Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 26th 2013 Contents A59
Thursday, December 26, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
There seems little point in
complicating this preview for the
fourth Ashes Test.
There are plenty of sub-markets
that appeal and offer prices worth
considering. Tim Bresnan took six
wickets at the MCG in 2010/11
and is 7/2 to be first innings top
bowler for an England side now
missing Graeme Swann and with
doubts over Stuart Broad s fitness.
Steve Smith is still 8/1 to be top
Aussie bat in the first innings
despite his excellent century in
Perth. Brad Haddin is in the form
of his life and yet can be backed
at 12s in the same market.
But the fact is this: Australia can
be backed at 5/6 to win this Test,
and there seems little reason to
look past that.
Let s go over the grizzly details
one more time. Australia are 3-0
up. They have won those first three
Tests by 381 runs, 218 runs and
150 runs. Beyond the opening days
in Brisbane and Perth, England
have been spending the whole
series firmly on the back foot.
Australia have been near perfect.
The one legitimate nagging doubt
about siding with the Aussies at
the price is the fact that, with the
Ashes won, they take their foot
off the pedal as previous Ashes-
winning sides have done.
But 5-0 is a big incentive to pre-
vent such easing off, and as con-
cerns go it pales into insignificance
against the crisis currently engulf-
ing their beleaguered, broken, bat-
England have already lost
Jonathan Trott, the reliable beating
heart of their batting line-up. They
may now go into this Test without
the two players who have done
more than any other to balance
this side and take it to the heights
it reached in 2011.
Graeme Swann has retired. It s
shock news only in that it didn t
come two weeks later, but his
absence not only weakens the
bowling, but also the lower-order
batting (if that is actually possible
on this tour). Swann has been a
fixture at second slip and, in a
series where England s catching
has reached laughable levels of
incompetence and even as he won-
dered about his own future, he has
held a couple of fine ones in this
series. Of all the cogs that lifted
the England team to number one
in the world, Swann may prove
the hardest to replace.
In the short term here, Monty
Panesar presents a serviceable
option at filling one of Swann s
three roles. (And this is ignoring
the intangible but undeniable effect
Swann s personality and presence
has on his teammates.)
There are reports, too, that Eng-
land may leave out wicketkeeper
Matt Prior. His form with bat and
gloves has gone through the floor,
but it would be a huge gamble to
put faith in Jonny Bairstow s fledg-
ling skills with the gauntlets to
provide adequate replacements.
In Prior and Swann, England
also lose two experienced and gen-
erally canny users of the DRS.
That s not to be overlooked, either.
Then there is the ongoing uncer-
tainty over Broad s fitness. With
the ball, he has been the only key
member of this England side to
fire. The only other remotely bright
spot for England has been Ben
Stokes century at the WACA.
So, in summary. England are 3-
0 down, and head to Melbourne
to face an Australian side full of
confidence and performing to a
stunningly high level, and may do
so without their most reliable bats-
man of the last four years, their
best bowler, their world-class spin-
ner and their best pace bowler.
For good measure, Australia have
won three of the last four and eight
of the last 10 Tests in Melbourne.
None have been drawn, so if Eng-
land are to avoid defeat they will
most likely have to lift themselves
off the canvas and land a knockout
blow of their own.
It could happen. It s not impos-
sible. Even with all that s hap-
pened, their team retains quality
players with proven records.
But with everything we ve seen
in this series, and what s gone on
away from the cricket itself, it
doesn t seem very likely. Australia
at 5/6 is a price too good to pass
Members of the Australian team celebrate their victory in the third Test and the regaining of the Ashes.
Australia have been near
perfect. The one legitimate
nagging doubt about siding
with the Aussies at the
price is the fact that, with
the Ashes won, they take
their foot off the pedal...
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