The Ashes 2019 – Third Test: Live At Leeds

Third Ashes Test, Headingley, Leeds. August 22 – 25, 2019.

Australia 179 & 246, England 67 & 9/362. England won by 1 wicket.

 

The breakfast hall in the hotel on the morning after, over a quiet cup of coffee, seems the perfect spot to reflect on all I have witnessed at Headingley over the past four days. Prior to arriving here in Leeds, the only things I knew about the city were that it had hosted a list of epic Test matches, and that The Who had recorded a seminal live album here in 1970, appropriately named “Live At Leeds”.

 

And just what am I reflecting upon? In some sort of chronological order: a combative Dave Warner playing-and-missing his way to 61 (but not necessarily back into form); rain; Marnus Labuschagne making the most of his inclusion at the expense of the concussed Steve Smith; a superb spell of lethal fast bowling by Jofra Archer; rain; a capitulation of the greatest magnitude by England’s shell-shocked batting line-up; in Josh Hazlewood’s 5/30 one of the great bowling spells – accurate and fast; a litany of Australian batsmen not taking their chances; Marnus again seizing his chance; sunshine; a gritty partnership between Joe Root and Joe Denly; the ebb and flow of the fourth innings; Jack Leach’s stubbornness.

 

And, to best all this, and everything else I have ever seen in cricket: Ben Stokes’ magnificent history-making 135 no. It was an innings that in its latter stages was as breathtaking, audacious, and imperious as anything you would ever witness in a sporting arena.

 

Sure, there were blunders. Tim Paine has had better days in the field, and we spectators were befuddled by some field-placings and bowling changes; but calling for his sacking? Sure, Pat Cummins bowled a ridiculously short length. Yes, Nathan Lyon could have done better with that run-out in the second-last over. And umpire Joel Wilson denied an lbw appeal that was as plumb as you will ever see.

 

But to dwell on the negatives would be to ignore the beauty and majesty of the Stokes innings. And to let churlishness blind you to the superb. The initial patience he displayed on the third evening, steeling himself for the fight ahead. Pushing through the disappointment of needlessly burning his partner Jos Buttler in a run-out (the cool Archer’s role in settling Stokes here cannot be underestimated). The sheer brutality of his hitting in the final partnership: ramp shots, drives, pulls, and as outrageous a reverse-sweep that you will ever see in test cricket.

 

This was edge-of-the-seat stuff. Ben Stokes was carried by a capacity crowd that was as supportive and vociferous as you will hear at a cricket match. The singing, chanting, pleading, and applause. Although the crowd sing songs of an empire that no longer exists, hearing them in full voice is spine-tingling. Like it or not, this atmosphere is never replicated at an Australian cricket venue, and I reckon our cricket is the poorer for it.

 

Yesterday I was fortunate to be on hand to witness greatness. It was a privilege for me to be a tiny part of it, and it will be something my son Brendan, a large group of mates, and I will remember forever. I was indeed lucky to be at Headingley, live at Leeds.

 

 

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Check out David Wilson on the human struggle of the Headingley denouement.

 

 

 

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About Darren Dawson

Always North.

Comments

  1. Colin Ritchie says

    How fortunate for you Smokie to have witnessed live such a history making individual sporting achievement by Ben Stokes. His name has certainly gone down in history! What a magnificent innings! I’m disappointed the Aussies dropped their bundle but what a joy to watch an innings of such magnitude. I’m glad I dragged myself out of bed! Who said Test Cricket is dead and boring??!!! Can’t wait for the Fourth Test.

  2. citrus bob says

    Smokie all I can say is that I am so jealous! Wonderful historical piece you have written. Long live test Cricket!
    Congratulations you lucky devil!!

  3. Awe-some.

  4. Jan courtin says

    Oh I wish I had been there! Still in shock 24 hrs later
    Great write up

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Smokie, what an experience. For you to be there with one of your sons is priceless.

    Watched every ball last night. Sport doesn’t get any better. Stokes is an absolute superstar. His innings is right up there with Lara’s 153* in Bridgetown in 1999, Laxman’s 281 in 2001 at Kolkata and Kusal Perera’s 153* against South Africa in Durban this year as the best I’ve watched.

    No comment of mine could sum up an incredible Test. I loved every minute but went to bed close to 2am absolutely gutted.

    Paine has copped it from all and sundry. I’m unashamedly a Paine man. Taking over under the circumstances that he did. He’s performed well (his 61 not out in Dubai was magnificent), led with dignity and class, installed a better culture in the team. These are unique times where our leadership group was stood out for a year. With Smith ruled out as captain for now there’s no one else. I fear for Head if he is elevated prematurely. Paine needs to be in the role at least for the next home summer. Carey is ready without banging the door down in red ball cricket. His time will come, he’s young enough for 80 Tests if he’s good enough.

  6. Tim Paine. Bob Rose.

  7. What a great experience!

  8. Headingley is certainly a great venue, Smokie, though it seems to have changed a bit since I was there for the magnificent Test (from an Aussie perspective) in 1989.
    A great experience for you and Brendan, particularly seeing Ben Stokes’ magnificently measured innings.
    I wonder if the crowd being in full voice is a by-product of soccer matches, where supporters of one team cluster together (perhaps to minimise crowd violence) opposed to the VFL/AFL where there’s a lot more intermingling (with family chatting taking precedence over communal singing).
    I wish I could be as magnanimous in defeat as you are, but maybe being there to see Stokes bat as he did helps deflect the pain of defeat.
    Luke, while Tim Paine seems to be a nice bloke, I think his captaincy shortcomings were badly exposed on Day 4 at Headingley.
    Paine’s a fine wicketkeeper but his lack of form with the bat, having made just 299 runs at 16.06 since the unbeaten 61 against Pakistan that you mentioned, has contributed to our batting fragility (admittedly, he has a few mates higher up the order).
    After Adam Gilchrist’s brilliance with the willow, succeeding keepers (including Brad Haddin) have been marked harder when it comes to their batting.
    I hope Paine proves me wrong and produces a couple of “captain’s knocks” in the last two Tests, but I’m hoping to see Alex Carey in the Test line-up before too long.

  9. Chris O’Keefe says

    Well written Smokie. Privileged to have been there with you for a huge moment in cricket history.
    Although the cards didn’t fall out way I totally agree with you that to harp on the what if’s (which I’m guilty of a hundred times in my head since yesterday) is to take away from what wan a epic performance by Stokes. Congratulations England on the Headingley result and bring on game 4!!!series alive

  10. Gee I was very flat yesterday morning Smoke. That defeat really stung. But to be beaten by something as magnificent as Stokes’ inning isn’t all bad. I think brutal is the best word for it.

    Fabulous write up. You’ll take that day to your grave I reckon.

    What heroics we’ve seen so far! Smith and now this!

  11. Andrew Starkie says

    Congrats, Smoke. You and yours are very fortunate.

  12. Smoke. You lucky bastards.

    The experience was enormous (emotional, physical, spiritual) in a Northcote loungeroom. Thanks for describing the moment there.

    Question: at what point did that Spirit of Enormity descend on Headingley? Was it stirring early on, as possibility. Or did it arrive quickly when, at 9 down, Stokes knew what he was going to have to do, planned his approach, and set about doing it. Is the first 70 balls the stirring of the Spirit of Enormity?

  13. “Summertime Blues”. Best track on the album. Seems appropriate.

  14. Peter, It was EDDIE COCHRAN who, way back in the fabulous fifties originally sang “Summertime Blues” one of my favourite recordings. He was quite right when he sang ” Sometimes i wonder what I’m gonna do for there aren’t no cure for the Summertime Blues”. I’m sure it’s on You Tube.

  15. John Butler says

    Talk about timing, you jammy so and so. :)

    You could feel something of the cauldron that final day became, even on the TV.

    The English are an often perverse people. But they can rise to an occasion.

    You are spot on to provide the earlier context of the game. So much happened before Stokes.

    You will be required to provide a debrief on this day once you return. Beers might be involved. :)

  16. Daryl Schramm says

    Dear Smokie and all respondents. Hear hear to all. I also was there for Lords and Leeds with the SACA group. Yes there was a bit of losers corner amongst some of the group regarding umpiring and other mistakes which did reduce the enjoyment of the moment a little. The way Stokes took England from 70 to under 50 behind suggested to me that he had us buggered at that point. The atmosphere at the ground was indescribable. It looked like fireworks looking from the east to the west. It was actually beer being tossed into the air. Unforgettable moment. Thanks Skokie.

  17. Smokie admit I am still gutted but totally agree you witnessed one of the greatest innings in test history
    While Paine has taken over in extraordinary circumstances and performed admirably that was a putrid hour or so of Captaincy I question re off field where was the off field support hammering re line and length and patience.While I do thinks it’s Carey time I admit no other options for Captain can’t see us coming back mentally hope I am wrong

  18. Rulebook, you’ve hit the head right on the nail (no i haven’t got that wrong – a friend of mine, from my banking days, would often say, to much amusement, “this shit gives me the jobs”) regarding Paine and Carey. I have more confidence in Carey’s keeping and batting but not, as yet, enough experience to be the captain.

    To me, the Poms now have all the momentum, despite what Captain Paine says. Our chaps will need to dig deep and learn to keep calm in a crisis. Hopefully Smith’s return will help steady the ship

    I wish I had heard I M Chappell’s take on that eventful fourth day’s play – I’m a huge fan of his.

  19. Brilliant Smokie. How fortunate that you were there for this! I once spent a day in Leeds which culminated in attending a performance of the Vagina Monologues. I think you’re in front.

  20. Regarding the monologues Mickey, i reckon I’d rather listen to a little DICKIE BIRD talking cricket.

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