Melbourne, Dec 25:The Ashes is alive heading to Melbourne…thanks to the schedule. In the last two series Australia have had things tied up before Christmas, but with two Tests in the New Year this iconic fixture was always going to have plenty riding on it regardless of what happened in the first two games.And what has happened is that England have been steamrollered.
Sydney, the venue for the fourth Test, has not had an Ashes Test without the urn retained since 1994-95 and it would be a brave person to think it will come the first week of January.
Things have gone almost perfectly for Australia barring the lack of runs for Marcus Harris. And it’s still possible to say that when their captain, Pat Cummins, was ruled out on the morning of a Test as a Covid close contact.
The way they won the second Test with half their first-choice attack missing and a stand-in skipper (albeit an experienced one) was an encouraging sign for the way this team is developing.England, however, have barely challenged them so far.
When there was a glimpse of the batting wobbling in Brisbane Travis Head slammed the door shut with a thrilling century.
When England briefly fought back on the second day in Adelaide, Alex Carey’s maiden Test fifty helped repel them.
When Joe Root and Dawid Malan threatened a counterattack on the third day, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Cameron Green sucked the life out of the innings.It is perhaps worth noting that in their last two Ashes drubbings, Melbourne has produced some of England’s better cricket.
In 2013-14 they actually claimed a first-innings lead before being unable to make the most of it and slumping to defeat while four years ago Alastair Cook’s unbeaten 244 put them on top but a dour pitch had the final say. Even that, however, is slim pickings.
What they need this time is something akin to the spirit of 1998-99 when they arrived 2-0 down (Australia had retained the Ashes) and having been humiliated by Australia A but through the performances of Alec Stewart, Darren Gough and Dean Headley among others conjured a remarkable 12-run victory. Anything less than a win and the Ashes are gone with jobs perhaps to follow.