Cricket Betting: Australia v England – Ashes Fourth Test

Australia v England Ashes Fourth Test

Tuesday December 26 — 10:30am AEDT


Australia

When England made their way to 4/368 early on day two the thought of Australia wrapping up the series seemed a far-fetched one, until pace bowling duo Mitchell Starc (4/91) and Josh Hazlewood (3/92) triggered a remarkable collapse that saw the visitors lose 6/35 and only post a respectable, though still considerable 403.

In reply the Aussies made a solid start, with Cameron Bancroft (25), David Warner (22), Usman Khawaja (50) and Shaun Marsh (28) all making starts without going on to post a big score. Instead that was left to captain Steve Smith and the recalled Mitchell Marsh who shared in a phenomenal stand of 301 that changed the course of the match. Smith went on to notch up his second test double-century with a brilliant 239, while Marsh smashed a breakthrough 181 that could secure his spot in the side for years to come.

Some late hitting from ‘keeper Tim Paine (49 not out) saw the hosts declare at 9/662, leaving England the best part of five sessions to save the match. Despite the presence of some rain on day five, the Aussies wasted little time in knocking England over for 218 shortly before tea on the final day in conditions that had become much more unfriendly for the batsmen.

Hazlewood rounded off an excellent test by claiming 5/48, however a bruised heel restricted the contribution of Starc (1/44) in the second innings, placing his participation at the MCG in doubt with Jackson Bird waiting patiently in the wings.


England

For England there were once again plenty of positives, as they dominated the test early on, however an inability to maintain that standard for the full five days has seen them relinquish the urn at the earliest possible juncture. Stoic opener Mark Stoneman continued his impressive series with a first innings 56, however the real highlight was a partnership of 237 between middle-order pair Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow. Malan stroked his maiden test century in a wonderfully composed innings of 140, while Bairstow made the most of a promotion to number six with a tenacious 119.

Of course the issue for the Three Lions was the way in which their tail subsided without any hint of a fight, before their bowlers struggled for penetration on an admittedly benign surface. Jimmy Anderson eventually made some headway to finish with 4/116, however there will be question marks over his new ball partner Stuart Broad who delivered a demoralising 0/142.

There was also a distinct lack of resistance in their second innings with the bat, save for a classy 55 from James Vince and another courageous half-century from Malan (54), although they did have to deal with the WACA’s widening cracks.

Team changes are likely for England in Melbourne with a cracked rib set to sideline spirited seamer Craig Overton which could hand a debut to Tom Curran. All-rounder Moeen Ali is also under pressure to maintain his spot in the starting XI, with young leg-spinner Mason Crane another potential debutant.


Melbourne Cricket Ground

The MCG has been a favourable ground for batsmen with five scores over 400 in the last three tests here, while there have also been five declarations in that time so it is certainly a challenge to take 20 wickets here. The home side are unbeaten in their last six tests in Melbourne and stretching back a bit further have won 15 of the past 18 tests at this iconic ground. There’s unlikely to be any slowing down from skipper Smith who has three hundreds and one fifty in five tests at the MCG.


Key Stats

  • Australia have now won their last seven tests at home.
  • Australia are unbeaten in their last six tests at the MCG.
  • Australia are also unbeaten in four of their past five dead-rubbers
  • England have now lost their last seven tests away from home.
  • England have won only one of their past five dead-rubbers.

The Verdict

Australia have shortened again and rightly so, with the draw now considered more likely than an England win.

Having secured the series I’d expect there to be no let up from Australia who will be looking to replicate the deeds of their 2013/14 compatriots and execute a ruthless whitewash on this struggling England side. Captain Smith looks totally in control, both at the crease and in the field, while the likes of Paine and the Marsh brothers have made significant contributions after being controversially selected. However Australia’s biggest strength has been their bowling attack and even if Starc is absent, Jackson Bird has a more than solid record at test level, while Nathan Lyon’s influence should be far greater at the MCG than it was at the WACA.

Meanwhile England look to be a team going backwards in a hurry. Unable to maintain any momentum that they have built throughout the opening three tests, it has been noticeable that they have ultimately surrendered each with barely a whimper on the final day. In their first series’ in Australia, both Stoneman and Malan have been admirable, however key batsmen Alastair Cook and Joe Root have been underwhelming with the visitors lacking the ruthlessness to take the game away from Australia. Changes in the bowling attack seem likely, however one must question whether those in reserve will be able to improve the current side’s predicament.

Of course the third option is the draw and while it did trade odds-on in Perth, owing largely to some inclement weather which Melbourne is not unaccustomed to, I cannot justify getting involved with the stalemate when each of the opening three tests has produced a clear result despite rain, high scores and relatively slow scoring on the whole.

When looking back at how the series has played out there’s no doubt that England have had their moments, but they have also contrived to lose every match from a variety of strong positions. Even when you consider the different surfaces they have encountered – from the slow pitch at the Gabba to the swinging ball at night in Adelaide to the faster surface at Perth that negated the impact of Lyon – each one has presented them with an opportunity that they have not been good enough to take.

Conversely Australia have showed that they are not just superior in regards to talent, but have also exhibited the type of grit and determination that is crucial in test cricket. What’s also scary is that they can get better, with the dangerous Warner enjoying a relatively lean series thus far, while some lapses in the field have also set them back at times. From here I can only see the hosts getting stronger, while it will be a huge challenge for England to motivate themselves now that the series is gone. With another clean-sweep within reach I’m expecting the Australian juggernaut to continue and will be backing them to maintain their winning ways at the MCG.


Betting Strategy

 BACK – Australia at 1.52 or better for 3 units


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