About the Match
The Ashes 2017/18 have already been reclaimed by the Australians and nothing that happens in the series from here on in can change that. There is still a lot to play for both the team, though, and the boxing day test match is one of the most beloved sporting occasions in Australia. The hosts have made no secret of their desire to go for a 5-0 result, something that England will be desperate to avoid.
There was some concern in the Australian camp when Steve Smith was hit on the hand in the nets after Mitchell Starc had already pulled out of the match due to a bruised foot. Up until this match, the Australians have not changed their first choice eleven and been able to go at England full tilt.
Some of the English players have questioned the kind of reserves that Australia has, something that was met by a lot of contempt by the outgoing Starc. To be fair, though, Jackson Bird will be a welcome relief to the English batsmen as compared to the searing pace that Starc has produced.
Everything is going Australia’s way right now and they will go in as firm favorites even without Starc but would be hoping that a few more things fall into place as the series continues. David Warner has often made the boxing day test match his own and would be thrilled to find his form in this match.
Having been strangely subdued so far, David Warner has spoken about playing with the freedom that is associated with him. We believe that could either lead to a magical inning or one where he falls to a false shot early, the latter being more likely at the moment.
Cameron Bancroft has only played one inning where he impressed and will know that there is only so much leeway that he will get in this Australian setup.
Usman Khawaja will also be hoping to convert some of his starts into big scores since it has been his form at home that has helped stay in the test setup during prolonged lean periods abroad. The middle order, though, is in fine form now that the Marsh brothers are scoring runs and no one seems to know how to get Steven Smith out.
The Aussie skipper is being called Bradmanesque and for the first time, it is hard to argue with such hype being thrown at a batsman.
Leading the bowling attack for the Aussies has been Nathan Lyon. We think he will once again play a massive role on a pitch that seems drier than usual. With Josh Hazelwood being able to pick the important wickets, the only concern for Australia will be the ability of Pat Cummins to hold up through this test as well as the impact that Jackson Bird has.
The Perth Test was the best chance that England had to draw the test and stay in the series. The fact that it was pouring at Perth just a half an hour after the match ended would have hurt England even more.
If England had thought that the Aussies are going to let up with the verbal assault now that the series has been won then they are in for a rude shock. Ricky Ponting has already called out Joe Root’s captaincy, calling him a little boy who needs to grow up, while Mitchell Starc has pointed out the inability of England’s bowlers to take 20 wickets once in this series.
Winning the Boxing Day test match will be an excellent way for England to shut up their critics but their chances are looking really bleak. England’s bowlers need swing and seam from the surface to be able to pose any challenges to the opposition and that is something that they are not going to get from the Melbourne surface.
Their lack of pace means that the only thing they can rely on is steep bounce or a mistake from the batsmen. Craig Overton was the one bowler that was generating some bounce and but he has been ruled out of the test match with an injury as well.
There is a lot of speculation about who is going to replace Overton in the playing eleven. The only two real options are Mark Wood and Tom Curran. While Mark Wood is the fastest bowler in the England squad, Tom Curran has been impressing by his ability to extract something from the wicket.
We have a feeling that Tom Curran will get the nod ahead of Mark Wood in this match. There is a very small chance that Mason Crane could also play as an additional spinning option.
As far as the batting goes, the England batsmen have done well in patches, especially the ones that were expected to fall by the wayside. Mark Stoneman, Dawid Malan, and even James Vince have played well against the Australian bowling but not received the necessary support from their senior players apart from Jonny Bairstow.
Joe Root, Alastair Cook, and Moeen Ali have been very disappointing and need to step up to give their team a hope.
With Starc out of the picture, it is tempting to think that the English batsmen will have it easy but he has been far from the best Aussie bowler.
We don’t foresee any major improvement in the English performance.
Pitch and Conditions
The weather is predicted to be clear to start off and then might get a little worse as the match goes on. There is some rain expected on the fourth day but the match should not see too many overs being lost.
The pitch is being described as a batting paradise although the spinners could play a major role from the third day onward.
Australia has won four out of the last five matches against England and the last 8 matches played in Australia. England will need something special to be able to make a comeback here.
Back Australia to win