Cricket tips: Australia tempting odds to win but rain will have a big impact on fourth Ashes Test

Australia may have to overcome a tougher opponent than England to keep the clean-sweep dream alive in the fourth Test at Sydney which starts on January 4.

After just 12 days' play Australia have already safely secured the Ashes and are firmly eyeing up a 5-0 whitewash against a broken and battered England team that simply hasn't been able to compete.

This is the Pink Test, which is supported by the McGrath Foundation, Cricket Australia and the SCG and since 2009 has helped raise more than $11.9million to fund McGrath Breast Care Nurses across Australia.

When: Tuesday, January 4, 2330 GMT

Where: Sydney Cricket Ground

Follow this game via Planet Sport's live score centre

(All text odds correct at time of publication, odds in the pretty blue boxes are bang up-to-date)

Best tips for Australia vs England

Australia to win at 11/8

Australia are odds against to win the fourth Ashes Test and in many ways that should be the end of the preview. Off you go and back them.

But we should probably provide some justification, if only for good form's sake.

Why are Australia odds against to beat England?

First of all, we need to explain why Australia are suddenly odds against to beat England in a home Test, something they achieve with crushing regularity - 22 times out of 28 this century to be precise.

Alas, it's got nothing to do with England suddenly looking like they might be a decent side able to put up a proper fight. It's because of the weather, with plenty of rain forecast over the first three days of the Test.

Is that enough to make Australia more likely not to win than win, though? That's really the question you have to ask yourself with odds of 11/8 flashing in front of your eyes.

There are plenty of reasons to suspect not. First, and this shouldn't be news to anyone, it doesn't actually take a lot of playing time to beat this England side right now. Australia managed it in Melbourne inside seven sessions without any external time pressure from the weather.

England are still yet to reach 300 in a single innings during this series and only twice in six innings have they lasted longer than a day's play.

England's batsmen have made no centuries in six innings and have only two individual scores above 80. Jos Buttler's strokeless, futile defiance in the fourth innings at Adelaide is the only time in the series an England batter has survived 200 balls in an innings.

Can you trust a weather forecast?

Sydney Cricket Ground

The other thing to consider is that weather forecasts can be and often are wrong.

We all remember with great fondness I'm sure the build-up to Brisbane where rain was apparently going to ruin the first four days of the Test. It turned out it was England that would do that with very little help from the weather.

And even if the forecast is correct, all the bad weather is in the first half of the game. That's significant too, because it makes it easier for Australia to work around it.

If the rain was all forecast for the second half of the Test, there would be a concern that they might bat too long or too slowly and allow England to sneak away with a draw by default.

That's not going to be the case here and if they only have three days to get the job done they are going to know that. Also worth remembering that if we lose the entire first day's play then the follow-on figure shifts from 200 to 150 and could well come into play.

Grey rainy skies also mean that any cricket we do get in those opening days of the Test is unlikely to be in batting-friendly conditions.

The one other thing to note here given that forecast is that while the Australia price is already enticing there is every chance it gets even bigger in-play (or more accurately in-rain) over the first day or two so you may want to take the gamble of holding off for now and seeing what happens over the first six sessions.

There are two other caveats it would be remiss not to note here.

First, there have been four draws in the last 10 Tests here and that should give anyone pause before steaming in to Australia.

But the counter to that is pretty simple: Australia have won the other six. There has also been no touring side look quite so abject as England have in these first three games while Australia have never looked better in the last 10 years than they have in this series thus far.

England aren't always bad at the SCG

The other thing to note is England's relatively decent record here.

They were the last touring side to win a Test here 11 years ago and also won the final Test of the series here in 2003. Given they've only won four Tests in Australia this century, we shouldn't ignore the fact two have been on this ground.

But again, we can get past it: 2010/11 is essentially irrelevant because England were a fantastic side at the time scoring runs for fun and on their way to becoming the best in the world. As an indicator of what might happen here you could look at results from the 1880s and they'd be no less relevant.

As for 2003, while England were 4-0 down in that series heading into the final Test, they had at least been competitive. Michael Vaughan had already scored two centuries and would add a third in the Sydney victory to end the series with 633 runs to his name.

Alec Stewart and John Crawley both averaged over 40 with the bat during that series, while captain Nasser Hussain made 382 runs at 38.

This time around, Joe Root is averaging 42 and Dawid Malan 33 with no other top-seven batter above 20. For all England's struggles in 2003, they still had 16 50+ scores across the five Tests with eight different players contributing at least one; in this series nobody other than Root (three) and Malan (two) has reached 50.

England's bowling has been far more effective in this series than 2003, but that has only served to hasten their march to defeat.

England's prep not ideal

England's Joe Root and Chris Woakes during a fourth Test nets session

England's preparations for this game have also been a complete shambles.

Their coaches are all in isolation and a positive test also left them without net bowlers, leaving the likes of Joe Root and James Anderson to add coaching duties to their already hefty workloads.

Nobody's fault of course, but no matter how bad things have got on previous Ashes tours the "bring them home" sentiment has always been an overreaction born of frustration rather than entirely sensible medical advice.

This Test probably shouldn't be happening, but it is happening and Australia will very likely win it even if rain does muck us about for a couple of days.

Read more on Planet Sport: Zak Crawley aiming to 'score big runs' for England after torrid 2021