Ashes tips: A motivated Crawley can help England produce a third Test shock

Recalled opener will be desperate to make up for lost time on what is expected to be a more seamer-friendly pitch in Melbourne.

English cricket fans have certainly been here before.

Amid all the Three Lions optimism prior to this tour beginning, Joe Root's men have yet to lay a finger on their hosts, and at 2-0 down after two Tests, are now staring down the barrel of another Ashes series defeat.

Having failed to take what many saw as their best opportunity to win a match Down Under in the pink-ball second Test in Adelaide, the tourists are now uncertain and uneasy as they head to Melbourne for Boxing Day.

Meanwhile, hosts Australia are as jubilant as they are rampant, and will be determined to make it 3-0 after three Tests for the third home Ashes series in a row.

Jhye Richardson claims wicket of james Anderson second Test England vs Australia Dec21f

When, where and how to watch Australia vs England

When: Saturday, December 25, 23:30 GMT

Where: Melbourne Cricket Ground

Best tips for Australia vs England

England to win at 5/1

Zak Crawley top England run scorer (1st inns) at 6/1

Josh Hazlewood top Australian wicket taker (1st inns) at 10/3

The Boxing Day Test in Melbourne is one of the very greatest institutions in the cricketing calendar, and although it takes place every year, there is, naturally, always increased interest when England are in town.

More than 91,000 people watched the first day of the 2013 Test, at the time setting a world record for attendance at a cricket match.

Given that the vast majority of that crowd were local, they will have been delighted to see the Aussies ultimately ease to an eight-wicket win, and in fact, the hosts have lost just twice out of eight Tests at the 'G since 1990.

It's going to be a tough ask for England, but maybe - just maybe - they shouldn't lose all hope just yet. After all, that famous old first day in 2010 is still just about fresh enough in the memory.

Could a green top spark an English resurgence?

Melbourne Cricket Ground Dec21

The surface at the MCG last time out had slightly less life in it than a turkey on Christmas Day, and although Sir Alastair Cook will go down in history as one of England's finest ever, his 244 at this venue in 2017 was utterly symptomatic of what was a flat road.

However, things appear to be significantly different this time around, with Matthew Page, the man responsible for preparing the pitch at the 'G, saying the sides can expect a green-tinged seamer come Boxing Day.

Page's comments are certainly backed up by the early pictures emerging from those on site, which clearly show a plentiful covering of greenery. It's enough to have Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson licking their lips.

On top of that, while temperatures in Melbourne are still expected to top out at a balmy 27 degrees Celsius, there does appear to be plenty of cloud cover around for the duration of this match.

It all feels rather 'English', doesn't it? Perhaps, under faux familiar conditions, those three lions on the England badge can finally roar the side into life and see them take a deficit-halving victory.

Ashes third Test standout performers

Zak Crawley England Aug21

If England are to get anything from this encounter, they desperately need their batting line-up to finally come good; a failure to pass 300 in any of their past six innings is a recipe for disaster, by anyone's standards.

To do that, it appears they are planning to make wholesale changes, and that starts with leaving out either Rory Burns or Haseeb Hameed in favour of Zak Crawley. My money would be on Hameed being the one to be dropped, simply because his and Crawley's techniques are vastly different.

At 6ft 5in tall, Crawley is far more suited to the extra bounce and pace served up in Australia, and while he may not return in particularly brilliant form, he is undoubtedly skilled at Test match level. Anyone need reminding of his 267 against Pakistan last year - beneath overcast skies in Southampton, no less?

What he will return with is buckets of motivation, and if he's going to impress, what better occasion to do it than a Boxing Day Test at the MCG?

Moving on to the Australian camp, and rather unsurprisingly, there are few changes expected there, none of which would be tactical. After missing the second Test through self-isolation and injury respectively, frontline seamers Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are in contention to return.

New captain Cummins will almost certainly be straight back in, and while Hazlewood is a little more uncertain, there's a very real chance that he could do some damage in Melbourne, if the pitch turns out as expected.

Josh Hazlewood wicket Australia vs England 1st Test Dec21

Despite his past experience at the WACA in Perth, a surface that always suited express pace, MCG curator Page has noted that "there's a lot more seam movement in the pitches as a result of the grass being left on," which should delight Hazlewood.

As the only member of the home attack not to rely on extreme speed, some movement off the surface should be most welcome - but only if he can overcome the injury that kept him out of the second Test.

However, if he doesn't win the race to be fit, the Australians can fall back on a ready-made replacement who can also benefit from a green pitch in Jhye Richardson.

While he uses sheer pace as a weapon more readily than Hazlewood, he can still exploit these sorts of conditions to move the ball both ways, and certainly comes in with his tail up after a second-innings five-for in Adelaide.

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