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HomeAshes5th Ashes Test Preview - Can England salvage something?

5th Ashes Test Preview – Can England salvage something?



Last Updated on 6 years by Charbel Coorey

After watching a Test match in Melbourne that made me prefer watching paint dry, we move to Sydney for the fifth and final Ashes Test.

This series, after promising so much after the first three days in Brisbane, has underwhelmed. The low point was an awful fifth day’s play in Melbourne, which was so bad that when flicking through channels on TV, “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” seemed a decent option compared to the cricket. Hopefully the terrible MCG pitch, rated “poor” by the ICC, acts as a reminder to curators and administrators all over Australia to ensure the pitch allows for good, competitive cricket.

The ICC could finally be listening to this guy’s suggestion..

Anyway, with Mitchell Starc likely to be back, can he help break the Sydney Test open? England’s batsmen, particularly Alastair Cook, filled their boots in Melbourne against a Starc-less attack. However, in Sydney, the pitch is expected to have more life in it, and with Starc back, Alastair Cook and co will be tested much more than they were at the MCG. This could also mean that Australia will be tested too, provided that England are able to move the ball, either in the air or off the pitch.

For Australia, their biggest concern is the fitness of captain Steve Smith, who has a back complaint. Despite my piece on why we should be careful calling Steve Smith a “great”, he’s still a fine player, and they’ll need him in South Africa. Do they risk him for a shot at a 4-0 Ashes victory?

For England, what do they do with Moeen Ali? A player who promised so much heading into this series, Moeen has unsurprisingly underperformed with the ball – he has done as best he can considering his ability and also his finger injury. However, his batting is what has been most disappointing, and England would be tempted to leave him out. However, what may save him is that Chris Woakes is out injured, which means for Mason Crane will make his debut.

Key to an Australia win

The return of Mitchell Starc.

Australia really missed Starc in Melbourne. Against Pakistan at the MCG last season, also on a very flat pitch, Mitchell Starc took 4/36 in the 2nd innings to get Australia home. He has the pace, quality and swing to pick up wickets in all conditions, and with the SCG pitch likely to offer more assistance, England’s batsmen will have their hands full.

Australia will be hoping he’s fully fit and ready to go.

Alastair Cook has struggled against Mitchell Starc

Key to an England win

Runs from Alastair Cook and Joe Root. Cook and Root need to step up for the three main reasons.

First, while England’s bowlers will have a very important role to play in picking up 20 wickets (something they haven’t managed to do yet in this series), runs from Cook and Root will help set up the game for them. For England, Mark Stoneman and James Vince have shown potential, but Australia have always seemed to have their measure. Second, Mitchell Starc is likely to be back, and cheap dismissals of Cook and Root will expose England’s inexperienced line up. Third, with Moeen possibly facing the axe, England’s tail looks longer than ever before. Hell, even with Moeen in the side, their tail still looks thin.

England need Cook and Root to back up their efforts from Melbourne, in what is expected to be more challenging circumstances in Sydney.

Oh… And also, England should review LBWs where they’ve actually hit the ball. That will help!

England incorrectly decided against a review in Melbourne… twice.

Predicted teams:

For Australia, I think both Smith and Starc will play in the quest for a 4-0 series thrashing. A close eye will also be kept on Cameron Bancroft and Usman Khawaja, who are both struggling for runs. Bancroft’s technique in particular has got him in quite a bit of trouble in this series. Can he get some runs before the South Africa tour? Also, I expect Australia will go with the one spinner despite Ashton Agar selected in the squad.

Australia XI: 1. Cameron Bancroft, 2. David Warner, 3. Usman Khawaja, 4. Steve Smith (c), 5. Shaun Marsh, 6. Mitchell Marsh, 7. Tim Paine (wk), 8. Mitchell Starc, 9. Patrick Cummins, 10. Josh Hazlewood, 11. Nathan Lyon

For England, there is a strong possibility Moeen Ali will be dropped for this Test. However, Chris Woakes is out with a side injury, so this may save Moeen.

England XI: 1. Alastair Cook, 2. Mark Stoneman, 3. James Vince, 4. Joe Root (c), 5. Dawid Malan, 6. Jonny Bairstow (wk), 7.  Moeen Ali, 8. Mason Crane, 9. Tom Curran, 10. Stuart Broad, 11. James Anderson

Stats and Facts:

  • England are now winless in nine Ashes Tests in Australia. However, in Melbourne, England broke their losing streak of eight straight Tests.
  • Australia have lost just one out of their last 15 Tests at the SCG. This was against England in 2010/11.
  • Mitchell Starc (19), Josh Hazlewood (18) and Nathan Lyon (17) are the top three wicket takers in this series. Incredibly, they lead the wicket taking chart having bowled two innings fewer than England. For Starc, he even missed a full Test.
  • England have not taken 20 wickets yet this series.
  • The last time an Ashes series was won 4-0 was by Australia in 1989 in England.
  • Steve Smith needs just 26 runs to reach 6,000 Test runs. If he achieves it in the first innings in Sydney, he’ll equal Sir Garfield Sobers as the second quickest ever to the mark (111 innings), after Don Bradman.
  • Stuart Broad is just two wickets away from 400 Test wickets. He will be the second England bowler to the mark after James Anderson.

With Mitchell Starc likely to be back, I see England’s batsmen having a tougher time of things on what promises to be a better pitch than what we saw in Melbourne. Also, their bowlers haven’t been able to pick up 20 wickets once – it has been an almighty struggle at times. Stuart Broad will take his 400th though, and I see Steve Smith will be difficult to dislodge again.
Despite my pre-Ashes prediction of 3-1 to Australia, I expect Australia to win here and take the series 4-0 in front of big crowds in the special Pink Test.
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Charbel Coorey
Charbel Coorey
Charbel is the owner & founder of, based in Sydney, Australia. He started the website to fulfill his love for the game of cricket. Charbel has been featured on other publications including OP India, Times of India, and The Roar, among others. He is also a keen fantasy sports player. Charbel has also had the privilege of interviewing cricketers on the CricBlog TV YouTube channel, including James Neesham, Rassie van der Dussen, Andrew Tye, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat and Saurabh Netravalkar: For any story tips or questions, you can contact Charbel at

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