Hello everybody and welcome to live OBO coverage of day four of the third Ashes Test from Headingley.
How are your nerves? If you’re Australian, are you toey? If you’re English, dare you dream?
In around an hour from now Joe Root (75*) and Ben Stokes (2*) will stride out to the middle of a field in Leeds in pursuit of the 203 runs England require to pull off one of the most incredible victories in the long history of Test cricket. They have seven wickets with which to complete the heist after suffering the ignominy of a first-innings total of 67. For the improbable to occur all manner of records require breaking. But this is Headingley, the crucible of so many previously unthinkable accomplishments.
Commonsense analysis would say Australia are only eight overs from a new ball and their high-quality attack contains four world class, and crucially, patient bowlers. They will have access to a day four pitch that will aid the pacemen with the pristine Dukes and then Nathan Lyon once the ball has aged. No matter how plausible the maths become teams simply don’t chase over 300 in the fourth innings very often.
But it is days like today that keep us returning to Test cricket. A day pregnant with possibility. A day that could end with Australians gambolling across the Headingley outfield celebrating the retention of the Ashes or an Englishman or two leaping in delirium with bats raised saluting an unlikely triumph. One way or the other history will be made.
If you don’t know the drill yet, I am around for an hour or so to set the scene but as play begins Geoff Lemon will join the fray. If you want to share your thoughts before the opening ball you can reach me on email or you can tweet @JPHowcroft.