Cricket: The Ashes: Emphasis on a whitewash

Steve Smith & Australia will look to continue their good form on Boxing Day (ESPN Cricinfo/Getty Images)
Steve Smith & Australia will look to continue their good form on Boxing Day (ESPN Cricinfo/Getty Images)

The message has been simple, if not roundabout: Australia needs to keep the foot on the gas until the end of the Sydney test.

With the fourth Ashes test starting tomorrow at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), England faces – metaphorically – a do or die battle to regain some pride.  This tour has been a slowly spiralling black hole, and the recent retirement of Graeme Swann sends the spin into even more uncertainty.

Michael Clarke’s attacking strategy has paid off.  Granted, England dulled the impact of dynamo Mitch Johnson, but that did not stop him from taking a few wickets.  Whereas one side has shown determination since day one, the other has gone into hiding.

On what is shaping up as another decent MCG wicket, England skipper Alastair Cook has come out in defence of his team, believing that they can come out firing.  This is what he said:

“When you win games of cricket it papers over some of the cracks and when you lose it hits you with stark reality what needs to improve.”

Kevin Pietersen continues along this path too, having had what most would consider a lean run with the bat this series (165 runs at 27.50).  However, contradictory to the reports, Pietersen is adamant his batting is still top notch.

“I’m batting as well as I’ve ever batted.  I’ll retire when I can’t get up for England, I’m good as gold.

“It’s just a case (of) making sure I keep doing what I do because it’s proved successful.”

There must be a fast change if England wants to convince some critics and media they’re not simply pouting their lips.  Runs are there for the taking on Thursday, and Australia will want yet another sniff at a big score.  David Warner certainly broke through at the Gabba, and a punchy half-century in the Big Bash League will have his confidence almost overflowing.

Another battle lies in Clarke’s road to ultimate glory, that of sweeping the Ashes series 5-0.  Having secured the coveted urn, there is no turning back now, from anyone or anything, says the Captain.

“I aim to win this Test match, probably because I’ve seen both sides of this game.

“I know how quickly you can be praised by the media and I also know how quickly you can be criticised.”

Australia will go into the morning of the test before deciding if they will name Ryan Harris, who is currently nursing a minor knee injury.  Having Harris in the side could be vital, and the match-winning line-up from the first three tests will once again be locked in.

The pitch, as MCG head curator David Sandurski said a couple of days ago, is tracking well, and everyone will get something out of it.  Weather forecasts have fluctuated somewhat, and this has motivated Sandurski to prepare the pitch in accordance.

“We started a couple of days early because we knew this was a chance of happening (the weather.)

 Clearing showers are forecast for day one, but will impact little on the coin toss.  Michael Clarke is three for three this series.  The MCG will offer assistance whether a side bowls first or bats first.  In 2010, Australia was skittled for 98 on the first day.  Now, though, the tables have turned.

England will need to knuckle down from the get go to set the test match up.  Australia’s momentum will keep rolling, but the euphoria of once again being the Ashes holders must not come first.

(Quotes source: Herald Sun, MCG)


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