Winning back the urn in just the third test of the series, Australia have bullied England in this 2017-18 Ashes series down under. With the Boxing Day test in Melbourne approaching, England are now facing a similar crisis when they were whitewashed in 2006-07 & 2013-14.
Having batted just the once in the third test at Perth, the Australians are pushing for a 5-0 whitewash which wouldn’t come as a great surprise given England’s recent Ashes record away from home over the past decade. In a commanding position, we might get to see a more aggressive David Warner at the crease compared to the watchful and tentative Aussie opener we’ve seen for the best part of the series. Warner may replicate a house on fire when he’s attacking the bowlers, but it’s been the Australian skipper Steve Smith who has led from the front and put the Poms to the sword with the bat in hand. A gritty 141 not out in Brisbane, closely followed by an innings of pure class from Smith where he notched up 239 at the WACA really did signal his intentions for the 2017-18 Ashes series. Not only has Smith individually triumphed, but he’s helped his team regain the Ashes in what has been a dominant display of cricket against a team in turmoil. All of the Aussie batsmen have contributed at some stage in the series, some more than other but that’s irrelevant given how poorly England have played. We saw Smith dominate in Perth and Brisbane, Shaun Marsh knuckle down in Adelaide and his younger brother Mitchell smack the Poms around in Perth, who’s going to take charge in Melbourne with the bat?
Having won the Ashes back, the loss of Mitchell Starc won’t really make a difference in the overall series, but on the flip side it might be England’s chance to pounce in his absence. There’s no questioning Starc’s dominance with the ball in the past three tests, he’s picked up 18 wickets which includes a four-wicket haul and a five-wicket haul. Starc may have just bowled the ball of the decade at the WACA thanks to the lengthy cracks in the pitch, but the MCG has no such similarities which should give England some relief. That being said, overcast conditions and a green tinge on the surface should still assist the seamers in particular if that is the case. Josh Hazlewood should particularly enjoy this wicket, if you get it in the right areas early in tends to really trouble the batsmen, and Hazlewood is the master of consistent line & length. His fast bowling partner Pat Cummins is yet to reap the rewards, it might just be that England have targeted Cummins out of Australia’s trio of quicks which wouldn’t be a terrible ploy, but a risky one which has turned out to be a 50/50 result so far. The incoming Jackson Bird will almost certainly be targeted by England, although his promising form in the Sheffield Shield should be a caution to the opposition. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon should also have more of an impact in this Boxing Day test, Perth conditions are never easy for a spinner.
They’re the laughing stock of the cricketing world at the moment, and it’s not going to get any easier for England in these next two tests. The fact that Mitchell Starc is out injured should enhance their chances of winning this next test, but there’s just no sign of a victory for the distraught visiting team despite a household Australian name missing. This tour has raised some serious questions over Alastair Cook’s playing future in the England side, the former test captain is averaging just 13.83 with the willow in possibly his worst Ashes series of his career. His presence at the crease was something England were depending on, and he’s only surpassed twenty runs once which basically sums up Cook’s tour of Australia to date, poor. When he was really required to deliver a knock out blow at the WACA to keep the Ashes alive, skipper Joe Root was outplayed, outgunned and a shattered man who trudged off the ground twice in utter disappointment. Had he stepped up like Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow in that first innings, England may well have been heading to the MCG still in the hunt. Despite only making 55, No. 3 James Vince stepped up in the second innings when cracks the size of the grand canyon were forming and causing all sorts of havoc for the batsmen. Malan also backed up his century in the first innings with another grinding-effort to see off the Aussie quicks in the second, but it was all too much.
It’s crucial that one of Joe Root or Alastair Cook make the MCG their own in the Boxing Day test, although Root isn’t as deprived of confidence as Cook, he’s working himself into a bit of a form slump despite his fluent ball striking. This could also be a chance for James Vince to score his maiden century on the hallowed turf of the MCG, it would be something special. The one thing England were sure of falling back on was their reliant & potent bowling attack which has replicated your average first-class team so far in this Ashes series, it’s been a shamble for the visitors. It’s been a tough-old tour for England’s bowlers, James Anderson has toiled away countless times which has resulted in some reward, his most impressive being a five-wicket haul in Adelaide. the veteran seamer followed that up with 4/119 in an innings where the English bowlers were beat up comprehensively by the Australian batsmen in Perth. Anderson should enjoy the conditions in Melbourne, but the same can’t be said about his partner in crime Stuart Broad who has been below-average this series. Easily manipulated by the batsmen and going for plenty of runs, Broad doesn’t have that X factor he possessed in the 2015 Ashes series at home. England’s efforts with the ball have been lackluster at times, Moeen Ali has only taken three wickets in three matches with his off-spin bowling proving no problem for the opposition, this has been a series to forget for England to say the least.
Top 5 fantasy picks | Australia | 4th test | Melbourne
- Steve Smith
- Josh Hazlewood
- David Warner
- Usman Khawaja
- Nathan Lyon
Wildcard pick – Jackson Bird
Top 5 fantasy picks | England | 4th test | Melbourne
- James Anderson
- Joe Root
- James Vince
- Chris Woakes
- Dawid Malan
Wildcard pick – Alastair Cook
Team News | Australia
Mitchell Starc has been ruled out of the Boxing Day test in Melbourne with a bruised heal, not dissimilar to an injury Pat Cummins picked up a while back. Tim Paine was in doubt due to “family health issues” but arrived back in Melbourne on Sunday to rejoin the squad. It’s been confirmed that Jackson Bird will replace the injured Starc in the playing XI for the Boxing day test starting Monday.
Australia (confirmed) – 1. Cameron Bancroft 2. David Warner 3. Usman Khawaja 4. Steve Smith (c) 5. Shaun Marsh 6. Mitchell Marsh 7. Tim Paine (wk) 8. Pat Cummins 9. Nathan Lyon 10. Josh Hazlewood 11. Jackson Bird.
Team News | England
England have made one change to their playing XI that featured in the WACA test, they have brought in debutante Tom Curran for the injured Craig Overton for the Boxing Day test in Melbourne.
England (confirmed) – 1. Alastair Cook 2. Mark Stoneman 3. James Vince 4. Joe Root (c) 5. Dawid Malan 6. Jonny Bairstow (wk) 7. Moeen Ali 8. Chris Woakes 9. Tom Curran 10. Stuart Broad 11. James Anderson.