All Joe Root wants for Christmas this year is to avoid an Ashes whitewash.

Iain Spragg, cricket betting expert, previews the fourth Ashes Test…

All Joe Root wants for Christmas this year is to avoid an Ashes whitewash.

Santa might be late delivering, given there are two Tests still to play Down Under. But it’s the season of goodwill and the England skipper can only hope Saint Nick is feeling generous.

The tourists’ Australian misadventure has so far gone as badly as many feared.

Three-nil down in the series after their latest innings defeat in Perth, England are in depressing disarray and festive cheer will be in seriously short supply this week as they look ahead to the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.

It’s tough to see just how Root and his beleaguered troops are going to halt the Baggy Green juggernaut and escape the embarrassment of going down 5-0.

England have barely landed a meaningful blow on the Aussies yet.

The recent Perth Test summed up the series. First innings centuries for Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow and four wickets for Jimmy Anderson gave the Barmy Army something to cheer but their contributions proved no more than fleeting fancies. When it really mattered, Australia went for the jugular and England had no reply.

The list of England’s manifest shortcomings has been as long as the tour now feels.

Alastair Cook’s 83 runs in six innings has set the underwhelming tone and with Root averaging less than 30 and Moeen Ali under 20, too many of team’s big-name batsmen have repeatedly failed to come to the party.

Anderson aside, the toothless bowling has compounded the misery.

Stuart Broad has just five wickets to show from his 113 overs in the series while Ali has claimed a paltry three victims with his off-spin at an average of more than 100. In sharp contrast, the Aussie pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins have 45 wickets between them while their off-spinner Nathan Lyon has 14.

Such Aussie dominance is of course reflected in the betting with the home side 12/25 to go four-nil up in the series. It’s a short price in what is still a two-horse race but Steve Smith’s side are nothing if not ruthless.

England are out at 17/4 and the big question is how they will react after surrendering the Ashes. With the series gone, there’s a possibility they may play with a new sense of freedom but equally the battle-scarred tourists could simply continue to implode.

There have been just seven draws in the 55 previous Anglo-Australian showdowns at the MCG. The most recent was 1974 but the last 13 Tests have all produced a result. The draw this year is 17/4.

The prospect of either another Aussie triumph or the draw is 1/6. It’s the same price on a victory for either side while the chances of an England victory or no result is significantly longer at 33/20.

The only thing that has gone right for Root Down Under this winter is the toss.

The Yorkshireman has called correctly ahead of all three Tests and it’s 10/11 on his pre-match luck holding in Melbourne.

Many of the England team will be playing for their Test futures at the MCG but Anderson will have history on his mind. Only time will tell whether this series will be the 35-year-old’s last but two more wickets will take the King of Swing to 520 and into fifth in the all-time list of the game’s greatest Test bowlers.

The two wickets would see him leapfrog West Indies legend Courtney Walsh and the next man in his sights would be Glenn McGrath on 563.

The Aussie icon played his last Test in 2007 just a month short of his 37th birthday and Anderson might just yet have enough time to haul him in and become the most prolific pace bowler cricket has ever seen.





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