The Ashes third Test preview: Changes needed in the England camp

Under the Adelaide lights England were once again on the wrong side of a thrashing and it all comes down to selection.

The first two Tests of this five-match Ashes series have been humbling for the tourists and England really need to make changes ahead of the fiery Boxing Day Test if they want to keep their Ashes hopes alive.

Who’s in and who’s out

All eyes will be on England’s team sheet when they announce their starting XI before play at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day.

It’s a day like no other in the Australian, or international, calendar and whoever is selected for England will need to prepare to have 100,000 Australian fans on their back throughout the Test. It’s been compared to a gladiator’s arena more than a cricket ground and the England selectors will have to take that into consideration along with ability when choosing their side. Selection is the hot topic of the day after the first two Tests saw England get it all wrong, from leaving Stuart Broad out in Brisbane to playing no spinner at Adelaide, Joe Root and Chris Silverwood will be aware of the pressure they face when making the big calls this week.

Changes likely throughout the order

It looks likely, and rightly so, that there will be changes throughout the team and only a few players can consider themselves truly safe. At the top of the order, it looks like something must give. It will be hard to second guess which way the selectors will go in terms of leaving aside either Rory Burns or Haseeb Hameed, both have been vulnerable this series and while many argue that it should be Burns who must make way due to his technique and sheer number of chances he’s been given, preference will probably be for him to stay. This is due to England’s constant, and old fashioned, wish for a left-hander at the top of the order. If this does happen Hameed will make way for Zak Crawley who looks to be a lot more suited to conditions than both existing openers and hopefully will be able to ignite some fire in the top of the order. Moving down the order, Ollie Pope has really struggled for form in Australia and has now gone 21 innings registering only one-half century, a stat that is simply not good enough at this level. Jonny Bairstow looks like he is set to re-join the ranks and it is his dogged determination and ruthlessness that will hopefully see his return a successful one because there is nobody on the international circuit more suited to a Boxing Day Test atmosphere than the hardy Yorkshiremen.

Who can set the Aussies in a spin?

Into the bowler’s department, and it’s going to be all about spin. England made a glaring error when leaving out a spinner in Adelaide and that was confirmed when paceman Ollie Robinson turned his arm to off spin and Dawid Malan was throwing down leggies. The choice for Root is between Jack Leach and Dom Bess, and it seems in recent times England have shown a preference for Leach as a frontline spinner, however, he got some treatment in Brisbane, and he may now have lost Root’s confidence. With England’s poor batting on the tour so far, preference may be for Bess who is a competent batter in his own right, and with England’s ‘bits and pieces’ mindset they may just be inclined to play Bess knowing he can handle himself down the order. Although, this wouldn’t be the most attacking option from Root’s men.

Australia’s strength in depth

Australia have been good so far this series, very good. There’s no doubt about the individual quality they have but what we have seen so far this tour is a side that has jelled and worked as one. They also have a depth to their squad which is quite frankly frightening for England. When Captain Pat Cummins and fellow paceman Josh Hazlewood had to miss the Adelaide Test through injury, they were able to call upon the skills of players like Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, and Cameron Green. This all proved too much for England’s wounded batting line-up.

England can compete with this Australian side, though, it will just take Root and Silverwood getting their selection right and players performing to their ability. Of course, it won’t be an easy task at the MCG, Boxing Day Test’s aren’t, but write a side off with Ben Stokes, Joe Root, and Jimmy Anderson in at your peril. The enormity of the task at hand for England is clear in the market, though, with Australia a 2/5 chance to take victory while England will have to be tenacious to take the win at 11/2.

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