The traditional Boxing Day Test takes place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground when Australia and England meet in the fourth Ashes Test of the series. Huge crowds are expected for this match so it should be quite some spectacle.
Australia have already wrapped up the series and regained the Ashes so for them this will be the first of two victory laps while England will be all out to avoid the humiliation of a whitewash so this should still be competitive.
This is not the best Australian side we have ever seen but we are witnessing the form of one of the great batsmen of the time and they have the ability to recognise the big moments and make sure they perform to a high standard in them. That combination has seen them win the Ashes already and now they are out to rub England’s noses in it.
In an ideal world with a trip to South Africa to come the Australian top order will find some runs here especially Dave Warner who is yet to really get going in the series apart from the second innings in Brisbane. They need to guard against complacency but with all the stupid talk that has been thrown around that shouldn’t be difficult.
It has been a series of what might have been for England. What might have happened if Ben Stokes was around. What might have happened if they had built on their good start in Brisbane. What could have happened if they could just have got home in Adelaide and if only they hadn’t collapsed from a good position in Perth. What might have beens are one thing. What has happened is quite another.
England have failed to recognise the big moments in the series and have failed to perform in them as a result and have paid the ultimate price. They haven’t helped themselves with their team selection either but overall they have been outplayed for too long and the scoreline is painting an accurate reflection on the series.
Australia have been forced into a change for this match. The Boxing Day curse has struck Mitchell Starc once again and he is out injured. Jackson Bird will come in as the only change to the side from Perth.
England have also been forced to make one change due to the rib injury that Craig Overton picked up. Joe Root has confirmed that it is Tom Curran who will replace him which amazingly means there is still no Mason Crane for the tourists.
Melbourne Cricket Ground
This will be 110th time a Test match has been played on this iconic ground. Australia have a daunting record here with 63 wins and 30 defeats with just the 16 draws. England actually have 20 wins here but they also have 28 losses with seven draws.
I always think that although this track is good for batting it is generally a decent cricket wicket and at various times there will be something in it for the seamers and then the spinners hence why there is a lack of draws.
I’ll go with three bets here. I was going to take Steve Smith’s performance but this blow he’s taken to his hand in the nets puts me off. There is another performance that I like though.
Nathan Lyon doesn’t have the same record here that he does in Brisbane or Adelaide but it is not shabby by any means. He has 23 wickets in six matches here but 11 of those have come in the previous two games on this ground so he is improving here. Perth is not a good place for spinners but I expect him to get his dominance over the English left-handers back here and if he does a performance of 98.5pts is safely in his grasp.
I’ve seen absolutely nothing from Cameron Bancroft to suggest that he is cut out for this level let alone that he should be giving Mark Stoneman 4.5 runs in their first innings handicap battle. England have worked Bancroft out and that is unlikely to change. Stoneman has beaten Bancroft in the first three first innings in the series and with the 4.5 run start he gets here I expect that trend to continue especially with no Starc to trouble the Surrey man.
James Vince looks overpriced to me to top the England run scoring in the first innings. He has already top scored in the first innings in Brisbane and the second innings in Perth and he was looking fantastic in that latter knock until he got the ball of the century from Mitchell Starc. He won’t be getting any of them here so I’m expecting Vince to pick up where he left off. He’s right handed so Lyon shouldn’t trouble him and in a batting line up where the senior players have mostly gone AWOL, 6/1 on the number three to top score looks attractive to me.
Back N.Lyon’s Performance – Over 98.5pts for a 4/10 stake at 1.83 with Paddy Power
Back him here:
Back M.Stoneman (+4.5 runs) to beat C.Bancroft (1st Inns Only) for a 4/10 stake at 1.80 with Ladbrokes
Back J.Vince Top England 1st Inns Batsman for a 1/10 stake at 7.00 with Boylesports
Back him here: