The Ashes: Fifth Test Preview

Batsman hits ball

We preview the fifth and final Ashes Test which will see Australia and England go head to head at the SCG. 

Australia won't whitewash the English after all, but are presented with the opportunity to inflict and equally resounding four-one scoreline over their arch rivals this week.

England, however, will argue they might have won at the MCG, were it not for the sodden weather. The fifth and final Test, then, is the chance to show what should have been in the fourth.

Australia v England | 4 January - 8 January | Sydney Cricket Ground | 1:30

To Win Match
Australia 6/10 | Draw 35/1 | England 3/1

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The Aussies could have two changes to their XI. Mitchell Starc should be back after one Test on the sidelines due to injury, while pitch conditions expected at the SCG should ensure the inclusion of Ashton Agar.

If the left-arm fast bowler returns and a second spinner is drafted in , Jackson Bird and Mitchell Marsh will probably make way. That'll be a tough call for Marsh, especially after he effectively put his country before his bank balance by opting to play county - not IPL - cricket later this year.

The SCG is under extra pressure, after the ICC formally adjudged the MCG deck "poor". A host attack minus Starc was exposed by Cook and Root late last year - and will be on a renewed quest to take 20 wickets this time around.

Steven Smith, meanwhile, continues to negotiate Don Bradman-esque status. The talismanic right-hander has enjoyed a prolific series - and would appreciate at least one more century to make the five-match affair truly great on a personal front.

The Aussies have only lost two of their last 23 Tests at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Both defeats came at the hands of England, in 2003 and 2011. The same stretch, from 1996 to 2017, has brought the hosts three victories over the old enemy.

If there was any hope that the visitors might be able to squeeze Ben Stokes into their Test campaign for just one match, that was recently tossed aside after he was withdrawn from the ODI squad and replaced by Dawid Malan.

This is a big boost for Malan, who has been among the tourists' best batsmen this past couple of months - and is proving an increasingly capable leg-spinner. His endeavours with the ball, though, will need to take a back seat to Mason Crane's debut.

Trevor Bayliss seems ready to bank on Mason at the SCG, where the young wrist spinner could replace Moeen Ali. This would effectively lengthen the tail, but will rightly put the onus on Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad to produce with the bat.

Cook and Root showed that the Australian bowlers aren't indomitable in Melbourne - and must demand support from the rest of the order. Too many promising starts and not enough substantial conversion happened then - and must go further now.

Questions over Starc's fitness, Bird's form and the probable inclusion of two spinners make for an unclear outlook for the Australians - and the chance for England to pounce for their one and only win of the series.

Verdict: Australia 6/10
The match will probably be the tightest of the five so far, but not close enough for England to win it. Australia, thus, should set themselves up for more dominance in the upcoming ODIs.

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Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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