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3rd Ashes Test Preview: 3-0 looms large as England set to make several changes on Boxing Day

Australia's Mitchell Starc celebrates
Australia's Mitchell Starc celebrates
©REUTERS/Morgan Sette

All of Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Jack Leach are slated to make the England XI.

 LIVE SCORES -  Australia vs England 3rd Ashes Test 

Some more fight please

That England will lose Ashes 2021-22 is news to nobody. Perhaps, that they won't win a Test match on the tour was also on the cards.

But, that they would be so utterly insipid was not really anticipated with all the talk in English cricket being centred around the upcoming Ashes for the last couple of years, really.

Toss crucial at Melbourne

With England 0-2 down, the caravan now moves to Melbourne which is known for big first innings runs. The average first and second innings score at the venue is identical - 311 - while it understandably decreases as the game moves forward with 253 the average third innings score and 172 the average 4th innings score.

The team batting first has won 56 of the 113 Test matches played at the venue while the one batting second has won 40. As a result, the team winning the toss and batting first will have an advantage.

That said, some life has been infused in the Melbourne pitch recently and it is not as docile as it has been for most of the century.

Bring in the X-factor

England are in dire need of something novel. It has been much of the same from England till now with their right arm medium-pace bowlers running in and delivering at around 130 kph.

Mark Wood is certainly a lock-in into the playing XI. The team is also likely to bring in Zak Crawley at the top of the order. There will be some discussion on who between Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed gets the boot.

Crawley, Bairstow set to play

With a funny technique and his age past 30, Rory Burns seems to have hit his ceiling in Test cricket and for all his mental toughness, his idiosyncratic technique might be letting him down now. Haseeb Hameed started well in Brisbane and got a couple of peaches to be dismissed. He is likely to open alongside Crawley.

England have the options of Dan Lawrence and Jonny Bairstow to replace Ollie Pope. They might give Pope another opportunity before taking a call or bring in Jonny Bairstow who might not be a long term prospect but looks poised for better returns than Pope, at least at the moment.

Show more faith in Leach

England should also bring back Jack Leach and avoid the spectacle of Ollie Robinson bowling offies or Dawid Malan trying to fill in a few overs. The team should show some more trust in Leach and give him defensive fields to start with.

One out of Stuart Broad or James Anderson will have to miss out. While Anderson took three wickets in Adelaide at an economy rate of 1.69, Stuart Broad took two with an economy rate of 2.77, and who out of the two veterans will keep his place is a bet that can go either way.

Cummins to play, Hazlewood doubtful

Australian captain Pat Cummins missed out on the 2nd test match after being deemed a close contact to COVID-19 positive individual while Josh Hazlewood had a side strain. Both have been added to the Australian squad.

While Cummins is set to return to the XI straightaway, Australia might allow Hazlewood one more Test match to get 100% fit. As a result, they will have to drop one of Jhye Richardson or Michael Neser.

While Neser is the more steady of the two, Richardson will be awarded for his 5-wicket haul in the second innings of the Adelaide Test match.

Harris to keep his place

Despite all the discussion around Marcus Harris, Australian head coach Justin Langer has said that the management thinks that the opener has what it takes to succeed at the highest level. 

If England lose in Melbourne, the series will be all but over. The fans would thus expect a much more spirited performance from the visitors and a quality Boxing Day Test match.

Predicted playing XIs

- David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith (c), Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Jhye Richardson, Nathan Lyon

England - Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wk), Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood, Stuart Broad/James Anderson, Jack Leach

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