The final Ashes Test gets underway late on Wednesday night or early on Thursday depending on where you are in the world and it does so with a sense of anti-climax about it with Australia having long since won the series and England having averted the whitewash.
There is no such thing as a dead rubber in Ashes cricket but it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise in the world if both sides had an eye on the remainder of the cricket to come this winter.
It had been the perfect series for Australia up until Melbourne. They might not have been completely convincing in the first three matches but when the big moments arrived they upped their game and regained the Ashes in style. In Melbourne things were much more difficult. Whether that was the wicket or the inevitable comedown we may never know.
After the series they have had I would expect Australia to be eager to round things off with a strong performance. Some players in their side need big matches if they are to secure their place for the upcoming tour of South Africa so while this match may lack a competitive element in terms of the series it will matter to many.
The scoreline was probably unjust for England given the positions they got themselves in during the first three matches but when push came to shove they were found wanting. It was to their credit that with the Ashes gone they had enough in themselves to dig in at Melbourne and attempt to salvage some pride.
Much like the Australians there are a number of players in this England side who will be looking to ensure they are in the side for the first Test in New Zealand later in the winter and it might be time for those individuals to start thinking about playing for themselves. England could do with a big series to boost their confidence heading into battle with the Kiwis.
Australia have confirmed they will make one change to their side from the draw in Melbourne. That sees a return for Mitchell Starc. He will come in for Jackson Bird so Australia will field the same team that played in Perth.
England have also confirmed their side for this contest and they too have made one change. Theirs was enforced with Mason Crane coming into the side for Chris Woakes who is out with a side strain.
Sydney Cricket Ground
There have been 105 previous Test matches on this ground which has undergone some changes through the years. As you would expect Australia have a decent record here with 58 wins to just 28 defeats with 19 draws. England’s record is more mixed. They have 22 wins and 26 defeats with seven draws here.
Historically this ground has offered plenty for the spinners but as with all Australian grounds if batsmen get in there will be few demons in it so runs can be scored. The curator has been quoted as wanting to produce a wicket that has something for everyone.
I’ll go with three bets to round off the series. The first is the performance of Steve Smith. England have struggled to get him out all series and now the Australian captain is on his home ground where you would think he would be even more desperate to perform. He has a performance line of 115.5 which he has covered with the bat in all three day matches in the series. I expect that trend to continue here but with catching potential and possibly a wicket with his leg spin too I’m that bit more confident Smith will reach 116pts at least.
Mitchell Starc has been nicely rested ahead of this match and the 10/11 on offer that he takes more than 2.5 first innings wickets looks very big. In the three matches he has played in the series he has at least three wickets in each of the first innings and with England having an even longer tail here you would think his chances of scalps are increased. We saw this Australian attack looking normal in Starc’s absence in Melbourne. He can make up for that here.
I’ll have a dabble on Mason Crane being the leading wicket taker for England in the first innings. You only have to look at the Big Bash to see that Australian batsmen are chronically bad against leg spin and if you needed more reminders their recent trips to India and Bangladesh highlight how bad they are against spin. Crane has already been a hit in New South Wales last year and should be chomping at the bit here. If Root trusts him and gets him into the attack at the right time he can claim the most scalps in the first dig.
Back S.Smith’s Performance – Over 115.5pts for a 4/10 stake at 1.83 with Bet365
Back M.Starc – Over 2.5 first innings wickets for a 4/10 stake at 1.91 with Ladbrokes
Back M.Crane Top England 1st Inns Bowler for a 2/10 stake at 6.00 with LeoVegas