Can Aus hold Eng to a drawn Ashes?

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Published: Sunday, January 2, 2011, 18:02 [IST]
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Can Aus hold Eng to a drawn Ashes?

A beleaguered and embattled Australian Test team has allowed the Ashes to slip through its fingers after squaring the series. Thus, the present English side became the first team from Old Blighty to retain the Ashes Down Under since Mike Gatting's heroes in 1986-97. Now Australia have the chance to pre-empt the tourists from grabbing another monstrous record and that is an outright series win on Aussie soil.

While England's winning combination remains unchanged for the series' finale at Sydney, Australia will be sporting a new look side for the new year. A broken finger has denied Ricky Ponting the privilege to close out the series with the mantle of skipper falling on a capable, but currently struggling Michael Clarke.

A cool and collected debutant Usman Khawaja will be standing in for Ponting at the crucial No. 3 spot which after a poor run of scores, badly needs a reversal of fortune. Meanwhile, off-spinner Michael Beer, who was brought into the side after the second Test, but didn't get a shot at a game since then, will be making a high-profile Test debut on Mon, Jan 2.

As was the case with the WACA at Perth, Australia have history on their side in Sydney. They have pulled off a record 14 victories from 16 Tests at the SCG. But the Boxing Day test was their fifth Test loss in their last 7 encounters. Will Sydney signal a rennaisance for the slumping side? After all, no one realistically gave the hosts a chance of drawing level earlier in he series until they turned out one dramatic performance at Perth.

Will Mitchell Johnson regain some of the magic who was able to sprinkle during that clash? Peter Siddle seemed to have partially returned to his wicket-taking ways at Melbourne. Now he will have to carry that tendency into Sydney. Meanwhile, Michael Hussey, who has been Australia's most successful batsman in the series, will have to justify that distinction, while the poorer performers like opener Philip Hughes and middle-order batsman Michael Clarke, will have to fire.

While England's batting looks to be in devastating form (with the sole exception of Paul Collingwood), it's mainly their bowlers who can turn the fortune of a match. Paceman Tim Bresnan, who returned fantastic figures of 6/75 from 34.4 overs at Melbourne, undoubtedly stands out as a key man for England. The rest of bowling unit looks dynamite as well with James Anderson, Graeme Swann and Chris Tremlett re-proving their potency.

England go into Sydney as undeniable favourites to wrap up the series, but can Australia pull off something extraordinary. History sits in the waiting room.


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