12 months ago Australia were lying in the pile of hubris after a series loss against South Africa, and after exactly the same time, they seem to have found the spark again. Today Joe Root’s team finds itself in the same scenario can they have stomach for a fight at a time when the Ashes have gone to Southern Hemisphere?
As England stumbled to their 8th successive loss on Australian soil, Joe Root stood like a forlorn figure as the home crowd and fans continued the celebration after the Ashes urn returned to Aussie shores. It was a moment that captured the imagination of millions of fans across the globe.
The Ashes is not just a series but a fight for prestige, a test of superiority in cricket and for the same reason, no other series can match the Ashes for English and Aussie fans alike. When it comes to boxing day contest, things start boiling. This is the reason that in spite of Ashes winner already decoded, Melbourne is still expecting a massive 90,000 crowd on Boxing day.
The big question which is floating in front of everyone’s eyes is whether this contest will live up to the occasion? The way England have lost the series in first three tests has raised a number of questions on their ability to play in Australian conditions. The visitors now face a colossal task of not only holding their motivation level intact after a series loss but also need to start rebuilding during a tour which has exposed numerous frailties in their armour.
However, everything isn’t doom and gloom for the visitors, and they can still take inspiration from few things. It has been witnessed that England tend to perform very well in the 4th test of an Ashes series. In 1994, they won the 4th Test at Adelaide. In 1998 they turned the 4th Test at Boxing day by winning the thriller at MCG. In 2002-03, they took the Stev Waugh’s men to the edge. In 2010, they hammered the Ricky Ponting’s men to seal the Ashes. Apart from it, the win at Boxing day in 1998 at the same venue could prove an inspiration to Joe Root’s men.
In that tour too, England looked down and out trailing by 0-2 when they reached Melbourne and were almost sure to lose the test and series when Australia chasing only 175 were 3-130 before Darren Gough, and Dean Headley created havoc to seal a memorable win for England.
For Australia things couldn’t have gone in a much smoother way, they can now celebrate Christmas without any stress as the coveted Ashes have been regained. Stev Smith has been in brilliant form, and after scoring 426 runs at an average of 142, his career average has suddenly surmounted second to Sir Donald Bradman. It will be a great challenge for England to stop him. With Ashes already sealed, Kangaroos can give their quick bowlers a much-needed break. This is the reason why Jackson Bird has got his much-deserved chance after Mitchell Starc pulled out from the test due to injury.
Jackson Bird is in for Mitchell Starc for Australia . David Warner who had lean series till now will need to fire for Australia at the top of the order.
On the other hand, England have called up Tom Curran in place of Craig Overton who has fractured his rib in Adelaide but played through pain in the third test at Perth. The rest of the team is expected to be same, but there will be massive pressure on Alistair Cook, Moeen Ali and Stuard Broad who have been out of form throughout the tour.
The drop-in pitch at Melbourne Cricket Ground is expected to be full of runs.
Australia: 1 Cameron Bancroft, 2 David Warner, 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Steven Smith (capt), 5 Shaun Marsh, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Tim Paine (wk), 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Josh Hazlewood, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Jackson Bird
England: 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Mark Stoneman, 3 James Vince, 4 Joe Root (capt), 5 Dawid Malan, 6 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Tom Curran, 10 Stuart Broad 11 James Anderson
- England have a pretty decent record at MCG winning 20 and losing 28 of the 55 tests they have played here
- Last time a team defeated Australia at Melbourne was 2010-11 when England won the test by an innings
- Stuart Broad has 393 test wickets and need another 7 wickets to complete 400 wickets