Gloves off for Boxing day clash

Australia have received nothing short of executive approval for their brutal treatment of the England tailenders leaving the tourists facing another tough task.

England will need their batsmen to protect the bowlers from harm as the umpires don’t appear to want to intervene and Steve Smith has no problem with the tactic.

The other side to this argument is of course if England were good enough they wouldn’t get hit, but that is easier said than done when three pacemen are steaming in bowling at 145kmph+.

Even with Australia 3-0 up already and the series in the bag we don’t expect any let up in aggression and intent from the hosts who named an unchanged squad for the meeting.

England have floated the notion that they may hand a debut to the freshest slab of meat in their cooler, Mason Crane.

It is clear that England rate Crane higher than his first class record deserves and he has even earned positive press in Australia for his grade cricket spell which led to him earning appearances for New South Wales.

The question is though, will he provide the something different the England attack has desperately needed or is the young man on this tour as ‘work experience’.

If he does play there will be pressure on Crane to prove that he is already a better player than other spinners on the county circuit.

Australia have won the series but that doesn’t mean that none of their XI are exempt from being under pressure.

With a tour to South Africa on the horizon the lack of runs generated by the top three will be a point of concern and the most likely of the trio to lose his spot would be Usman Khawaja.

For Khawaja the MCG will be the stage for yet another audition in his stop start career at the top.

Mitchell Starc is in doubt with a bruised heel but Australia have not called up another quick bowler.

England really shouldn’t risk Craig Overton after it was revealed he suffered a hairline fracture to his rib.

Jake Ball and Tom Curran wait in the wings though an alternative would be to play just Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad and James Anderson alongside leggie Crane.

Broad finds himself under tremendous pressure having ended the Perth Test wicketless but it seems likely that he will be given the benefit of the doubt and will run out at the ‘G’.

The morale in the England camp appears low and they will need something special to lift them to victory in Melbourne.

Teams

Australia (Likely XI): Cameron Bancroft, David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon.

England (Likely XI): Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Joe Root, Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Tom Curran/Jake Ball, Stuart Broad/Mason Crane, James Anderson.

Details

Hours of play (local time): 10.30 start (23:30-1d GMT 01:30 SAST) , Lunch 12.30-13.10, Tea 15.10-15.30, Close 17.30
Match days: 26-30 December 2017 (5-day match)
Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena and Sundaram Ravi
TV Umpire: Joel Wilson
Reserve Umpire: Sam Nogajski
Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle