Following their three-wicket victory 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 rest of the five-match series to reclaim the urn. The England captain stated that he has “no doubt” that his team can win the series from now on.
No side has won the Ashes after falling behind by two wickets since Don Bradman’s Australia won the series in 1936-37. Harry Brook’s 75 pulled England over the line at Leeds on the fourth day of a difficult run-chase, but they will need to beat Australia at Old Trafford and Oval in the next two games in what has been a closely contested series to make the dream come true.
“Another down-to-the-wire game,” Stokes conceded after the game. “Nice to get over the line and keep our hopes alive.”
“It is obviously significant in the context of the series.” We knew we needed to win this Test to keep our chances of winning the Ashes alive, so it’s a nice win. If you look at the first two games in terms of how tight they were, getting over the line in another tight game might assist mentally… knowing that it’s another close game but we’ve gotten over the line in this one.
“The first two didn’t go our way. If we don’t win this one and it’s tight again, you’d say it’s just not meant to be. We’re obviously ecstatic 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 newcomers Mark Wood, Chris Woakes, and Moeen Ali. “We brought Woody and Woakes back in, and it’s great when decisions like that have an impact on the game.” That is what we are looking at: what impact players can have and how we can leverage them. This week, all three of those men accomplished it.
Woakes, who hadn’t played a Test since March 2022, chipped in with six wickets before playing a significant hand in the frantic run-chase in the fourth innings, finishing unbeaten on 32 – which included a 59-run stand with Harry Brook before a crucial unbeaten 24-run pair with Wood.
“I didn’t even consider how long it had been since he (Chris Woakes) had played red-ball,” Stokes remarked. “He’s an excellent entertainer. He’s Mr Consistent. Having someone who can bat like the can at No. 8 is a huge benefit, and whether the ball is doing a bit in the air or off the pitch, he’s very much in the game.”
Wood also impressed 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 his 16-ball stay at the wicket over two innings.
“Having someone who can come in and bowl 95mph is a huge help,” the English skipper remarked. “It affects the game, whether he’s taking wickets at one end or they come at the other.” It’s great to watch him happy, running in and bowling rockets. And with the bat, he’s a free spirit with a sharp mind. He stepped out knowing exactly how he wanted to approach the game; it doesn’t always work out, but it gives you a better opportunity.”
Moeen Ali had a smaller role to play after being called up to replace the injured Ollie Pope. He took two wickets in the second innings, but more crucially, he was asked to bat at No. 3 in the chase. Mitchell Starc cleaned him up with a yorker on 5. Stokes, on the other hand, lauded 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 try for No. 3.” He seemed to have the potential to move the order.”