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England v Australia: Third Ashes Test preview

Christmas is now just hours away and that means one thing, the start of the third Ashes Test in Melbourne is close.

The Boxing Day Test at the MCG is the most important event in the Australian cricketing calendar and it is even bigger when they’re hosting England in an Ashes series.

It’s not been the ideal start for Joe Root’s side but there is no better place to turn the tide than at the MCG with the Melbourne Barmies roaring them on.

For those of us not down under this year, the first ball is set to be bowled at 11.30pm GMT on Christmas Day.

Ahead of what looks set to be a pivotal Test in the 2021/22 Ashes series, here’s everything you need to know…

A Christmas present for England fans? 

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With the series on the line, we can expect up to four changes to be made to the XI ahead for the third Test at the MCG as England search for the winning formula.

As per The Telegraph, Zak Crawley is set to open and Jonny Bairstow could slot in lower down the order.

Crawley’s height and batting style should suit Australian conditions while Bairstow already has an Ashes hundred down under to his name.

There look set to be tweaks to the bowling attack as well with Mark Wood and Jack Leach likely to return to the side but with cloud cover expected, Jimmy Anderson could well be in line to produce another masterclass.

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Root has called for a response from his side and is optimistic that he can bring a nice Christmas present home for everyone who stays up” in the form of an Ashes century at the MCG.

He needs just 159 runs to break Mohammad Yousuf’s record for the most Test runs in a calendar year (1,788) and it would be the finish he deserves to a truly remarkable 2021.

Predicted XI: Burns, Crawley, Malan, Root (c), Stokes, Bairstow, Buttler, Robinson, Wood, Leach, Anderson

Australian changes

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It remains to be seen whether the Aussies will make changes of their own with Josh Hazelwood expected to miss the Boxing Day Test due to the same side strain that kept him out in Adelaide.

Captain Pat Cummins is set to return to the side but Mitchell Starc, Jhye Richardson, and Michael Neser are all a doubt with Victoria seamer Scott Boland called up into their squad earlier this week as cover.

Australian coach Justin Langer has confirmed, however, that opener Marcus Harris will keep his place despite a disastrous start to the series.

Predicted XI: Warner, Harris, Labuschagne, Smith, Head, Green, Carey, Richardson, Cummins, Boland, Lyon

Prediction

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The MCG is the perfect stage for England to wrestle back momentum and pull themselves back into the series.

We’re optimistic that Root can follow through on his promise of delivering a Christmas gift to the fans watching back home, and of course the Melbourne Barmies, by hitting a big century, breaking Yousuf’s record, and helping his side beat the Aussies!