Will England End Miserable Ashes Tour With Victory?

Smith has been brilliant

England have one final chance to avoid ending the Ashes series down under without a victory when the take on Australia in Sydney. On the back of Alastair Cook’s brilliant unbeaten innings of 244 in Melbourne, the Three Lions had the opportunity to win the fourth Test.

Joe Root’s men had a lead of 164 runs to put the Aussies under pressure for the first time in the series. However, a combination of the weather, a poor pitch and a fine battling century from Steve Smith blighted their hopes as the match ended in a draw.

The wicket at the MCG was heavily criticised by both teams, while the ICC also maligned the surface as it failed to breakdown over the course of the contest. Hopefully the SCG will provide greater entertainment as both teams aim to end the series on a high note.

Mitchell Starc could return to the fold for the Baggy Greens after missing the fourth Test. The 27-year-old has been practicing in the nets as he recovers from the sore heel that kept him out in Melbourne. He will add much-needed potency to the attack, which struggled on a slow pitch.

England would have liked to have pulled Moeen Ali out of the firing line. He has had a nightmare tour with both bat and ball. However, a late injury to Chris Woakes has thrown a spanner into the works, which will keep Ali in the line-up, while Mason Crane replaces Woakes.

Australia’s Top Batsman

Smith has been brilliant

The Aussies have leaned heavily on the performances of Smith throughout the series. Fortunately for them their captain has been nothing short of outstanding.

He was aided by a flat pitch in Melbourne, but he remained at the top of his game to score his 23rd Test century. Smith’s runs have been the difference in the contest, with his hundred at Brisbane and his double-century at Perth taking the urn away from the Three Lions.

Smith battled through an injury in Melbourne to score his century, saving the match for the Baggy Greens. The 28-year-old has scored two centuries and three fifties in his eight innings at the SCG, so it would not be a surprise to see him rack up the runs once again.

England’s attack will be worn down following a rough series and a frustrating final two days in Melbourne. They’ve had no method to put the Aussie skipper under pressure in the four matches and a remedy is unlikely to appear in Sydney. Therefore Smith should the lead the way once again for his team. Back him at odds of +200   with BetVictor to top score for the Baggy Greens.

England’s Top Batsman

Whereas Smith has risen to the occasion to lead his side, Root has struggled with the pressure. The 26-year-old’s inability to convert a start into a hundred dogged him again in Melbourne. He had 61 runs on the board and was well placed with Cook to put the Aussies to the sword.

However, Root played an awful stroke to be removed by Pat Cummins. This has become his trademark over the past 18 months, as he spurned the opportunity of his 14th Test century. He now has one final chance to surpass the 100-run mark in Sydney where he was dropped during the last Ashes series in 2014. It would be fitting for the England captain to return to his best form on the site of the lowest ebb of his career.

Root has all the talent in the world and has not been troubled by the Aussie bowling attack. The majority of his dismissals have been false shots – a criticism that could be levelled at almost every England batsman. At the start of a new year, back Root to end his troubles breaking into three figures with a mass of runs at the SCG at odds of +300   with BetVictor.

Australia’s Top Bowler

Josh Hazlewood has 19 wickets in the series, but has not been firing on all cylinders. The 26-year-old has been solid, but was handed two of his three wickets in Melbourne. Both James Vince and Dawid Malan failed to review lbw decisions that would have seen them reprieved. Hazlewood was not the only bowler to struggle in the conditions, but he would have been disappointed by his display in the absence of Starc.

The seamer has the chance to end the series on a high note and perhaps add gloss to his statistics. Hazlewood has an excellent record at the SCG, heading into the contest. He averages 20.72 in three matches on his home turf, taking 11 wickets, including best figures of 4/55 against Pakistan last time out.

Starc’s return could play a role in deciding whether he emerges as the Aussies’ leading man. Hazlewood has his birthday on the final day of the match and it would be a nice moment for him to cap the series with a shining moment. Back him at odds of +250   with 888Sport to lead the wicket column for the Baggy Greens.

England’s Top Bowler

Crane has an opportunity to shine

Crane will have the chance to make an impact on his debut. The leg-spinner has been brought into the fold after watching the opening four matches of the series. England have been crying out for a quality spin option to ease the pressure on James Anderson and the pace attack, but Moeen Ali has failed to perform.

Should Crane fire on all cylinder he could earn himself a place in the team for the next series against New Zealand. The 20-year-old does not have the best figures in the county game, while his statistics in the tour matches were not encouraging.

However, the Test environment could bring out the best in the leg-spinner. Crane did rise to the occasion in his only two appearances in an England shirt to date in two T20 matches against South Africa. Therefore backing the Hampshire man at odds of +450   with BetVictor could be a solid option.

Winner

England played better cricket at Melbourne, but were still not able to get over the line. Cook proved that there’s still life in him yet along with Stuart Broad with the ball. However, the contest at Sydney could prove to be one match too many for the Three Lions, who will have one eye on the plane home after a difficult.

Only a handful of players will remain for the one-day series and will be looking ahead to those contests. Australia will be determined to end the series on a high note – therefore back them at odds of -154   with BetVictor.

Tips Summary

Australis To Beat England 5th Test
January 4th 2018 – January 8th 2018
Odds: -154

Steve Smith To Be Australia’s Top Batsman
January 4th 2018 – January 8th 2018
Odds: +200

Joe Root To Be England’s Top Batsman
January 4th 2018 – January 8th 2018
Odds: +300

Josh Hazlewood To Be Australia’s Top Bowler
January 4th 2018 – January 8th 2018
Odds: +225

Mason Crane To Be England’s Top Bowler
January 4th 2018 – January 8th 2018
Odds: +450