The Ashes Photo By: Michael Weir

England vs. Australia Ashes 3rd Test Preview

The Ashes 2021 are well and truly underway, and how interesting things will be depends completely on which country you support. For Australians, the team has never looked better and is firing on all cylinders… for the English? You might want to look away.

Australia cruised to victory in the first Test in Brisbane, bowling out England for 147 after a superb bowling effort from Aussie captain Pat Cummins, who picked up five wickets for just 38 runs. Things went well for Australia with the bat, too, as Travis Head and David Warner kept the runs flowing by scoring 152 and 94 runs, respectively. Australia grabbed a total of 425 runs in the 1st innings, and although England’s 297 runs in the 2nd innings was decent, it was nowhere near enough, meaning that Australia wrapped up the first Test comfortably on day four.

In the second Test in Adelaide, things started much the same as they ended on the first Test, with Australia winning the toss and electing to bat. The Aussies piled in 437 runs before being bowled out, with Marnus Labuschagne getting an incredible 103. David Warner and Steve Smith were unluckily not able to reach their centuries and headed back to the pavilion with 95 and 93 runs, respectively.

The biggest drama of the day was the news that Aussie captain Pat Cummins was out due to health and safety protocols, meaning that vice-captain Steve Smith would lead the squad for the first time since his dismissal and one-year ban in 2018 after the infamous sandpapergate scandal.

In England’s 1st innings, Dawid Milan and captain Joe Root were solid, scoring 80 and 62 runs, respectively, but Australia’s bowlers decimated the batting order and bowled out the tourists for 236. On the bowling side of things, Mitchell Starc picked up four wickets for 37 runs, while Nathan Lyon grabbed three wickets for 58 runs.

After Australia’s second innings total of 230 runs, England faced a mammoth uphill task and needed a whopping 467 runs. Of course, the English cricket squad themselves never expected to reach this lofty target with only one day remaining, so the best they could hope for was a draw – which they very nearly received.

After England’s opening batters and middle order were dismissed for barely anything, it was wicketkeeper Jos Buttler who was the almost-hero of the day. Buttler dug in deep and was aiming for a draw like his life depended on it, coming so close with only around 20 overs left in the day. Buttler stepped on his own wicket after grinding out 26 runs from 207 balls faced. Australia found it hard to bowl out the stubborn batter and it was as fine an effort as you’ll ever see to attempt a draw.

Australia wrapped up the second Test by 275 runs and have sky-high confidence to end the series at the next Test in Melbourne, as a 3-0 score would leave the Ashes in Australia’s hands.

England vs. Australia

So, for anyone wanting to watch the Ashes on TV, what should you look out for in the upcoming third Test in Melbourne? England captain Joe Root is under a lot of pressure not just to secure a win and keep the series alive, but at least make the third Test competitive with reliable bowling and strong batting.

As captain, Root is yet to win an Ashes Test match on Australian soil, as the 2017-18 Ashes ended up with one draw and four losses against Australia. Root has batted well enough, but as winning cures everything, a century and a third Test victory are the stuff dreams are made of for Root.

Nevertheless, Root did manage to ruffle a few feathers with his comments after the second Test loss, stating his disappointment with the bowlers. “I don’t think we bowled the right lengths,” said a frustrated Root. “If we’re being brutally honest, we needed to bowl fuller. As soon as we did in that second innings, we created chances. That’s one of the frustrating things because it’s something we did four years ago and got it wrong and we didn’t learn from it.”

Though definitely true, the remarks were still puzzling because, as captain, Root had every chance to criticise his bowlers during the match and make alterations on the fly. After the game is too late for everyone concerned.

The spotlight will also be on keeper Jos Buttler, as despite the English wicketkeeper making a valiant stand with the bat in the last Test and making some incredible catches, he has also dropped a lot of easy chances.

Unless some major changes happen for the third Test, Buttler may well lose his keeper spot and Root could certainly be out as captain of the English squad. Root has been blamed for not inspiring his players and refusing to make bold deviations mid-match.

England and Australia squad changes

Though looking in fine form going into the 3rd Test, Australia will make a few modifications for the Ashes in 2021-22. As bowler Josh Hazlewood is still out with a side injury he picked up in the first Test, it’s expected that up-and-comer seam bowler, Scott Boland, could make his Ashes cricket debut in Melbourne. Pat Cummins will rejoin the squad as both bowler and captain after completing his health and safety protocol.

With the influx of bowlers, it could be that Michael Neser and Jhye Richardson are dropped for the third Test despite solid performances from both. Mitchell Starc is likely to keep his bowling spot, as he took an impressive six for 80 in Adelaide and bowled 43.1 overs. A slight back spasm was a cause for concern for Starc in the second innings, but all signs point to the steadfast pace bowler joining Australia again for the 3rd Test at the MCG.

Australia’s opening batter, Marcus Harris, has faced criticism after only scoring 38 runs in four innings in the series so far, but Australia’s selectors and coach Justin Langer have confirmed he’ll bat in Melbourne. Another poor run score may well force Australia to drop Harris for the fourth Test in Sydney, with the potential for Usman Khawaja to rejoin the side as the opening batsman.

On the English team, Zak Crawley is the big name to make an appearance for the 3rd Ashes Test. A 23-year-old talented batsman who could inject some life into the squad, Crawley will likely open the batting and replace either Rory Burns or Haseeb Hameed, neither of which has scored above 50 in Australia and have shown poor decisions at the crease.

If both current English batting openers stay in the squad for the Test, it may be that Crawley replaces Ollie Pope and bats lower in the order. There have been a lot of whispers about Jonny Bairstow rejoining the team, as his skill as a batter and keeper would make him a perfect choice to replace Buttler.

Pace bowler Mark Wood and spinner Jack Leach are heavily rumoured to make the squad, with the latter especially needed as the MCG pitch works well for spin. If either Wood or Leach makes it for the 3rd Test, Ollie Woakes would likely be out, as he is yet to make any significant impression when bowling, but any choice of Ollie Robinson, Jimmy Anderson, or Stuart Broad leaving is possible as well.

Predictions for the 3rd Ashes Test

How will England vs. Australia play out in the 3rd Test? Can England get things together for a much-needed victory? It seems unlikely given the momentum heading into the MCG match. Australia is absolutely on-point with the bat, ball, and on the field, and playing on home turf certainly matters with the familiar hot temperatures and crowd cheering instead of booing.

Root will need to show us he’s worthy of captaincy not only with strong leadership, but with the bat as well. The new names like Crawley could provide some resilience to a crumbling English team, but Australia still looks in control and will almost certainly take the third Test and keep the Ashes down under.

When and where is the Ashes 3rd Test?

The third Ashes Test for England vs. Australia will take place from December 26th to 30th at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne.

© – Cricket on TV

Author: Joe Garland