Headingley Cricket Ground in West Yorkshire has played host to some iconic moments in the Ashes’ rich history, with Ian Botham’s 149 runs in the second innings of the 1981 Series helping his England side become just the second team in history to win a Test after following on and the Ben Stokes-inspired ‘Headingley Miracle’ in 2019 just two of the standout moments in Leeds.
England entered this year’s Ashes as the favourites to regain the urn for the first time since 2015, but disappointing losses at Edgbaston and Lord’s meant Brendon McCullum’s side needed another phenomenal performance at Headingley to keep their hopes of winning the Ashes alive for the final two Tests at Old Trafford and the Oval.
2-0 down and the odds on England winning Ashes looking rather bleak, it was clear Stokes and McCullum needed to make changes to the squad for the third Test at Headingley — and they did just that, switching up their bowling attack by resting veteran Jimmy Anderson and Joshua Tongue and adding Chris Woakes and Mark Wood to the lineup.
Woakes hadn’t featured for England since they lost to the West Indies on a tour of the Caribbean in March 2022, which was before what is now known as the ‘Bazball’ era, while many had questioned the decision to leave Wood out at Lord’s given the lacklustre performances of England’s fast bowlers at Edgbaston and that he is considered something of a specialist at the iconic London venue.
Their inclusion at Headingley was better late than never though and selecting the duo — who are actually close friends off the pitch after forming a tight bond due to England’s alphabetical seating rule when it comes to flying and so on — proved to be a stroke of genius from the decision-makers in the camp as Woakes and Wood made all the difference in Yorkshire.
The Australians struggled to cope with Wood’s rapid deliveries, which were in excess of 90mph, in the first innings as he took an impressive five wickets for just 34 runs, while Woakes took out three Aussie batsmen himself as England bowled the visitors out for what appeared a manageable target of 263.
McCullum’s men fell 26 runs short in the end, but Woakes’ 10 off 10 balls and Wood’s 24 runs off just eight balls in the lower order were still imperative to closing the gap somewhat. Australia were able to weather the storm of Wood in the second innings, as he was restricted to just two wickets, but Woakes proved a danger instead — dismissing opener Usman Khawaja and middle-order batsmen Mitch Marsh and Alex Carey.
Local lad Harry Brook was the actual hero with the willow as he helped England chase down 251 with a stunning 75 off 93 balls just as the Series appeared to be over when Stokes and Jonny Bairstow were dismissed after lunch on day four. But when he was caught out, Woakes’ tally of 32 and Wood’s 16 secured the win — the former smashing Mitchell Starc for four to lift the proverbial roof off Headingley.