The Ashes: Third Test Preview

Batsman hits ball

We take a look at the third - and potentially decisive - Ashes Test to be played at the WACA from 14 December - 18 December. 

The Ashes heads to Perth, where the hosts will target an unassailable series lead against opposition battling on- and off-field demons. Despite the Aussies' recent success, they'll likely change their XI regardless.

The tourists had so much going for them in Adelaide, until collectively fragile temperament and individual nerves got the better of them on the final day. The path to redemption, if at all, starts now.

Australia v England | 14 December - 18 December | The WACA, Perth 

To Win Match
Australia 5/10 | Draw 7/2 | England 15/4

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Australia
Mitchell Marsh has been drafted into the squad and should find himself in the XI ahead of Peter Handscomb, who hasn't managed more than 36 in three innings this series. Australia's longing for a seaming all-rounder, if not in Hilton Cartwright, will be quenched by Marsh's presence.

The inclusion of the younger brother of Shaun Marsh, too, will help manage the workload of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins. Shorter spells and occasional end changes will make for solid rotation within the match, rather than resting one of the three fast bowlers completely.

Hazlewood and company, of course, will target the key wicket of Joe Root again. England's struggles with the bat will be further exposed if or when their captain falls cheaply. Hazlewood and Cummins have removed him twice each this series - and opportunity knocks for Starc to get in on the act.

The promise Cameron Bancroft pledged in the second innings of the series opener has fallen by the wayside somewhat, with the talented opener needing a substantial showing in Perth to justify his presence ahead of Matt Renshaw.

While the result will ultimately be decided by runs and wickets, one surmises the physicality of the Australians will have a lot to say over the mental state of the Englishmen. Ben Duckett's suspension, amid Ben Stokes' controversy, has not helped the visitors.

England
Former Test players, predictably, have laid into the composition of the current XI. Kevin Pietersen reckons Alastair Cook is on his way out, while Michael Vaughan believes the middle order is muddled. While Pietersen's sentiment is questionable, Vaughan's argument is justified.

They don't have to recall Gary Ballance, but must consider moving Dawid Malan to three in the order and pushing James Vince to five. The changes will offer Root greater solidity at four - and afford Vince the juncture to play more freely. Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali, then, should swap to six and seven, respectively.

Mark Wood, meanwhile, is a near certainty for the WACA. He has been performing well for the England Lions - and will bring an injection of pace to an attack otherwise limited by the pedestrian seam of Craig Overton or Chris Woakes. The latter has looked out of his depth, while Overton is showing enough promise.

England simply have to find a way to arrest their slide down under. The initial fight shown in Adelaide would have buoyed them considerably, only for the final-day capitulation to undo all the hard work. The attitude of senior statesmen - Cook, Root, James Anderson and Stuart Broad - will be key.

The venue for the third Test has been poor for England. They haven't won a Test at the WACA in almost four decades. Their last seven Tests here, in fact, have all resulted in defeat by hefty margins. They will need to draw plenty of inspiration from the outfit of 1978.

Verdict: Australia 5/10
While a three-nil scoreline won't be good for the five-match contest, victory for Australia in Perth seems more a probability than a possibility, especially if Steven Smith wins the toss and bats first.

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