Shane Watson scored a ton at the WACA in the third Test. Image courtesy of foxsports.com.au/Andrew Leighton
Last time England and Australia arrived at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for a Boxing Day Test, the series was still alive until the tourists bundled the home side out for a paltry 98 on a wet and overcast day in the Victorian capital, then passed that total without the loss of a wicket on the opening day. England went on to win the series from there and retain the Ashes, but it’s Andy Flower’s side which has been completely and utterly humiliated this time around with Australia 3-0 up and a 5-0 whitewash in sight. Things got even worse in the lead up to the biggest Test match of the season when effervescent spinner Graeme Swann announced his immediate retirement, meaning Monty Panesar will almost certainly play the final two matches in the series.
Seven players remain from that side that was embarrassed at the MCG at the end of 2010 while the England side remains largely intact. James Anderson was a thorn in Australia’s side on that day destroying the middle order with figures of 4/44; he has just seven scalps in three Tests this tour at an average of 58, and his last over in Perth went for an equal Test record 28 thanks to George Bailey’s fireworks. With Stuart Broad struggling to be fit for the Melbourne Test after a Mitchell Johnson thunderbolt struck him on his right foot, Tim Bresnan and Chris Tremlett looking short of a gallop, and Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin finding the first half of the pitch more often than not in tour matches, the cupboard is looking bare.
Australia has lost two of its last five Tests at the MCG, and this has been a result ground since the introduction of drop-in pitches with the last draw coming way back in 1997. In a rare piece of good news for the visitors, the ‘G’ hasn’t been a happy hunting ground in the past for Australia’s run machine, skipper Michael Clarke . His ton against Sri Lanka there last season was his first at the ground in eight Tests, and even with that score he only averages 42 at the ground, which is well below his career clip of 52.
Australia’s batting hasn’t been the destructive force in this series, though; the host’s pace attack has been simply sensational and Mitchell Johnson has been in the driver’s seat. The left-armer has a scarcely believable 23 wickets in the first three Tests at an average of just 15 with a strike-rate of just 33. With the Melbourne deck having a bit more life in it in recent seasons, Johnson has performed strongly there with 19 scalps at the cost of 26 per wicket. Ryan Harris , Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon have all reached double figures in the wickets tally, while Stuart Broad is the only Englishman to do so.
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