Australia v England – 3rd Ashes Test Match
Dec 13th-17th, WACA, Perth, WA
The Third Test is upon us in a few days time and on the heels of the Adelaide match which the Aussies won convincingly.
Now the UK press has at last realised that this is an England team on the decline; something I have been saying for a fair while now – they seem to have caught on after a couple of hammerings rather than seeing the signs that were evident during the English summer. After the awful performance at Lords, the Australians have stepped it up, worked hard, shown some mental strength and with Lehmann doing a great job, have gone back to basics and now look a settled and focused unit. England meanwhile, were flattered by 3-0 a few months ago, were relying on Bell’s runs and Broad’s inspired spells and seemed to think they could just turn up and win; there are plenty of players who have lost their edge and needed a wake-up call and perhaps a change in management isn’t a bad thing every few years too
So off to Western Australia we go and the WACA with it’s reputation as a fast, bouncy wicket and one which the Aussies always seem to do well on. This is indeed the case and with the hosts fired-up, confident and raring to get at the shell-shocked English team again, then this could be the deciding Test; a win here and 3-0 means the return of the urn, and a good chance of an astonishing 4 or 5-0 series result
I said last week that the 2nd Test was pivotal and that England needed to step up hugely in order to stop a rampant Aussie side – they failed to do so and our tip of Australia to win was rewarded well
I read a very accurate piece yesterday by Richard Hinds, Daily Telegraph, who brilliantly sums up the problem with England (read it here)
England and many of their supporters have ignored some obvious signs of decline and believed their own hype a bit too much; Cook has been averaging in the 20s for a while now, they have not found a settled opening pair, they have relied on Anderson, Broad and Swann for a long time, there appears to be no decent all-rounders capable of dominating, the back-ups are not good enough, there aren’t enough decent young players coming through and so on – all this points to a team who started to rest on their laurels and assumed the opposition would wilt before them
Alistair Cook is a top cricketer – ICC Cricketer of the Year 2011 and Wisden Player of the Year 2012, he has a Test average of 47 and amassed almost 7900 runs; his form in 2013 however against Australia reads: 359 runs in 14 inns, average 25.6, with 4 fifties, no tons
I have no doubt he will find his form again but currently looks completely out of sorts and a bit bewildered by events unfolding around him. Without his solid form at the top, the pressure mounts on the other opener, the no 3 (Root currently) and once a few wickets have fallen, KP is in two minds as to whether to attack or play diligently and then you rapidly get into the tail. Add to all this the lack of bottle being shown, the complete lack of belief, fight and awareness of the situation, poor shot selection and you have a team that can be rolled over. And by an opposition team who aren’t regarded as being that great either. Imagine what South Africa would do to this England side?
In contrast, Clarke and his men have been chomping at the bit and working together as a team, proving they aren’t as bad as some were making out, and ramming plenty of critics’ opinions back down their microphones
Having said all that, England have a chance to regain some credit if they work hard and show some backbone – I’m always wary of the obvious and maybe too many people have already written them off for Perth. There is a chance that they could get thrashed as they have many times before here (they even lost by 260 odd runs in 2010-11 when they won the series convincingly) and the team will completely crumble, or they could show some mental strength and put up a spirited showing irrespective of the result
Team-wise, Australia have announced the same 12 in a confident early manner; Lyon didn’t really impress in Adelaide so may make way for Faulkner who should get his chance here to join the impressive Johnson, Siddle and Harris in a four-pronged pace attack
England will either ring the changes or muddle through again – Panesar is a 99% cert to miss out; Swann may well be given a ‘rest’ too as he just doesn’t perform in Oz and hasn’t shown much form or threat at all this series. They will probably stick with the same top 6 as they have few options batting-wise. The popular stat currently is their failure to reach 400 for so long and this may well continue here. Broad will play, Anderson probably and this could be the recall for Bresnan – that would just leave the replacement for Swann and Rankin may well get the nod ahead of Tremlett/Finn. Alternatively, the selectors may replace Stokes with Ballance or Bairstow and keep faith with Swann but I can’t see much point in that theory to be honest.
Weather / Pitch – the weather should be superb for watching, not so for the bowlers! forecast is for 38 C rising to 40 C by Sunday so it will be very hot, plenty of clear blue skies and the pitch will be the usual dry, fast and with plenty of bounce. England have lost the last 6 Tests here and haven’t won in Perth for 35 years so history isn’t really on their side to say the least
Advised Bets >
I have to take the Aussies again as the combination of their form and confidence, England’s fragile state, the WACA pitch, etc all points to another big Australian win; the price is 1.77 on BF but I will probably wait and back that during the match when it is higher as if Aus lose a few early on,or England get off to a good start then that price will rise to a more attractive level for sure
I also expect the match to be a result and could well finish on day 4 but if England manage to take it into the 5th day then hedging the ‘test match end’ of day 5 morning at 6.2 and afternoon at 7.2 may be worth a small dabble
Have a feeling for Cook to get some runs at last; he and KP are around 5.0 on BF for top 1st Inns at so I might hedge those two. Also, Broad at 3.25 looks decent to be top Eng bowler 1st Inns