Former England captain Michael Atherton hopes returning speedster Mark Wood will do well in the third Test against Australia. The right-arm pacer was one of the few positives for England in their last Ashes series as well. He took 17 wickets in four matches, including a brilliant spell of 6-37 in the series finale in Hobart as well.
Naming Wood’s inclusion as the most significant one, Atherton wrote in his column for The Times: “Wood will be significantly quicker than anyone else in the series so far and he enjoyed success last winter against some of Australia’s key batsmen. It is his return that offers the most optimism.”
However, also backed James Anderson to return to the playing XI in the fourth Test at Old Trafford, Manchester. Notably, Anderson only claimed three wickets across four innings in the 2023 Ashes so far. He has struggled for rhythm and failed to leave a mark so far.
Atherton added: “The absence of James Anderson reflects on the schedule but also the Lancastrian’s inability thus far to make any dents in Australia’s line-up. He will surely return at Old Trafford. The cold handshake between Bairstow and the Australia players at the conclusion of the Lord’s game was telling and he is often the type to respond strongly when he feels that he has a point to prove or that the focus is on him.”
He continued: “What they hope above all, though, is that the controversy over the Bairstow stumping will galvanize their players to the extent that the small margins that meant Australia prevailed in the first two matches are overcome. It is impossible to say how, or if at all, the post-Lord’s hubbub will affect either side, but the atmosphere will be such that the strongest characters and coolest heads will prevail.”
However, England could have won across both Tests so far, but they have failed to make it to the finish line. They eventually lost the series opener by two wickets and the most recent Lord’s Test by 43 runs as well.
“The Ashes has run the gamut of controversies, from sledging and chucking to bouncers and beyond, but no story in recent times, perhaps, has fed into so many strands of our shared cricketing history. When the prime ministers of both countries dive in, then you know the issue has cut through,” he concluded.