Desperate England head to MCG to "Crawley" the Urn back

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25 Dec 2021 | 06:09 AM
authorAakash Sivasubramaniam

Desperate England head to MCG to "Crawley" the Urn back

The iconic MCG isn’t just going to be a venue, it is going to be a bloodshed on Sunday

England were not just beaten, they were broken and later torn when they exited the field after a long and strenuous first innings bowling display in Adelaide. And when their batters didn’t quite emulate Australia’s batting display, the end was more daunting than ever. What followed was a drubbing as the English media broke loose. 

For Joe Root and co, the MCG Test is a finale to save the series, to regain the Urn, one that they lost at home. But with problems aplenty, Root, and Chris Silverwood would be two men with a herculean task. On the other hand, Australia head into the Boxing Day Test with a real festive vibe. 

Australia aim to wrap the series early and the best present for them heading into the Test: the return of their skipper Pat Cummins. The returning skipper also confirmed the debut to Scott Boland, a pacer who knows the conditions in Melbourne like none other. 

If the series was decided on mentality basis, Australia would have already wrapped the series up but England’s fighting nature, that they showed just a glimpse of on day five in Adelaide could very well be a defining factor. Can England stop the Australian Juggernaut? 

Crawley and Bairstow set to bolster England’s batting

For England, the biggest worry thus far in the series has been their batting, in particular, the top-order, which has looked shaky, to say the least. Rory Burns has shown resistance but mere resistance doesn’t quite warrant for anything in international cricket, which has seen him drop down to the bench. Zak Crawley’s return to Test cricket is confirmed but is he the solution? 

In 2021, across seven Tests, Crawley has scored 156 runs, at an average of 11.14, the very reason why Hameed was brought back into the Test setup. Amongst upper order (1-3) batters this year, Crawley averages the least in Test cricket, with just one fifty to show against his name. But on his ability to play pacers well, England view him as the best option in Melbourne. 

The other change: Jonny Bairstow is also in a view to bring some dynamism to the English batting. Bairstow replacing Ollie Pope might very well bring down some foundational problems for the Three Lions but on paper, it has the ability to strengthen their batting unit. Can Bairstow add a significant score to his 351 runs that he has already accumulated in this year? 

Lifeless Melbourne gives life to Boland’s Test career

A venue that has often been hailed as lifeless for the lackluster set of events, the MCG is set to kick-start Scott Boland’s Test career. Boland, who has tirelessly wrecked several batting units with his accurate and tall bowling, knows the venue better than any other in the country. 

The 32-year-old has picked up 91 wickets at the MCG, averaging just 25.71 in 26 First-Class games at a venue that has often been hailed as a docile and unresponsive surface. He walks into the team instead of Jhye Richardson, who will not be fit in time to take the field in Melbourne.  

If Matthew Page, the curator at MCG is set to be believed, there is set to be more grass and a lot more seam movement this year around. "There will be seam movement up for the quick guys. We rely on that seam movement early, there will be a little bit of spin but it won't be massive I wouldn't have thought,” Page said ahead of the MCG Test. 

Alongside Boland, the return of Australian captain Cummins ensures that the Kangaroos put their best team with the challenge of wrapping the series early, heading into a real festive season afterwards. But will Christmas come bearing with gifts for the Australian side? 

Will Mark Wood be the point of difference?

In Adelaide, England’s bowling unit was criticized heavily, for the sameness in their bowling unit, which featured five bowlers with similar pace range. However, the return of Mark Wood would certainly come as a happy news for the Three Lions, who would have to not just raise their pace with the bat but also with the ball. 

His average in Australia (29.7) shows there is a strong promise but the small sample size doesn’t guarantee anything. However, what is guaranteed is the pacer’s ability to shake up the Australian batting with his pace and be a ‘point of difference’ in the bowling attack. 


Joe Root criticized the bowlers for not hitting the fuller lengths but James Anderson hit back, stating that the batters were poor. On the other hand, England are also most likely to bring back Jack Leach as their only spinner, after the all-pace attack backfired in Adelaide. 

Heading into Melbourne, England need to get their act right, together. In front of an expected 70,000 crowd, the prospect is daunting for the visitors but their history at the venue will come as a piece of good news. 

Team news and combinations

For Australia, it has become clear as daylight, with skipper Pat Cummins confirming that he will return to the playing XI alongside the debut for MCG specialist Scott Boland. Earlier this week, coach Justin Langer backed the underperforming opener Marcus Harris to hit back at the critics, confirming no change unless anything late transpires. 

Australian XI: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Scott Boland, Nathan Lyon

England, on Saturday, have confirmed the inclusion of Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Jack Leach in the place of Rory Burns, Ollie Pope, Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad. Is that enough? Only time will tell us!

England XI: Haseeb Hameed, Zak Crawley, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (c), Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood, Jack Leach, James Anderson

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Australia vs EnglandEngland tour of Australia, 2021/22EnglandZak CrawleyJonny BairstowMark WoodJack LeachScott Boland

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