Blog by: Sharadha
Melbourne Cricket Ground has been the traditional venue hosting the Boxing Day test match since 1950. It’s a heritage that MCG and Australian cricket are very proud of. Even more so, when they are riding on the back of an emphatic Ashes victory, like in the present, ongoing series.
For England, coming into the Boxing Day test in the aftermath of Graeme Swann’s abrupt retirement following the team’s loss to Australia at Perth and a controversial tweet that made headlines all over, this match is a test of reckoning. The volte-face in their performances, mere months following their successful defending of the urn has manifested itself into a deeper chaotic mess that continues to fester despite all English efforts to sort it out.
The contrasts in both sides are far more glaring – perhaps conversely so – than they were before the start of the series. Each member of the Australian squad has flourished, some more than the rest, while the English team finds itself reduced to nitpicking for salvages in the debris of its innings so far. The loss of two of its most experienced players has hit the team hard which the Australians will be keen to exploit.
As it is, Australia has hinted at ‘targeting’ Monty Panesar, the man on whom responsibility abounds in the absence of Swann to restore England’s pride. Though most of the English team has under-performed, expectations will nonetheless be placed on the shoulders of the remaining senior members to deliver with a few important changes marking the final squad line-up.
The biggest name dropped from the squad could be that of Matt Prior over Johny Bairstow on account of his nondescript play-making in the three matches previously. Stuart Broad’s injury sustained in the previous match makes him a doubtful starter for the Boxing Day test though the man in question seems to be leaving no stone unturned in order to ensure his fitness before the start of the match. More than any other player, losing Broad would probably hit England harder considering that he’s been the pick of the English bowling attack, over James Anderson and the recently retired Swann, both in terms of economy and in terms of wickets bagged. The last remaining place in the English bowling attack should be then completed by Bresnan.
Australia’s bowling coach Craig McDermott referred to the present Australian cricketing contingent as the best in the world. The statement was made not just in relation to the ongoing Ashes series, but also with an eye on their upcoming tour to South Africa in the month of February. Though that series remains a couple of months away, McDermott’s words hold immense credibility for the way the Australian team had managed to morph itself once again into a driving force.
There are no doubts then going by the way Australians have outshone their opponents, Michael Clarke will want to go with an unchanged side in order to keep the winning intensity and steam going.
Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Lyon will be the bowlers to watch out for. The latter is poised to become the first Australian off-spinner in three decades to grab 100 wickets, a unique feat of its own. David Warner, Shane Watson, Chris Rogers, Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke will look forward to taking it from where they left off in the third test especially Watson and Rogers who have been the unlikeliest of the Australian squad strength.
Under the hot Melbourne weather on a track that promises to dry out and harden up as the days pan out, the contest of wills between Australia and England promises to be a heated one, despite the outcome that swung Australia’s way at Perth.
Match Prediction: A tight match win to Australia to go on 4-0 in the series.