England Decided To Continue The Test Of The Team Of Obituaries Locked In Their Rooms > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - England determined to keep Test team obituaries locked in the chambers
This probably won't come as a surprise to many of you, but the majority of obituaries are written well in advance of the subject's passing.
They say Amy Winehouse's was ready to go around six years before she eventually passed away in 2011. Aside from a handful of tweaks, the majority of the details and guts of the eulogy were pretty set in stone. Though there were notable events in this period - a handful of final projects, a botched European tour - the rise and depressing fall were already there, ready for publishing.
The press box on that Sunday at Headingley was a frenetic mess of emotional and professional toil. Of frantic rewrites and on-the-whistle reports. But also pieces like "How Australia retained the Ashes", "Where the Ashes were lost" and probably something panning the County Championship. In among all of them, of course, will be nods to England's batting issues and, without doubt, calls for Joe Root's head.
Ben Stokes's salvo meant each and every one of those was parked. But they're still out there, stowed away in numerous hardrives, a couple of minor alterations away from a thousand-and-then-some clicks should the worst happened from an English perspective in the next few days. Swap "Headingley" for "Old Trafford". Insurmountable lead from "2-0" to "2-1".
For all the fun of that Sunday and its glow that still shines bright even here in Manchester with days one to four sold out and almost 19,000 tickets already picked up for day five, England's issues are as relevant as they were in a time before *that* 135*. The issues within these formant pieces remain.
Questions about Root's captaincy remain. The batting, as impressive as it was in that final innings, remains an amalgamation of high potential and low reward. 67 all out, remember? Only Stokes and Rory Burns average over 30. Jason Roy and Jos Buttler average in the nines.
Analytically and anecdotally, Australia have had the best of the three matches. In welcoming back Steve Smith, they regain their healthy edge with the bat, and with Marnus Labuschagne's emergence, a bit of extra steel, too. Yet there is a feeling among the England camp that, quietly, they are keen for these pieces to remain in the chamber and, perhaps, binned altogether.
Following the remarkable chase of 359, Stokes posted a copy of the Times Sports front page on his Instagram. Root followed suit after, on Twitter, before deleting the post. The accompanying text summed up the sentiment: Stokes going for "never give up" while the England captain opted for "Never EVER give up!!!! We still believe... #ashes".
It was a copy from two days before, written about the cricket on day two - the 67 all out day - with the headline "No Fight, No Idea, No Hope". At the time of writing, it was accurate. If you had walked into a bookies haven to put money on England to win from that position, there's every chance you'd have been sectioned. Nothing about it was salvageable and, at the time, only an unhinged dreamer would think otherwise.
And yet while England know they pulled off a great escape, one which they've rewatched constantly and propelled them on a par with football in this country, if only for a moment, they are not taking it for granted.
Going in unchanged would have been an easy way into this Test - sticking with the players bonded by such a thrilling chase. But out goes Chris Woakes and in comes Craig Overton, whose extra height could extract that extra something from the Old Trafford pitch that Woakes, full of summer overs, might not.
Joe Denly and Jason Roy will swap positions, despite the former scoring an accomplished, battling 50 to set up the foundation for Stokes's assault. This, the brains trust believe, is the best combination for the top four, one they almost pulled the chord on at Leeds, in fact. Roy, against an older ball, has a chance to do what he does best or move on and let someone else have a go.
You would not necessarily term these changes as "ruthless". But England are certainly not resting on their laurels. The sheer will of the nation, indeed the series, has shifted the host's way. And maybe another time that would be enough. Enough for everyone to think things are going to be fine. Enough to believe the spirit within the camp alone can carry them to victories here and at the Oval.
But they know they got away with one at Headingley, that Stokes, for all his miracle work, should not need to dip so deep into the well. The focus and preparation is as sharp as it has been this series.
England can't win the Ashes with victory here. But they can set the wheels in motion for the pieces they want to read - "How the Ashes were retained."
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