test followed by a draw helped them retain the Ashes.

Comparisons might be drawn between Ben Stokes with Andrew Flintoff. Both capable allrounders have the ability to change the game with batting, bowling and fielding. Stokes is an able leader as well and has rejuvenated himself after getting the full-time captaincy. The way he carries himself on and off the field and also the team has been exceptional.

The England cricket team is playing result-oriented cricket and is selecting the best players who could do the job for them. In the third Test, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes took the team to victory with exceptional bowling performances and a calmful partnership at the end of the game to give the team a comeback victory. England will be definitely high on confidence as the players have also mentioned that it is the best atmosphere they have played under. The only sign of worry is England’s spin reserves as they had to go back to Moeen Ali who had announced his retirement from the longest format a couple of years back and agreed to join the team for the series.

Moeen suffered an injury after bowling in the first Test with the team playing at Lord’s without a spinner. Australia also had to tap into their reserves giving Todd Murphy a taste of Ashes as Nathan Lyon was ruled out owing to a calf injury. With a depleted spin lineup, Australia still has a good, experienced pace attack but it has failed to get the better of the middle and lower order. Stokes is the highest run scorer for England with 309 runs at an average of 51.5 and hit a magnificent 155 in a brilliant attempt in the 2nd Test. It seemed that he would repeat his astonishing feat from 2019 again which was another historic moment.

Now the onus will be back on the England leader to gather his troops and march towards England’s first-ever triumph as they aim to win the series 3-2. They have done it against Pakistan in the subcontinent and against New Zealand and there’s nothing stopping the Bazball-playing Poms to give a statement to the strong Aussies and the world cricket fraternity.

Will this be Stoke’s Ashes?

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Dillip Mohanty

Dillip Mohanty

Dillip has over two decades of experience in creating sports content. As the Sports Editor of SportsBoom, Dillip brings in a wealth of experience and expertise to the role. Dillip has worked with leading sports broadcasters and sports web content portals in Asia. He is an adept storyteller and has a special liking for data stories. He has a keen interest in data analysis and uncovering insights from large datasets. He loves to tell the story with rich and compelling data visualisation.

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