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The Ashes: Fourth Test

AUSTRALIA have locked up The Ashes with two Tests to spare, and will now set their eyes on a series clean sweep as they and England head to Sydney. 

COVID has reared its head on the series, costing England their coach and a handful of staff members, and Australia Travis Head, although it could have been a whole lot worse once the pandemic infiltrated the playing camps. 

No Head will have a greater impact on the Aussies than anyone is giving it credit for. Heading to Sydney, he has the second-highest run count for the series with 248 from his four innings, only five behind series-leader, English captain Joe Root. 

While Head’s exit will bring Usman Khawaja into the side, Australia’s batting line-up has dominated England on all fronts, with David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc and Marcus Harris the next highest run scorers for the series behind Head, only interrupted by Dawid Malan, who bats at three for the tourists. 

It has been batting where England have most miserably failed this series. From their opening day capitulation to Australia in Brisbane, to another in Melbourne and resoundingly poor efforts with the bat in Adelaide, they have scored more than 250 on just one occasion. Australia, on the other hand, have done it three times, with their other innings being 1 for 20 (in Brisbane’s run chase) and 9 for 230 declared. 

The difference between the two sides with the blade has been laid bare across the series, and while England’s bowling hasn’t been terrible, illustrated by the way they limited Australia to just 267 in Melbourne, they have often been short of a length and failed to capitalise on their good periods, Australia always seemingly finding a partnership when they need it most at any point in the series. 

That can be backed up further with Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins having taken 14, 12 and 10 wickets respectively, while England’s top option is Ollie Robinson with 9 wickets, followed by James Anderson with 7, who has taken the same amount as Cameron Green despite the Englishman bowling 17 more overs. 

 It’s those sort of numbers which sum up what the first three Tests of the Ashes have been all about – more or less a complete and utter domination by the home side who have refused to take their foot off the gas for even a second. 

They will have their own concerns, granted, in regards to picking what the bowling attack should look like for Sydney after Scott Boland’s six wickets in the second innings at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and Mitchell Swepson’s push for a Test, as well as the lure to rest the big name in Starc, and not rush Josh Hazlewod back from injury. 

But they are what can be called good problems, unlike England who have a lack of perofmers, but an even stronger lack of replacements to come into the side and help out Joe Root with the bat, who has played something of a loan hand when he hasn’t had Malan up the other end of the wicket. 

England might find a way to be competitive in Sydney, and the dead rubber effect is always prevalent when it comes to this point of a Test series, but it would take something ridiculous for them to turn this into a win and avoid a whitewash. 

They may escape with a draw given Sydney’s fickle weather forecast, but even that will need a major reversal in fortunes. 

Expect Australia to go up 4-0. 

Our best bet: Australia win $2.62 at PlayUp


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