Australia vs. England, 4th Ashes Test: Date, Time, Live Stream, TV Info, Preview

Tim Collins@@TimDCollinsFeatured ColumnistDecember 24, 2013

Australia and England meet for the iconic Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with the hosts looking to inflict further pain upon their visitors after claiming a series victory in Perth.


Venue: MCG, Melbourne

Commences: Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013

Start time: 11:30 p.m. GMT, Dec. 25 (10:30 a.m. local)

Live on: Sky Sports 2

Weather: The Weather Channel is predicting good conditions for the duration of the Test match, with top temperatures ranging between 23 and 32 degrees Celsius over the first four days, before cooling down on Day 5.



It's difficult to fathom how quickly it has gone catastrophically wrong for England on this tour. A side that arrived on Australian shores with a cool sense of confidence now find themselves lurching towards the most humiliating defeat in Ashes history.

In the space of a month, Alastair Cook's men have gone from smug to fuddled; three crushing defeats made worse by the departure of their most dependable batsman and most reliable bowler.

That we're already declaring the end of an era, just weeks after beginning to assess this side in relation to the best in history, shows how spectacularly England have fallen.

Yet, as the proverbial wheels continue to come off, perhaps the hidden positive in this situation for England is that this Test represents the beginning of a new chapter in the nation's history.

With Graeme Swann gone and Jonathan Trott unsure of a return, Cook now has a chance to place his own stamp on this team; one that he essentially inherited from Andrew Strauss. 

That new chapter will be hoping to be afforded a lenient beginning, as it remains unclear as to whether Australia can maintain such devastating form after reclaiming the treasured urn. 



Australia: Michael Clarke (c), George Bailey, James Faulkner, Brad Haddin (wk), Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, David Warner, Shane Watson

England: Alastair Cook (c), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Scott Borthwick, Stuart Broad, Michael Carberry, Steven Finn, Monty Panesar, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior (wk), Boyd Rankin, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Chris Tremlett


Key Battles 

Australia's top-order versus Monty Panesar: Swann's shock retirement has done more than further destabilise this England side.

In calling a premature end to his career, the prolific off-spinner has uncovered the alarming lack of spin options that England have in reserve. 

Consequently, Monty Panesar will find himself thrust into the cauldron of the MCG, with his ability to both contain and threaten likely to play a defining role in this match.

The left-armer bowled reasonably in Adelaide, but still suffered a bruising from the home side's batsmen as they relentlessly attacked him.

In Melbourne, Australia will employ the same approach, aiming to brutalise Panesar and place a greater burden on the battle-weary James Anderson. 

Alastair Cook versus himself: With it all going extremely awry for Cook on this tour, it will be fascinating to watch the England captain battle against his own uncertainty and lack of form.

Twice in the series, he's had his stumps dislodged by Australia's breathtaking speedsters, highlighting new frailties that suddenly exist in his once impenetrable game.

Yet, nothing will give his teammates more confidence than seeing their captain succeed in the middle, meaning Cook must be the man to compile a big hundred in Melbourne.

Whether the captain retains the clarity in his purpose to achieve such a feat remains to be seen.


Possible Selection Changes 

Australia: The home side look set to head into this match unchanged, after naming the same 12-man squad for the Fourth Test in Melbourne. 

James Faulkner has been retained in the squad despite breaking his hand in training on the eve of the match at the WACA Ground, and will undoubtedly fulfil 12th man duties again.

Doug Bollinger and Nathan Coulter-Nile will remain on standby, should any of Australia's pacemen suffer an interruption to their preparations, but are unlikely to come into the side given the form of Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle.

England: Monty Panesar will almost certainly come into the side for Graeme Swann, despite the arrival of Scott Borthwick as cover for the now-retired off-spinner.

Stuart Broad may also miss the match, after being struck on the foot by Johnson during the Third Test in Perth. England's spearhead was unable to bowl in the second innings at the WACA Ground, and should he fail to prove his fitness Boyd Rankin may be given a chance ahead of Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett.

Matt Prior is also under pressure after an extremely disappointing string of performances this year, with Jonny Bairstow the man set to replace him should selectors feel sweeping changes are necessary. 



When 2013 began, this England side were viewed to have very few chinks in their armour. Suddenly, there are holes everywhere, with the entire squad looking not only weak, but broken. 

In contrast, Australia have waded their way through a similar period to ultimately present themselves as a strong and unified outfit, thriving on a new sense of stability. 

With the differences between the two sides more stark than anyone could have possibly believed, Australia are in position to go for a 5-0 whitewash; Melbourne representing the next triumphant step in that process.

Scarily for England, only complacency can halt the home side in this match, and given their obvious dislike for their visitors, it's hard to see Michael Clarke and his men throttling back now.

The MCG will likely witness another handsome victory for Australia.


    Dom Bess and Jos Buttler contribute to England’s sense of uncertainty | Vic Marks

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