Cricket Picks: Australia vs England Ashes Series 5th Test
The Ashes - Fifth Test Picks
Prior to the first test in Brisbane, we picked that Australia would win the Ashes 4-0, with a draw at Sydney in the final test robbing the home side of a historic third clean sweep in four attempts on their own turf. While the draw at the MCG has made this prediction redundant, the 4-0 result is still well and truly on the cards, particularly as Australia will once again enter a match as heavy favourites.
The odds on a 4-0 victory prior to the tournament were +1100, while the favourite according to the leading sportsbooks was a 3-1 series win for the Aussies (paying +550). Given that England finally showed some fight in the fourth test, an English win in Sydney is not out of the question, however, they will still need to find a way to take twenty wickets, something they have been unable to manage for the entire tour.
Alistair Cook's brilliant unbeaten double hundred in Melbourne was a rare highlight in a match that was both rain affected and featured a pitch that did nothing to aid the bowlers or indeed the batsmen. Expect to see a totally different test match north of the border, which is expected to be played on a pitch that will provide a great chance of a result. We don't expect another draw here.
Australia entered the first test at the 'Gabba paying -138, which was a steal considering their record at the ground. From there, the odds for the home side decreased in value in every test: -163 at the second test in Adelaide, -189 at Perth in the third and -228 for the fourth test in Melbourne. This time around the Australians are back out to -151, and we believe this is a fantastic price for a team that should win the match.
Why Australia Will Win The Fifth Test
Warm and windy conditions are expected for the final test, with little to no rain forecast. This increases the chance of a result for two reasons - very few modern day tests finish in draws when all scheduled overs are bowled, and the speed in which the pitch will dry out will aid spin bowling more than the Sydney wicket has done for a long time.
It will be extremely hard to push for a win or survive the fifth day. With that in mind, the draw at +352 looks to be out of the question unless Alistair Cook can manage another patient and calculating big score. England's odds are lower than they have been for much of the series, priced at +302, and will tempt many. But our pick for the fifth time this series is Australia, who at -151 are great value.
Australia have cruised through this series so far, and although were below their best in the fourth test still managed to do enough to secure a draw in a match that could have gone for eight days given the state of the wicket. Mitchell Starc is likely going to return to the first eleven, and the spearhead will dominate the English attack alongside Nathan Lyon, who will also excel on his adopted home wicket.
Placing a wager on Australia @ -151 is almost a guaranteed win here, and certainly our tip for the match. Do not buy into the hype surrounding the English team after their 'dominance' of the third test. The English will of course be trying their best to avoid a 4-0 defeat, however the Australians will be hungry to finish the summer on a high after the MCG wicket robbed them of an opportunity to record a third 5-0 sweep in the last four Ashes series.
The World's Best Attack On Their Home Track
Mitchell Starc is almost certain to return from the heel injury that ruled him out of the Melbourne test, and unless the selectors are going to return to their controversial rotation policy, we will see all four of New South Wales' frontline bowlers lead the attack for Australia on their home ground. This should be enough to send a shiver down the spine of every English batsman.
In their most recent appearance as a foursome on the Sydney Cricket Ground, each bowler took at least three wickets for the match in a dominant display. To put the victory into perspective, three of the top four in the opposing Western Australian lineup in that match are playing in the Australian team right now - Cameron Bancroft, Shaun Marsh and Mitchell Marsh.
With conditions set to be much more favourable for pace bowling, Australia will have a much better chance of victory than they had in Melbourne. The wicket is also expected to offer a bit for the spinners, meaning Nathan Lyon will be extra effective.
Speaking Of Spinners...
England are expected to drop Moeen Ali, who has simply not adjusted to the conditions with either bat or ball in Australia. England's number one spin-bowling option has taken just three wickets all series at an average of 135, and has averaged less than 20 with the blade. If your team's spinner is struggling for wickets, they should at least be keeping it tight to build pressure, yet Ali is the second-least economical frontline bowler of the series (behind Craig Overton).
It looks as though Mason Crane will be handed his debut at the SCG, which is a good move by England as they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by throwing the 20 year-old leg-spinner into the fray. The youngster has impressed plenty and was even called up to the New South Wales Sheffield Shield squad after a stint in Sydney grade cricket, becoming the first overseas man in 32 years to do so. While Crane's inclusion will at least mix things up for the English, there is no doubt who will be the star tweaker when the test gets underway on Thursday.
Nathan Lyon finished the 2017 calendar year with 63 wickets, the highest of any player in the world. This feat is especially impressive considering he plays the majority of matches on batsman friendly Australian wickets, and also because he plays alongside two of the top-ten bowlers according to the ICC rankings (Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood).
The team batting last are expected to struggle, particularly against spin. We could see part-timers Dawid Malan, Joe Root and Steve Smith all roll their arm over in this match, but if Nathan Lyon is bowling in the fourth innings there's a big chance he will finish the match with a bag full.
England Still Haven't Taken Twenty Wickets
The tourists performed much better in the fourth test, and it was Stuart Broad who finally showed glimpses of his best with the ball in taking five of his side's 14 wickets on a dead pitch. But with he and Anderson the only English players looking capable of taking a wicket, they will once again be up against it in the fifth test.
Chris Woakes has offered little in his appearances this series, Craig Overton looked ok before he was ruled out with a rib injury, and Moeen Ali has done absolutely nothing to warrant his selection. Rookie Tom Curran did what the rest of the side have struggled to do this series - get Steve Smith out, but that was his only offering in an otherwise fruitless 41 overs at the MCG.
Speaking of Smith, well he is just next level at the moment. Averaging over 150 for the series with a whopping 604 total runs, the Australian captain just never looks like getting out, and has almost single-handedly turned matches in this series. He has outscored the combined efforts of England's two best batsman leading into the series - Alistair Cook and Joe Root, and will once again foil the visitors on his home ground.
A Warning From Warner
Ahead of the fourth test, we predicted that David Warner was due for a big score as he was yet to show us the dominance we have come to expect from the opener. While his 103 was still short of what could be considered a sizeable total, especially since Cook managed 244*, He amassed 189 runs in the test match and was excellent in both knocks for opposing reasons.
In the first innings, Warner showed his class by scoring runs freely and quickly, something every other player failed to do in Melbourne, while he dug in during the second innings, ensuring England would have no chance at victory. On a wicket that will offer plenty more scoring opportunities, Warner could be set for another lengthy stint at the crease.
What do you think will be the result of this test match? Are we right in our prediction? Do you think Australia will complete a 4-0 series victory over England? Join the conversation today on Facebook and stay tuned for more cricket news.
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