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This Ashes dead rubber is well and truly alive

Australian bowler Mitchell Johnson reacts after dismissing England batsman James Anderson on day 3 of the 2nd Ashes test match between Australia and England at the Adelaide Oval in Adelaide, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
Roar Guru
23rd December, 2013
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If there’s one delivery I look forward to more than any other, from year to year, it’s the first of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

There are nervously shaking hands, chewed lips, and faces staring blankly at the hallowed turf, from the bottom of the Great Southern Stand to the end of the Great Northern Highway.

The bowler will throw his marker down, roll a couple off warm ups to mid-off, and then pause at the top of his run up before taking that first step.

The excitement puts butterflies in the stomach and sends a chill down the spine. The rumble sounds like there are a million tweenage girls chasing Justin Bieber down Punt Road.

The strange thing about this upcoming Test is that, even though the result of the match is inconsequential to the outcome of the series, the enthralling drama that has surrounded the latest battle for the urn means that there is still so much to play for.

For starters, there is a sense that Australia desperately desires to again be seen as the big bully in Test cricket schoolyard.

As Roarer Ben Latham pointed out, Australia started this series ranked a lowly fifth in the world, behind Pakistan, England, India and South Africa.

A win at the ‘G will get them to third spot, with a series against the Proteas to come.

England will have to face down history as well as Mitchell Johnson. A stat from Cricinfo showed that there have only been two other occasions where teams had regained the Ashes by the third Test, and both led to an Australian 5-nil series win.

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It’s strange that due to the recent results and the small gap between the Ashes series that both teams are now playing to restore pride.

The English have obviously had their colours lowered, and on the other hand, I doubt the men in baggy green have forgotten what happened on their last ashes foray abroad.

There are also players playing for their careers. Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior look to be shadows of their former selves, and have little red laser dots all over their backs.

Michael Carberry has been solid but needs to convert starts to big scores.

At 36, Chris Rogers is playing for his career every time he comes out to bat, and like Carberry, gets starts, but needs to convert.

George Bailey has had one good over, but a top score of 39 in three games and being on the right side of the result is not really good enough, especially after that incredibly ugly and stupid pull shot he attempted in Perth.

I’m going to say Shane Watson is under pressure, if only because the only time he ever does anything is when his head is on the chopping block, so hopefully he will play well again now that has been put that out there.

The retirement of Graeme Swann has led to a race for the English spinner position, with crowd favourite Monty Panesar and Durham youngster Scott Borthwick both in contention for the fourth Test. Panesar has the experience, Borthwick can bat.

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I hope Borthwick gets a gig, just to see what an English leg spinner actually looks like.

Also, lets not forget some of the ‘interpersonal conversations’ that have occurred between the teams on the field. You know, broken arms and such.

With Swann and Jonathan Trott gone, it looks like the England squad are falling apart from the inside.

However, they are now a team unburdened of the expectation they bought, and there not much more unpredictable than a man with nothing to lose.

Australian form has turned from a giant snowball into a thundering avalanche.

We should see some fantastic unbridled Test cricket in Melbourne, in what has been a great series, and for that the butterflies in my stomach will be feeling more like eagles ready to soar.

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