Australia v England

Australia takes a commanding 2-0 series lead into the third Ashes Test and only need to secure a draw from one of three remaining Test Matches to successfully retain The Ashes.

Some last minute covid drama in Adelaide saw the withdrawl of newly appointed captain Pat Cummins just hours before the scheduled start play didn’t appear to phase the Aussies who won the toss and piled on a huge first innings total.  From that point England were always going to be up against it and despite some resistance with the bat from Joe Root & Dawid Malan in the first innings and Buttler & Woakes in the second innings the Aussies looked the winners from a long way out.

And so we move to the MCG for the famous Boxing Day Test.

Australia – Selection

The Australian top seven is likely to remain unchanged with the expectation that Marcus Harris will remain at the top of the order despite four low scores to start the series.  The hosts will welcome back captain Pat Cummins who is out of quarantine and clear to play.  Victorian Scott Boland has been drafted into the squad which could indicate Josh Hazlewood will again miss with injury.  Mitchell Starc is also under an injury cloud and could also miss.  Based on this the likely bowling attack is Cummins, Lyon, Richardson and one of Starc, Neser or Boland.  Not a full strength attack but a very strong one none the less!

England – Selection

The visitors are expected to make multiple changes heading to Melbourne after being heavily criticised for their selections for the first two Tests.  It’s not easy to predict exactly what changes will be made but they will almost certainly have to pick a spinner – whether they go back to Jack Leach who the Aussies took a liking to in Brisbane or Dom Bess remains to be seen.  What is for certain, is what ever option they go with the Aussies will look to go after them.

Mark Wood is also likely to be brought back into the side at the expense of Chris Woakes who has struggled with the ball this summer.  Wood is significantly quicker through the air than the other English bowlers which is a point of difference for a bowling group which has been criticised for being to “similar” but unlike Woakes, Wood offers little resistance with the bat which lengthens England’s tail – this has to be a concern for the selectors given England’s batting woes.

Batsman Haseeb Hameed, Rory Burns & Ollie Pope’s spots in the side are seemingly under severe pressure.  All have failed to reach 50 in their four innings to start the series and have Test averages under 35.  Hameed and Burns may find things easier in Melbourne on a wicket that traditionally bounces less than some of the other Test venues around the country and I expect them to be given another chance.  Pope is the one most likely to make way – perhaps for Johnny Bairstow who has done well in Australia before.

The Wicket

With no rain expected in the lead up to the Test Match or over the five scheduled days of play I am expecting this wicket to be a good one to bat on.    The toss will be important here with an opportunity to bat first and post a big first innings score a major advantage.

The Verdict

Despite England’s batting woes I’m keen to have a SMALL bet on the draw in this.  I think this will be the best opportunity for their batsman to make big runs on this tour and there are plenty of them due!  There have been two draws in the last seven years at the MCG including the last time these two teams played in 17/18 and its important to remember England took it all the way to the final session in Adelaide in conditions favourable to the bowlers.

Suggested Betting Strategy

0.5 Unit | Australia v England – Match Result DRAW @ $5.10 (Top Sport)

Reasons outlined above.

1.5 Units | Pat Cummins Most Wickets Australia 1st Innings @ $3.5 (Sportsbet)

Perfect wicket for Pat Cummins who will be fresh and raring to go after missing the Adelaide Test.   Took 5 fa in Brisbane and has done well here in the past.

1 Unit | Ollie Robinson Most Wickets England 1st Innings @ $4 (Sportsbet)

Was good to us in the first test and should be suited on this wicket.