Joe Root’s hopes of a final World Cup warm-up at Headingley were washed out after the first match of their Metro Bank Series against Ireland was abandoned due to concerns over the bowlers’ run-ups.

Root had requested to play at his home ground – the only member of the tournament team to feature in what was essentially a second string – after struggling for form in the recent clashes with New Zealand, but saw his hopes of a confidence-boosting innings dashed.

The match was officially abandoned at 4.50pm – more than four hours and several inspections after the scheduled start time – with rain having wrecked bowlers’ approach at the Kirkstall Lane End.

When the decision was finally made by umpires Mike Burns and Adrian Holdstock the skies had been dry for the best part of three hours, usually enough time to complete the mopping up work.

But, while the main covers successfully protected the pitch itself, groundstaff were unable to protect an area of the square that is seen as a non-negotiable in terms of player safety. Questions over how and why such an important area of the pitch was left unfit for play will surely be raised, with the quality of covers and drainage among the issues ripe for exploration.

England captain Zak Crawley, who was due to lead his country for the first time, was frustrated by the lack of action but accepted that conditions were not playable for international cricket.

“I was very disappointed we didn’t get a game on. It was just the run-up at one end, really. It wasn’t fit for play and I think that was probably right in the end,” he said.

“You’ve got guys tearing in there and you don’t want them not performing at their best, that’s not what people come to see. I think as soon as there’s any doubt, they probably made the right decision.

“It was very wet and would have churned up if we’d played on it. It wouldn’t have been fit for the bowlers. We were unlucky with the weather leading into the game and then rain all this morning as well. I’m not sure there’s anymore the groundsmen could have done, they worked very hard to try and get the game on.”

Crawley suggested a place would be held open for Root in the second match at Trent Bridge on Saturday, but the expectation is that he will now join the remaining members of the World Cup squad in returning home and enjoying some down time before a gruelling seven-week tournament.

“I think he’s going to rest now before the World Cup. That was his plan before, anyway,” said Crawley.

“I’m not certain, but if he wants to have a bat that’s his decision, of course.”

Around 10,000 paying fans were left disappointed by their day, with a further 4,000 tickets estimated to have been distributed via local clubs and schools.

Whether a more creative solution might have been available is something of a moot point given the strict playing conditions which govern international cricket, with Crawley unmoved by the idea of completing a 20-over match from just one end or using a reserve pitch at short notice.

“That’s a tough one. You don’t want to lose what the game is, changing the rules too much,” he said.

“You don’t want to make it too different from what the game usually is. I supposed there are some things we could do in the future but for now I’m not sure there’s anything they could have done.”

Joe Root’s hopes of a final World Cup warm-up were ruined by the rain as England’s first Metro Bank ODI against Ireland was abandoned without a ball bowled.

With the first-choice squad all rested ahead of next week’s departure for India, Root requested to be added to the team for the series opener at his home ground of Headingley.

He had endured four lean matches against New Zealand and was keen to find some rhythm before the tournament but persistent showers washed the match out at 4.50pm, more than four hours after the scheduled start.

The umpires were unhappy with saturated areas on the outfield, which were seen as a potential safety concern, while there were also worries about the bowlers’ run-ups.

Harry Brook announced himself on the Ashes stage with a match-winning knock for England that kept the series alive and delivered another memorable Headingley climax.

Brook batted with great maturity as he made a steely 75, taking a decisive chunk out of the 251-run target and set a fire under this summer’s rivalry, leaving Australia 2-1 ahead with two to play.

The Yorkshireman fell with 21 still needed as the third Test descended into nerve-shredding tension, but Mark Wood cut through the anxiety with a feisty 16 not out and Chris Woakes completed a remarkable return to the Test arena by crunching the winning runs towards the delirious Western Terrace to finish unbeaten on 32.

England’s three-wicket win was achieved despite Ben Stokes’ dismissal for just 13, a soft nick down the leg-side robbing the hosts of their inspirational captain and the architect of their 2019 Ashes miracle at the start of the decisive final session.

But in Brook they had a new hero, ready to carry the burden all the way to final furlong before passing it over to Woakes and Wood – making an emphatic first impression on their belated introductions to the series.

England have been trailblazers and record-breakers in the last 13 months but history is against them as they look to get a faltering Ashes campaign back on track at Headingley.

Defeats at Edgbaston and Lord’s have left England drinking in the last chance saloon and their hopes of regaining the urn will be over at the earliest opportunity if they come off second best in Leeds.

Only Australia, on one occasion in the 1930s, have overturned a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 but this England side under captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum have often inverted accepted wisdom.

Tensions between the two teams are fraught after the controversial stumping of Jonny Bairstow at the home of cricket, even if both Stokes and Pat Cummins insisted a line has been drawn under the incident.

The hosts have rung the changes as fast bowlers Mark Wood and Chris Woakes and off-spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali are included for the injured Ollie Pope, with James Anderson and Josh Tongue rotated out. Cummins has delayed naming his XI but confirmed Todd Murphy will come in for the injured Nathan Lyon.

England’s ‘Bazballers’ out to emulate Bradman’s babes

England have been in this position before after two Tests and not once have they managed to upset the odds and claim a series victory over their arch rivals. There is a precedent as Australia have done it on one occasion in 1936-37, when they were captained by Don Bradman, whose blade dramatically reversed the fortunes of the sides. While England prevailed by thumping margins at Brisbane and Sydney, Bradman’s 270 at Melbourne, 212 at Adelaide and 169 back at Melbourne saw Australia snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Bradman’s 270 was rated by Wisden as the best Test innings of all time in 2001.

England have enjoyed themselves in Yorkshire over recent years, putting in some convincing displays against a variety of opposition. While Stokes’ heroics in 2019 will live longest in the memory, last summer’s outstanding chase against New Zealand and innings victories over India and Pakistan are not to be sniffed at. The West Indies were the last away team to win there, six years ago.

View from the dressing room

The England skipper had a lighthearted response to the Western Australian’s front page mock-up of him wearing a nappy and sucking a dummy under the headline ‘Cry Babies’.

Smith brings up another ton

Steve Smith will bring up his latest landmark this week as he becomes the 14th Australian to reach 100 Test caps. His first few appearances was as a cherubic leg-spinner and he was dubbed the next Shane Warne. But it soon became clear Smith was closer as an heir apparent to the great Bradman. Smith has had a special career, amassing 9,113 runs at 59.56 – only Bradman and Herbert Sutcliffe have a better average among batters with more than 50 Test innings. Smith’s 110 at Lord’s was his 12th Ashes hundred and only Bradman, with 19, has more. England will be praying they can keep him quiet this week.

Headingley hostility

If Australia were taken aback by the vitriol they attracted at Lord’s, where even the usually serene environment of the Long Room took a turn, then they can expect the volume to be turned up again in Leeds. It would be no surprise if the touring side had to draw straws to find out who takes up fielding duty in front of the Western Terrace, a notoriously raucous stand that will be eager to make its collective voice heard. Measures are being taken to ensure things do not cross a line, but England will hope the partisan atmosphere serves them well.

England bring the fire

A heaving schedule meant England always planned to rotate their bowling attack although there is some surprise it has taken until now to unleash Wood – who will be the fastest bowler on show at Headingley. Capable of bowling rockets at 96mph, Wood has had one or two niggles precluding his involvement but is firing on all cylinders and will be England’s major point of difference. The Durham quick routinely troubled Australia’s batters in the 2021-22 series Down Under and it is hoped he will have a similar impact this week. Harry Brook shuffles to three to replace Pope, with Bairstow also up two places to five, while Moeen and Woakes add ballast to the lower order at seven and eight respectively.

Ben Stokes is on a mission to “keep the Ashes alive” in the third Test and the England captain could not imagine a better place to do it than Headingley.

After the tension of Edgbaston and the controversy of Lord’s, Stokes’ side find themselves in do-or-die territory as they seek to regain the urn for the first time since 2015.

The odds are stacked against them, needing a hat-trick of victories against the recently crowned Test world champions, but when they step out on the field in Leeds they will not need reminding that sporting miracles can happen.

It was here four years ago that Stokes scored a sensational 135 not out to salvage a seemingly lost cause, putting on an improbable 76 for the last wicket with Jack Leach. Rewind to 1981 and it was Sir Ian Botham and Bob Willis dragging England over the line from odds of 500-1.

With the crowd likely to be whipped into a frenzy from ball one due to the resentment over local hero Jonny Bairstow’s stumping last Sunday, the stage is already set for another memorable week.

“I don’t know what it is about Headingley. We’ve had some pretty special memories here and you’re always thinking it’d be great to make another one,” Stokes said.

“I think the magical thing that would happen this week is for us to win the game and keep the Ashes alive, to be honest.

“We’ve got some very fond memories here as an England team and I’m sure supporters have got some fond memories as spectators as well.

“The game four years ago was probably the highlight for the guys who were there, but even going back before we were born there was Beefy (Botham) and Bob as well. I think 1981 and 2019 will probably come up at some point around the ground.

“The crowd here is amazing, the atmosphere always is too. When we’re on top they get going even more, but even when things are slow and maybe we’re not having the success that we want to in any given situation, they’re still going wild.

“I think they might be a little bit ramped up this week, for some reason.”

While Stokes left the last part of that sentence unresolved, it does not take an expert to read between the lines.

Alex Carey’s divisive removal of Bairstow during a pivotal moment of England’s fourth-innings chase sparked fury at the time and has led to four solid days of reprisals, with Prime Ministers Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese even wading in to the ‘spirit of cricket’ of debate.

Stokes has made his disappointment plain and, with the series on the line, is now happy to leave it behind.

“I think there’s obviously been a lot of noise around the incident last week at Lord’s but, from me as a captain, I think the best thing that everyone needs to do is just move on from it,” he urged.

The perilous nature of England’s situation is not lost on Stokes, who would become the first captain since 2001 to lose to Australia on home soil, but he refuses to believe defeat would be a terminal moment for the ‘Bazball’ experiment.

In fact, he feels the simplicity of the equation ahead – win, win and win again – will appeal to his team.

“The Ashes is obviously over if things don’t go well, but the team isn’t over if it doesn’t go well,” he said.

“We will have two games after that and then we’ll have other series after that to keep going. But we understand where we’re at in the series and we know what we need to do.

“It may sound daft but the situation we find ourselves in is sort of perfect for what we have been speaking about as a group in the dressing room, about what we want to do and how we want to go about it.

“This is that moment, it starts here at Headingley and we’ve got to win this game.”

England have freshened up their team by changing both the personnel and the balance. Harry Brook steps up from number five to number three, the spot vacated by injured vice-captain Ollie Pope, while Moeen Ali, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes all return as James Anderson and Josh Tongue step down.

Potentially the most intriguing aspect of those changes is the belated introduction of Wood. He is comfortably the fastest bowler currently available, capable of clearing 96mph, and in the continued absence of Jofra Archer and Olly Stone his return to could not have come at a better time.

Wood was the only England player whose reputation was enhanced during the last Ashes tour in 2021-22 and Stokes is pleased have a new weapon at his disposal.

“It’s great to have Woody back in this game,” he said. “I’m excited that we’ve got him in a place where he’s able to walk onto the field and play a part in the summer.

“Tonguey was bowling high 80s last week, and I think he performed fantastically well, so to have someone who can bowl high 90s is pretty exciting. Woody’s not just an out-and-out bloke who runs in and tries to hit people – he is a very skilful bowler as well.”

Dawid Malan starred while Jos Buttler endured frustration as Yorkshire claimed a 15-run victory over Lancashire in the Vitality Blast Roses clash at Headingley.

After Malan hit a superb 83 off 50 balls in the Vikings’ 195 for six, England colleague Buttler made just one in his first Lancashire appearance of the summer, caught at mid-off from the off-spin of Dom Bess seven balls into the Lightning’s pursuit.

They subsequently finished on 180 for eight, with Ben Mike and Dawid Wiese having each claimed two for 31.

Also in the North Group, a career-best unbeaten 109 by Wayne Madsen set up Derbyshire for a first win of the campaign at Leicestershire, who ran them close but fell three runs short of their target.

Madsen’s brilliant 61-ball innings, which contained 12 fours and four sixes, helped the Falcons post 189 for five after being put in, Tom Wood making 37 from 24 balls and Brooke Guest 25 not out from 20.

The Foxes, who have lost all of their opening four matches, put up a decent fight, with Colin Ackermann (59 not out) and Rehan Ahmed (28 not out) scoring 58 off the last 31 balls after Rishi Patel’s 44 – but it was not quite enough as they closed on 187 for five.

In the South Group, Essex thrashed Sussex by 25 runs at Hove with captain Simon Harmer taking a hat-trick.

Harmer struck with his first three balls after coming on in the third over as Essex easily defended a target of 164. After losing Ravi Bopara in the first over of their reply, the hosts then saw Harmer dismiss Tom Alsop, Shadab Khan and Michael Burgess to leave them at 15 for four with their chase effectively over before it had begun.

They ended up dismissed for 138 with eight balls unused, Harmer finishing with figures of four for 28.

Essex’s earlier 163 for seven featured 55 from Feroze Khushi, while Shadab took three wickets.

Jamaica’s Reggae Warriors' Rugby League World Cup debut got off to an inauspicious start on Sunday when they clobbered 48-2 by Ireland at Headingley Stadium in England.

The Irish team scored 10 tries against the Reggae Warriors porous defense that will need to improve if the team is to have a better go of it when they face New Zealand on Saturday, October 22.

Ireland scored first-half tries courtesy of Louis Senior, Captain George King, Brendan O'Hagan and Ed Chamberlain. Six tries came in the second half as Innes Senior, Louis’ twin brother, scored twice while Toby King, James McDonnell, James Bentley and Frankie Halton completed the rout.

Meanwhile, Kieran Rush scored Jamaica’s first-ever points in a Rugby League World Cup when kicked a penalty.

Reggae Warrior Michael Lawrence, who plays at loose forward, expressed his disappointment afterward citing several areas in which his team needed to improve going forward.

"I was disappointed with the way we dropped off a little bit. But it's a proud day for the team and nation. This was a starting point,” he said.

"We need to work on defense. That was a big area for me. We have to improve defensively. We've got to come out again and stick together. We have a great team spirit.

"This is massive, the way we perform. It's encouraging kids to pick up a rugby ball. We want to perform well but this is just the start. We want to keep coming back to the World Cup."

This was the second meeting between the two teams and their first in the World Cup.

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