It was not quite the Christmas miracle that England had dreamed of at the MCG last week.
The Victorian rain and Steve Smith saw to that but after three increasingly demoralising defeats on the bounce, a draw in the fourth Test was nothing if not welcome for Joe Root and the boys.
The stalemate in Melbourne saw England finally end their eight-game losing streak Down Under. They still haven’t beaten the Aussies in their own backyard since 2011 but the tourists have at least steadied what was a sinking ship and head into the fifth Test in Sydney with hope in their hearts.
The SCG was the scene of England’s last Ashes victory on the road. They’re back in town this week for the climax of the series and should Alastair Cook and Jimmy Anderson reproduce the form they showed seven years ago, England might yet finish the tour with a flourish.
The tourists won by an innings and 83 runs in 2011. Cook smashed 189 as England posted a mammoth 644 in their first and only innings while Anderson took seven wickets. More of the same in 2018 and England could be difficult to stop.
The SCG looking glorious ahead of the final Ashes Test. pic.twitter.com/kjhH0YFWUG
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) January 2, 2018
The outright odds however still have the Aussies at 4/6 as strong favourites to complete a 4-0 series triumph. England are out at 13/4 to maintain the momentum they generated in Melbourne and claim victory while the draw, which would be the first at the SCG between the two sides since 1995, is 7/2.
Cook’s incredible, unbeaten 244 not out at the MCG proved rumours of his demise had been greatly exaggerated. His double century was a work of art and took him above Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Mahela Jayawardene into sixth in the all-time list of Test run scorers.
The Essex opener is 13/2 to top score in the first innings in Sydney but Smith is again the shortest priced player on either side at 7/2 after the Aussie skipper’s MCG century took him past 600 runs for the series. David Warner is the Ashes’ second most prolific batsman this winter with 385 runs and is 5/1 to star with the bat while Root, like Cook, is 13/2 to make the most sizeable contribution.
The rest of the batsman betting sees a trio of Aussies hot on the heels of the opposing teams’ two marquee players. Usman Khawaja is 9/1 to top score first time out in Sydney, Cameron Bancroft is 10/1 while Shaun Marsh is 11/1 on the back of his half-century at the MCG.
Dawid Malan has been the find of the tour for England. Only Cook has scored more runs for the side and the Middlesex left-hander is 13/1 to shine in Sydney. James Vince is the same price despite his failure in Melbourne while Jonny Bairstow is marginally longer at 14/1 to finish what has been a mixed series for him with a bang.
— Cricket Australia (@CAComms) January 1, 2018
Australia’s bowling attack missed the pace and potency of the injured Mitchell Starc in the fourth Test. He’s still the series leading wicket-taker with 19 English victims despite missing a match and should be given a clean bill of health; he’s favourite to be the Aussies’ top man with the ball in the first innings at 7/2.
Anderson has 16 wickets this winter and could yet claim the accolade of the 2017-18 Ashes top bowler. The Lancastrian is 5/2 to make the most first innings inroads into the Aussies in Sydney.
After a dismal tour, Stuart Broad finally rediscovered his mojo in Melbourne with five victims and is 11/4 to be Aussies’ tormentor-in-chief.
Chris Woakes is 7/1, the same price as Durham’s Mark Wood if he finally manages to get the electoral nod. Moeen Ali is back at 11/2 after an Ashes to forget with the ball in which he has conjured up just three wickets with his off-spin.