Boxing Day Test set to be a fiery clash

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Melbourne cityscape and Melbourne Cricket Ground Australia
Photo: TK Kurikawa, Bigstock

There has been plenty of talk following Australia’s victory in the 3rd cricket test in Perth, one that secured the Ashes and brought it back to Australia. With injury clouds, some heated exchanges and a strong English desire for some revenge, expect a close encounter when the two sides walk onto the MCG tomorrow.

Australia’s victory at the WACA in Perth last week was undoubtedly the most dominant victory of the series so far for the Australian’s. The English appeared to be in the box seat heading into Day 2 and asserted their ascendancy to reach 4/368. But it was another batting collapse that squandered their position and allowed the Australian’s back in.

Some excellent bowling resulted in England all out for 403 and the Australian’s had their tails back up. An excellent display of cricket stroke play from Steve Smith (239) and Mitch Marsh (181) established the Australian’s dominance and helped them on their way to a huge total of 9/662 declared.

Rain put some nerves into the Australian camp but with a short time to go England were bowled out for 218 and the Aussies had won it by an innings and 41 runs to secure the 2017/18 Ashes series.

Following the result there has been some highly opinionated responses from both Australian and English commentators and ex-cricketers proclaiming Australia’s dominance, the English troubles and some even backing the English in for a swift turnaround of results.

Much of the heat has fallen on England cricket captain Joe Root after poor failing to establish himself with the bat and making some questionable decisions in the field. Root has struggled in this series amounting a mere 176 runs from 6 innings at an average of just 29.33.

Many have blamed England’s struggles on the aggressive bowling implemented by Mitch Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. Former test cricketer Mike Atherton called on the umpires to protect the English tailenders from hat he described as “bodyline” bowling.

The aggressive bowling by the Australian’s has been specifically targeting James Anderson and Stuart Broad in an attempt to throw them off their bowling game through intimidation. It appears to have worked given the poor figures produced by the pair during the 3rd test and Steve Smith says that it will continue as it was part of “a plan from the start of the series”.

A key part of the aggressive bowling employed by the Australian quicks has been leading wicket taker Mitchell Starc. But heading into the 4th test at the MCG, the paceman is in a race against the clock to be fit with bruised heel.

Following the third Ashes test, Starc told reporters that he would be right for Boxing Day but it might not be all his choice. With the series secured and an important series against South Africa in February, selectors may opt to err on the side of caution and rest Starc for the 4th test.

Starc’s omission may well give the English camp a boost in confidence at the MCG and they will be hoping that the selectors do in fact play it safe with their star quick.