Ashes on the line as under-siege England look to bounce back

England head into the Boxing Day Test against Australia on the brink of losing the Ashes series

England head into the Boxing Day Test against Australia on Sunday knowing they must fix the mistakes that have blighted their tour or lose the Ashes series.

After a nine-wicket thumping in Brisbane and then crashing by 275 runs in Adelaide, Joe Root’s team must win at Melbourne Cricket Ground to keep their slim Ashes hopes alive.

As holders, Australia need only to avoid defeat to retain the urn.

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In the first two Tests the tourists’ batting, bowling and fielding were sub-standard and Root knows they must improve quickly.

Root blasted the side after Adelaide for “making the same mistakes”, highlighted by a first-innings batting collapse and his bowlers hitting the wrong lengths, allowing Australia to build a big score.

“What is the opposite definition of excellent leadership? There’s a good chance it can be summed up by Joe Root’s captaincy,” ex-Australia skipper Ian Chappell said.

“If you can’t influence your bowlers on what length to bowl, what are you doing on the field?” he said.

– Australia riding high –

They are also likely to mix up the bowling unit again with speedster Mark Wood tipped to return, along with off-spinner Jack Leach, after England blundered by dropping him for Adelaide.

Coach Chris Silverwood is also under increasing pressure.

“We had a good talk in the dressing room, which was healthy and needed. I think there are some lessons to be learned. We have to be better — it’s as simple as that.”

All of their top six made 50s in Adelaide, bar struggling opener Marcus Harris, while the bowling group performed admirably despite missing captain Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.

“He’ll play in the Test, no worries about that,” Langer said. “For him and for us we’re hoping he plays well and gets a good partnership with Davey Warner in this Boxing Day Test match.”

There is less certainty around Hazlewood as he continues to recover from a side strain, while the fitness of Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser is being assessed.


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