5th Ashes Test Preview: Can England restrict the scoreline to 3-0, or even 3-1?
It's wonderful how much winning or losing the last match of a series can change the overall perception of a tour.
Sydney was the first time England showed a proper dog fight and it was the first time in Ashes 2021-22 that an arm wrestle with both sides not giving an inch to the opposition was on show.
Consolation for England
The one thing that this England team has achieved which some of the England teams in the past hadn't been able to do is to avoid the 5-0 bottom line. Not that it is a medal that they can carry but they can certainly take some heart from the fact that despite all the things going against them, the brilliance of the Australian team and the hosts being more suited to the set of conditions, England have the potential with this set of players to at least compete.
This is the least that the England fans and the cricket fans around the world would expect of the Joe Root led side.
Khawaja to open with Warner?
While Australia have only a couple of changes to think about for the second pink ball Test match of the series, England have a long list of injuries and it would be interesting how they shuffle the chairs on the deck to come to their final playing XI.
Australia will probably have to bench Marcus Harris and give Usman Khawaja his due, pairing him up with David Warner at the top of the order. Travis Head, who was unable to make it to the playing XI in Sydney due to reasons related to COVID-19, is expected to slot back at No. 5 despite the twin tons from Usman Khawaja.
Can Bairstow, Stokes recover in time?
England will continue to open with Zak Crawley and Haseeb Hameed, with Jos Buttler already back in England after a hand injury. Sam Billings is almost certain to take his place as the wicketkeeper-batter in the side.
It will then be interesting to see who out of Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes has recovered enough from injury for the last match to be included in the playing XI. Dan Lawrence and Ollie Pope are the other England batters on the sidelines.
"I think they need to make sure they feel like they're physically in a place where they can get through five days of hard cricket, whatever Australia throw at them, and they're in a position where they can go out and play and firstly, get through the game, but also, most importantly put in a performance as they managed to last week as well. It's alright being fit to play but you've got to be fit to perform and I think that's what we've got to work out. As players, you've just got to manage that as best as you can. You've got to feel like you're readying yourself, you're putting yourself in those situations in practice as best as possible. So when you do get out there, you know, you're as mentally ready as you possibly can be," Joe Root said in the lead-up to the Test match.
What about Bess?
England can go two ways with this. They can decide to give Lawrence a taste of how it feels in an away Ashes or show some more faith in Ollie Pope after he failed in the first few opportunities that he got in Australia.
Their bowling is expected to be similar. The team can also give a chance to Dom Bess in place of Jack Leach. Bess can provide more with the bat as well and if he clicks, it will be a massive boost to his confidence.
Predicted playing XIs
Australia - David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Scot Boland, Nathan Lyon
England - Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes/Jonny Bairstow, Dan Lawrence/Ollie Pope, Sam Billings (wk), Stuart Broad, Mark Wood, James Anderson, Jack Leach/Dom Bess
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