Australia v England: 5th Ashes Test, begins Sunday 3/1 –10.30am (Local Time) at SCG, Sydney
TEN THINGS WE LEARNT FROM THE FOURTH TEST:
- England’s victory means it retains the Ashes in Australia for the first time in 24 years.
- Andrew Strauss is now in rare but elite company after retaining the Ashes on Australian soil.
- The Poms can now challenge India and South Africa for the title of best test team in the world.
- Jonathon Trott is bound for greatness – not pretty to watch, but boy is he effective.
- The no-nonsense Tim Bresnan should be considered for every test England plays.
- Peter Siddle loves bowling in front of his home crowd – that’s now 12 wickets at an average of 24.9 from three tests at the MCG.
- Ricky Ponting needs a break.
- Another injury to Ryan Harris makes him close to the unluckiest cricketer in the world.
- Australian batsmen should consider a professional fishing career after unnecessarily throwing the rod out at countless deliveries outside the off stump.
- The England team’s “sprinkler” dance makes you cringe due to embarrassment – it certainly wouldn’t go down too well at a hip Melbourne city nightclub.
It’s not every day you see a bloke by the name of Usman Khawaja selected to play for Australia in any sport. But thanks to Ricky Ponting’s broken little finger, the 24-year-old has a golden opportunity to prove he is the next big thing in Australian test cricket. Born in Pakistan, Khawaja moved overseas at a very young age and will become the first Muslim ever to represent the Australian cricket team. He’s earned his spot in the side through consistent performances at first-class level. The left-handed batsman has averaged 61 runs per innings from seven matches this season, including a magnificent 214 against South Australia in October. Khawaja will bat in the number three position, one of the most stressful and highly pressurised spots in a cricket team. But the temperament this young man has is well documented and he will be keen to make a good impression on debut.
Since the retirements of Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan, Graeme Swann has quickly become renowned as the best test spin bowler in the world. And after taking 118 wickets in the last two years, there shouldn’t be too many arguments. The 31-year-old was once a specialist one-day batting all rounder, now he is just a bad headache for batsman all around the world. Swann is a diligent and accurate off-spinner who can turn a cricket ball significantly if the conditions and pitch suit him. The off-spinner has taken 13 wickets for the series so far, but with Sydney known for favourable spin bowling conditions, expect him to have a major impact on the test.
PITCH AND CONDITIONS:
As mentioned previously, the SCG is traditionally a spin-friendly wicket and you would be silly not to play a spinner on a pitch which traditionally breaks up on days four and five. But a few recent Sheffield Shield games which have finished inside three days suggest the pitch could be a paceman’s paradise. Unfortunately for Sydneysiders wanting to attend the test, they might not see a lot of action because rain is forecast for the first four days. However there is still a strong chance of a result. With plenty of cloud cover expected and temperatures predicted to be between 23 and 27 degrees each day, batsmen will have tremendous difficulty facing the pace bowlers who will move the ball in the air and likely find the outside edge.
Australia have lost their chance to regain the Ashes, therefore team changes are inevitable. Ponting’s little finger is causing him too much grief and he will miss a test match for the first time since 2004. Khawaja replaces him; therefore Michael Clarke will become the 43rd man to captain an Australian test team. Doug Bollinger comes into the 12-man squad for Ryan Harris, who will miss four months due to a stress fracture in his left ankle. Michael Beer – the man who has been part of the 12-man squad for the past two tests – should finally make his debut for Australia due to the favourable spin conditions. Either Bollinger or the disappointing Ben Hilfenhaus will occupy the third pace bowler spot. Here is how Australia should line up:
- Shane Watson
- Phillip Hughes
- Usman Khawaja
- Michael Clarke (C)
- Michael Hussey
- Brad Haddin (WK)
- Steve Smith
- Mitchell Johnson
- Peter Siddle
- Michael Beer
- Ben Hilfenhaus/Doug Bollinger
England has no reason to change their team – what a luxury. However, there is word of one minor change in the order of their batting line-up. Ian Bell is in superb touch and deserves to be batting in a higher position. He might swap spots with Paul Collingwood, but it’s hard to see Bell moving up any higher than that due to the outstanding form of the top four batsmen. Here is how England should line up:
- Andrew Strauss (C)
- Alastair Cook
- Jonathon Trott
- Kevin Pietersen
- Ian Bell
- Paul Collingwood
- Matt Prior (WK)
- Tim Bresnan
- Graeme Swann
- Chris Tremlett
- Jimmy Anderson
After a match that carried so many triumphs for England and so many consequences for Australia, you would be excused to believe the next test would be close to meaningless. But a lot is still on the line for both teams as they try to finish off what has been an enthralling series in a positive manner.
The Aussies will want to finish how they started – with plenty of energy and in an upbeat frame of mind. That first day of the series at the ’Gabba – where the bowling attack dismissed England for a substandard 260 and Peter Siddle took a hat-trick – was meant to set the tone for the remainder of the series. But a resilient England batting line-up changed the entire mood and now the Aussies can only look back and admire hindsight’s beauty.
Australia will know they can still draw the series with a win in Sydney. Even though a victory won’t change the outcome of which team holds onto the coveted urn, a 2-2 drawn series appears much more attractive on paper than a 2-1 or 3-1 series loss.
For England the objective is obvious – win or draw the match and ensure the Ashes are won outright, rather than retaining them through a drawn series. The Poms must move on from the triumphs of Melbourne and focus on the immediate task at hand. However they have acted in a professional manner throughout the whole series and will surely look to uphold that reputation.
With rain predicted for the first four days of the match, the best chance of a result is for a low-scoring contest. Therefore the team which bowls first must make take early wickets and bowl the opposition team out for less than 200.
But the Bureau of Meteorology looks very unattractive for the avid cricket fan and a draw seems the most likely outcome. This means England will win the Ashes 2-1 – how humiliating.
MAN OF THE MATCH: