The Ashes is on a knife edge as the five-match series moves to the historic Old Trafford for the fourth and penultimate Test which begins on Wednesday.
A remarkable Ben Stokes innings at Headingley managed to keep the Ashes alive for the hosts with Australia coming close to retaining the historic urn on English soil for the first time since 2001.
It is still the visitors who are in the driving seat given the fact that they just need one win to retain the trophy but the momentum has shifted in England’s favour after the dramatic Test at Headingley.
England on a high
Confidence is soaring in the England camp after that one-wicket win and skipper Joe Root and pacer Stuart Broad have said as much ahead of the Manchester clash.
“When you come off a win like that it is a big lift for the whole squad,” Root stated on the eve of the fourth Test.
“For that game (Headingley) to unravel like it did and for us to turn up here full of confidence and very much alive in this series is… I thought the way we played the week before at Lord’s it started to feel like we were wrestling our way back into the series and we did a lot of good stuff there.”
“Obviously the momentum of that Test shifted and with that, the series,” Broad said on Monday.
“We’ve come here enjoying what happened last week but knowing it’s gone but not forgetting about it.”
Wounded Aussies looking to strike back
While England are confident that momentum has shifted in their favour, the Aussies have been left to lick their wounds for 10 days.
“I actually felt physically sick after it, then I went back to my room and I wasn’t sure whether to cry my eyes out or smash my hotel room,” coach Justin Langer stated in the aftermath of the third Ashes Test defeat.
“For most people it’s just a game of cricket, but when so much goes into it, it means a lot.”
Langer, however, has responded to fight fire with fire and has vowed a strong Australia response at Manchester.
“We felt a bit like we got the Ashes stolen the other day,” he said.
“Now we got to work out what we’re going to do and use that as fire. We’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves and let it slip.”
Smith’s return looms large
One of the reasons for the Aussie camp to still feel emboldened after their Headingley defeat is the impending return of Steve Smith after the star batsman was forced to miss the clash with a concussion.
Smith has already slammed 378 runs in the series in just three innings and will return to the fold on Wednesday as the No1 ranked batsman in the world once again after reclaiming the title from Virat Kohli.
England have wasted no time in sending Smith a reminder about their plans against him with Jofra Archer set to be unleashed upon the Australian once again.
“First thing, it’s great Steve is OK and coming back into Test cricket but Test cricket is a brutal sport where countries go hell for leather against each other. I’m sure when Steve comes in, Jofra will be in Joe Root’s ear wanting the ball, no doubt about that,” Broad warned.
While England are hoping to use Archer’s steep bounce as a means to ruffle Smith’s feathers once again, Australia skipper Tim Paine is in no doubt that his compatriot is up for the fight.
“He’s been bounced a few times over the journey, teams have come up with all sorts of different plans,” Paine stated.
“It’s not new to him and I’ve said it before, that’s why he’s the best. He has found a way to deliver when he’s needed to and we are expecting the same Steve.
“He’s been hit in the body and arm and head hundreds of times in his career, nothing has changed.”
England (confirmed): Joe Denly, Rory Burns, Joe Root (c), Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Jos Buttler, Craig Overton, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach.
Australia: Marcus Harris, David Warner, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Travis Head, Matthew Wade, Tim Paine (c & wk), Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood.
Sri Lanka are looking to bounce back against New Zealand as the two sides lock horns in the second T20I of the three-match series at Pallekele.
The hosts trail 0-1 currently after their five-wicket defeat in the series opener and have it all do against a New Zealand side who are missing Ross Taylor due to an injury.
Sri Lanka have elected to bat first after winning the toss and have made one change to their side with Lakshan Sandakan coming into the playing XI instead of Kasun Rajitha. Meanwhile, Tom Bruce has replaced the injured Taylor for the visitors.
Can the hosts fightback to level the series or will the Kiwis lay their hands on the trophy? Find out by following the ball-by-ball updates from the second T20I below.
Australia captain Tim Paine has hit back at Jofra Archer’s suggestion that Australia “panicked” during their dramatic defeat to England in the third Ashes Test at Headingley.
Paine’s side looked certain to clinch an Ashes-retaining victory, only for Ben Stokes’ unbeaten 135 and a last-wicket stand with Jack Leach to carry England to an improbable win.
The Australia captain came in for criticism for his approach to that partnership.
Paine admits he got his field placings wrong, but rejects claims that he and his side panicked.
When asked if that was the case, Paine replied: “No. Jofra is entitled to his opinion – he’s had plenty of those that’s for sure – but as I said, we made some mistakes. It happens. We have addressed it as a team.
“I was certainly one of those people who made mistakes. We move on and we are here ready for another great Test match.
“I would do some things differently with my field placings. As I said, the mistakes have been made. We have learnt from it.”
Australia have dropped number three Usman Khawaja for the fourth Test as Steve Smith returns to the side following the concussion he suffered during the second Test at Lord’s.
Smith’s replacement Marnus Labuschagne kept his place after scoring three successive half-centuries.
“Usman is obviously a key player in the side batting at number three and he hasn’t scored the runs that he or we would like,” Paine said.
“With Steve Smith coming back it was a tough decision to make on Usman.
“He has still got a lot of cricket left in him and has a very good Test record over his career. We expect him to bounce back pretty strongly.”
Paceman Mitchell Starc has also returned to the squad having been overlooked for the first three Tests, with James Pattinson dropping out.
“Mitchell is in the 12 so he is close. We will have another look at the wicket today, it looks pretty dry but hopefully it has got a bit of pace in it,” Paine added.
“Starcy bowled superbly last week at Derby. He has been working really hard on getting his length right and we were really impressed.
“We know what he can do to tail-end batters when he cranks it up. The boys have been calling him ‘the mop’ for a few years now. That is a thing that he does really well.
“He is a great option for us. We think this wicket might suit him and – if we make that call – we are sure he will do a great job.”
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