Cricket Expert & Columnist
Joe Root's innings at Headingley the most important of his captaincy, says Michael Atherton
Last Updated: 25/08/19 8:31am
A much-improved batting display from England has raised hopes of a most improbable victory. There is still a long way to go but the example has been set by Joe Root, in what is a crucial knock for the skipper, says Michael Atherton…
Joe Root is absolutely vital to England's chances.
This is probably his most important innings as England captain because if you think when he came out today he was on a pair, on his home ground, the Ashes are at stake and if England lose then the Ashes have gone.
That'll be the second successive Ashes series where he has not got his hands on the urn and not many England captains get the chance of captaining in three Ashes series. He will have known all that, it was a hugely important innings and he played beautifully.
With another 203 still needed to win, England need more of the same from their batsmen tomorrow. The key thing is going to be the new ball. That will become available after about eight overs on day four so about half an hour or 40 minutes into the day.
That is going to be the key passage of play but England have got to play the same way, the resilience shown by Root and Joe Denly against some top class and disciplined bowling was excellent to see and much needed after the disappointment of the first innings.
The pitch has probably been at its best today but it's still going to be pretty decent on day four so if the sun shines then there is no reason why England can't make a fist of it.
The dressing room will have been very down yesterday evening after that 67 all out but they will be more buoyant after the example that the captain has shown and Denly, who is still finding his way in Test cricket but made a really polished half-century and fought really hard.
The rest of the batsmen will take their cue from the determination that those two batsmen showed and see that runs can be had here at Headingley and can be had against this Australian attack - if you apply yourself.
The Australia bowlers are very disciplined. I made the point on commentary that I think Australian bowlers generally are more used to bowling on flat pitches when there is not much happening so generally they are more disciplined as they have to be bowling with a Kookaburra on hot days.
If there is not much happening then they'll just bowl a disciplined line and not give you much, their economy rates have been excellent and there is still just enough happening for them out there.
You got a real sense when Denly was out - the previous 20 or 25 minutes when Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood were in combination, the wicket just looked like coming.
There was a build-up of pressure and that's what they do very well, they bowl in partnerships and keep it very tight even if wickets are tumbling.
That new ball on Sunday morning is going to be absolutely vital.
Watch day four of the third Test between England and Australia from 10am on Sky Sports The Ashes.